McKayla Maroney on how Larry Nassar’s abuse led to an eating disorder: ‘I forgot I had ever even been successful at gymnastics’

·3 min read

McKayla Maroney is opening up about challenges she's faced in recent years.

The gymnast — who grabbed national attention at the 2012 Olympics when a photo of herself looking “unimpressed” after scoring the silver medal went viral — spoke to ELLE about how she developed an eating disorder following the reveal that she and dozens of other gymnasts were sexually abused by the national gymnastic team’s doctor, Larry Nassar. He was since convicted and will spend the rest of his life behind bars. 

Maroney, who, in 2017, shared a written statement on Twitter about the abuse she suffered at the hands of Nassar, told the publication that the ordeal led to her wanting to take some power back in her life.

“I already had that obsessive control thing, so it just switched from gymnastics to food,” Maroney admitted. “I forgot I had ever even been successful at gymnastics, because I went from being great to feeling like, ‘Oh my God, I’m ugly, I’m gaining weight, I’m suffering with food, and I just went through all this abuse.’”

In 2018, Maroney shared that food was one way that Nassar manipulated her into staying quiet about his abuse. In an interview with Dateline, she alleged that the coaches on the Olympic team withheld food from her and that Nassar became her "hero" when he brought her a loaf of bread. 

Maroney’s desire for control over her body continued when her father died in 2019 after attempting to detox from pain medication. The gymnast explained to ELLE how she starved herself for 10 days following her dad’s death as a way to be “skinny enough” for the funeral.

While Maroney has since retired from gymnastics, she is now pursuing a different passion: songwriting, which she said was born from the pain she battled over the last few years.

“I want to be looked at as someone who just keeps going, because that’s what we have to do in this life,” Maroney explained. “For so long, I was surviving. Now I feel I’m actually living.”

Recently, Maroney has spoken out on social media about holding the USAG — the national governing body for gymnastics — accountable for the abuse she and other athletes suffered.

“I never wanted these things to happen in the first place, let alone have to speak it to the world,” she wrote on Instagram, alongside a series of tweets asking the organization to step up to protect those under its care. “Fortunately I have this incredible platform to speak up for the athletes of our next generation, and I need to use it to make things safer, and create lasting change. It definitely still feels embarrassing to share this personal stuff, but I know I’m not alone from other peoples #metoo stories.”

Earlier this week, the aspiring musician took to Instagram to share a photo of herself smiling — and looking anything but unimpressed.

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"You’re stronger than you think," she captioned the post. "Doubt your doubt. You’ve always been enough."

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