Steamboat Springs native, Olympic snowboarder opens up about body image, self love
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — This is the most confident Arielle Gold has been in a long time.
Since hitting puberty, the Steamboat Springs snowboarder and Olympic bronze medalist has been insecure about how muscular her body was. Her strong legs and wide shoulders earned her accolades many only dream of, but that wasn’t enough to make her love her body.
On Oct. 30, Gold posted a photo on Instagram with a caption about body image and her insecurities.
“I think it’s something I’ve wanted to post for awhile because I’ve spent the majority of my athletic career in pursuit of an idealized body type,” she said.
Gold grew up skinny, so when she started putting on muscle as she hit puberty, she fought to stay thin. Finding the balance between strong and lean was difficult. She needed thicker thighs to succeed on the halfpipe, but was ashamed of her increasing pant size.
“That’s part of my body I fought with the most,” she said. “I did a lot of weight training when I was younger. That helped make me a better snowboarder, but it also made my legs get really thick and disproportionate in my eyes. I had a lot of people reassuring me that wasn’t the case, it was something that naturally happens. It’s challenging to look in the mirror and see those things change about you, even if I knew my legs were getting stronger.”
View this post on Instagram
As someone who has struggled with body image issues basically since hitting puberty, progress posting definitely goes against the grain, so bear with me on this one. I have always dressed to conceal my vulnerable points: the thick thighs – the stretch marks – the psoriasis; all insecurities I’ve hidden behind for most of my life. I’ve fitness-phased, I’ve dieted, I’ve spent countless hours sweating on cardio machines trying desperately to burn off that last bit of stomach fat. And when none of it worked, I shamed myself for it. My life has always revolved around physical fitness, and while the majority of it has been intrinsically motivated, I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t done- at least in part- in pursuit of mainstream media’s portrayal of what a woman’s body should look like. Quarantine has been a challenge in more ways than I can count, but it’s also provided an opportunity for growth. And while there’s still plenty of work to do, it feels good to be in a place that I am proud of. I spent the last 10 years fighting the shape that my body was always meant to take, and though I’m still not satisfied, I am finally learning to embrace my strength rather than fighting it. Thank you to everyone at @ralstoncreekcrossfit for pushing me every day to be the best athlete I can be, and providing such an incredible community to grow alongside. Strong is beautiful, and you are enough. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
As she grew older, her body changed at a slower rate and, soon, stabilized. She realized that this shape was the one her body was supposed to take, and there was no fighting it.
The pandemic and more time at home has challenged the 24-year-old, but ultimately, given her time to work on herself, both physically and mentally. She learned what she needs to do for herself to stay mentally healthy, and she joined a CrossFit gym, which has proven to be far better for her body than she ever imagined.
Gold is feeling secure and confident right now, just weeks ahead of the scheduled start of her snowboarding season, but she knows that may change.
“It’s something that’s constantly evolving. My body is continuously changing. It’s not something I expect to be a constant feeling of confidence,” she said. “The biggest thing for me is I wanted other people to know it’s something people struggle with even while being in a body that some people would be envious of.”
Gold said she never felt pressure to look a certain way when training with the U.S. Snowboard Team. Her insecurities were just a result of the environment. She was in a sport with a lot of men and compared herself to them. She always had a higher body fat percentage, which is normal for women, but she remembers envying the males’ lower numbers.
Her trainers always wanted her to feel her strongest and her best and didn’t give her an image for which to strive. Still, Gold felt suboptimal.
“I think more than anything, seeing other female athletes and role models that were embracing that figure, having a stronger build (would have helped),” she said. “I saw a lot of women in the snowboarding industry, and a lot of the top athletes were fit and didn’t have that thicker build that my body started to take on.”
Gold hopes to be that person for the next generation of female athletes. She’s not the only female winter Olympian opening up either. A week earlier, former Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn posted about her imperfections and the nasty comments she gets about her appearance.
View this post on Instagram
I’ve posted quite a few swimsuit pics lately, which is scarier than it seems. Even as an athlete there are ruthless comments and media stories that tear apart my body and I admit it sometimes hurts me. I’m a normal person and sometimes I slouch, my stomach folds over, my cellulite shows on my butt, or I don’t fill out my swimsuit top just right….But, I always remember how my body has helped me achieve amazing things in my life and I am proud of how strong I am. I’m not a size zero and that’s perfectly fine with me. One thing I can promise all of you is that I never Photoshop my photos and am proud to officially never had any plastic surgery of any kind. No Botox, no fillers, no mini surgeries. Literally nothing. I am 100% natural and 100% Lindsey. So to anyone who is feeling self conscious or down about their appearance; stay strong, stay healthy and love yourself no matter what the haters say. Special thanks to all of you who have been positive and supportive… lets keep up the culture of body positivity going! ❤️🙏🏻💪🏻
Vonn had been posting a lot of pictures of herself in bikinis, something she confessed was difficult because she has visible cellulite and doesn’t always fill out her swimsuit top well. She ended the post by saying, “To anyone who is feeling self conscious or down about their appearance; stay strong, stay healthy and love yourself no matter what the haters say.”
“Relatability is something I would have benefited a lot from, which made me want to post something,” Gold said. “To anybody that follows me or people who follow professional athletes, we’re people, too, and we share a lot of the same insecurities.”
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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