Adam Rippon is the figure skating star du jour and it’s easy to see why. The 28 year old Olympic bronze medalist has a strong social media presence and is getting a lot of attention for being a high profile out athlete. Time recently listed him among the Top 100 most influential people of 2018. Then, of course, there was his inclusion in the latest edition of ESPN’s body issue, which caused a sensational splash. Rippon showed how powerfully built an athletic body could be with ESPN’s nude photoshoot and people are still buzzing. While we couldn’t get Adam Rippon to give us an interview, we’d like to imagine one using some of the interview answers he gave to ESPN because he’s got a powerful body positivity message that should be broadcast to more skaters. (You can check out the interview in context HERE.)
Thank you for sitting down with us, Adam. With all the buzz surrounding you in the media, are you aware of how much of a role model you’ve been, particularly for those who struggle with body image?
I wasn’t expecting so many people to contact me [after the Olympics] and tell me they were struggling with being themselves. I went through that personal struggle and got to a point where I was like, “F— it. I’m just going to be me and not worry about it.” I am glad I was able to represent a person who was really, unabashedly himself.
That is really an inspiring take on how to compose yourself, given the pressure that we (and especially ice skaters) have to look a certain way. To go ahead and do you instead of the version of yourself you think you’re supposed to be. And look where that attitude got you! You look amazing!
I don’t want to say I’ll never be in this shape again, but I’ll never be in this shape. I’ll be in another shape. This is a milestone of all the work it took me to get to the point to be an Olympic-medal-winning figure skater.
I think that’s an important mindset to have – that your body shape is fluid and changing and expecting it to stay the same or stay at its peak forever is not realistic. Did you always have this mentality or did it evolve as you went through your Olympic training journey?
For a while, I was trying to be as thin as possible. But what I was doing wasn’t right. I was starving myself, because I was trying to be as lean as some of my counterparts 10 years younger than me. Eventually I worked with a nutritionist at the Olympic training center. I went in and said: “I don’t have an eating disorder, but I have a problem.” It was hard to break the cycle, but when I broke my foot, I was forced into a place of figuring it out. I listened to everything I was taught, and when I got back onto the ice, I was so much stronger and better than I was before.
That must have been a shift – to think strategically about your nutrition as fuel and making sure you were eating not just the right things, but the right amount. I think there are a lot of athletes out there who feel that less is more, so I’m happy to hear that you’re debunking that myth when it comes to food. Were there any strategies you used to stay on track with your diet without losing your mind?
I know it sounds crazy, but a little bit of ranch dressing made me feel so much better. It really was life-saving. I can easily get super intense [about my diet], but I always am my best when I have a good balance between mind, body and soul. When I’m going crazy, I’ll just have water and lettuce and a chicken breast with no dressing. But you know what? I can get the lemonade and I can get a side of ranch dressing.
Striking that balance between making the right dietary choices and not depriving yourself is key to staying on track with a healthy lifestyle for the long run and for intense training, in particular. I also love that you recognize that achieving such a powerful, athletic body – like yours – is the product of consistent hard work AND proper nutrition.
My physique is 90 percent nurture. I did an ancestry DNA test, and I’m like 90 percent Irish. Those genes are heavily favored for potato picking. I don’t think there were many figure skaters.
Haha! Exactly. There’s no substitute for working hard. I know, at least for myself, that when I see someone that is as inspiring as you are, someone who is so self-assured– I can sometimes more acutely feel my own body image insecurities. Are you always this confident?
I always think that my abs look like mush. I think it’s really hard for me to accept that they aren’t always going to be a six-pack. It does take a little bit of lighting and a lot of flexing; they don’t always look like they do on Instagram, and it’s devastating when they don’t.
Thank you for sharing that – I appreciate your candor. Is there anything else you want to say to the folks back home? Any final words of wisdom or advice on body image?
What I really like about sports is you are judged by the work you put in and the results you get out. When you get to a certain level, everybody you compete with and everyone you know respects that work, so everything else is secondary. That’s what I really love about being an athlete. You can be from wherever, be whoever, and at the end of the day if you came to play and show up and be your best, that is what you are truly judged on.