Olympian Adam Rippon has spoken candidly about his starvation diet for the same reason he publicly came out: to start a conversation.
The U.S. figure skating champion told the New York Times of his incredibly strict 2016 diet, which consisted of three pieces of bread and not much else.
“It was 2016, and Rippon was subsisting mostly on a daily diet of three slices of whole grain bread topped with miserly pats of the spread I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter,” Times sports reporter Karen Crouse wrote. “He supplemented his ‘meals’ with three cups of coffee, each sweetened with six packs of Splenda.”
Rippon, now 28, said it made him “dizzy now to think about it,” remembering the drastic measures he took to adhere to the lean aesthetic he thought was favored by the judges. He particularly calls out a need to resemble his teenage teammates Vincent Zhou and Nathan Chou, although he was 27 at the time.
“I looked around and saw my competitors, they’re all doing these quads, and at the same time they’re a head shorter than me, they’re 10 years younger than me and they’re the size of one of my legs,” Rippon told the Times.
For Rippon, the first openly gay man to compete for the U.S. in the Winter Olympics, winning an Olympic medal means he can kickstart difficult conversations while the spotlight shines on him and help others battling similar eating disorders.
Rippon detailed his “draconian diet,” reportedly acknowledged by his coach, Rafael Arutyunyan. “I’d do a few days having my three pieces of bread and then finish the whole loaf of bread and have 3,000 calories,” he said. “‘Rafael, this is what I’m eating.’ And he said, ‘I know. It’s really hard.’”
Just before nationals, writes the Times, Rippon broke his left foot and suspects it was a direct result of his diet. “I think I had a stress fracture before I broke my foot,” he said. “I think that was absolutely because I was not getting enough nutrients.”
After working with United States Olympic Committee sports dietitian Susie Parker-Simmons, Rippon said he began to develop a better relationship with food — apparently she even holds nutrient-rich recipe competitions between athletes.
Male figure skaters experiencing eating disorders and body image issues like Rippon need considerable support, and there’s no bigger stage in sport than the Olympics from which to lead an important conversation like this.