Life After The ESPN Body Issue: Exclusive Interview With USA Track & Field Champion Amanda Bingson

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By Alison Tedford – USA Track & Field hammer thrower Amanda Bingson made a major impact with her powerful words on body confidence in the ESPN Body Issue, and by posing nude on its cover. I had the opportunity to interview her about body image and how her life has changed since the shoot.


Exclusive Interview:

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How do you feel about the expression “plus size”?

AB: The term plus size is so vague nowadays. I don’t think I’m big enough to be a plus size model. I think I’m just normal. I hate how we have to categorize everything.  Why can’t we just be people?

Did you have any reservations about posing nude? How did you handle pre-shoot jitters?

AB: I know my body. I know I’m not “what most people want to see” or what people think they want to see and I was going to be the biggest female in the magazine. I just looked at it and thought, “The worst that could happen is someone’s going to sit there and call me a fat ass. Can I live with that? Yeah, I can get over that. Let’s go do this.”

Everyone was so supportive. Even the people that were on the crew were like while we were shooting, “I’m so happy to see you doing this, someone of your stature, of your body size and body type is so great.” I was like “Aw, thanks guys, I’m just sitting here throwing naked”.

It’s all about who you surround yourself with. You have to surround yourself with people that support you and love you and not worry about what other people have to say.

How did you feel the first time you saw the photos?

I really wanted to be authentic and show my body doing my sport, which is why all my shots are actions shots. My first reaction was “Damn. That’s pretty bad ass.” They took it from the most unflattering position. It makes you look bigger and stronger and more powerful, which is the point of the whole picture. There’s no hiding any of my flaws, any of my rolls. I thought it was so badass and so awesome. I loved it. I was like “Damn, that’s me!”

What is body image culture like in track and field?

AB: We are so accepting. If you’re winning, you’re beating us, you’re kicking our ass, who cares if you are 500 pounds more than me? You’re winning, so obviously you are doing something right and you’re using it to your advantage. We are so accepting of each other in track and field, especially among throwers, because in hammer it’s so diverse. It’s purely based on what you can do with what you have.

I have friends in the burlesque community who are bigger girls. People often tell them they are brave, and their reactions to that are mixed. How do you feel when someone tells you that you are brave? Do you consider it a compliment?

AB: I love the burlesque community. I understand because a lot of people aren’t secure enough to put themselves out there, but it’s one of those backhanded compliments.

Thank you for the compliment to say that I’m brave, but why should it be a shock that I’m comfortable with myself and I love myself enough to do this? Do you expect everyone to be ashamed because they look this way? That’s just silly.

You have incredible body confidence.  How can other women become as confident as you?

AB: I absolutely 100% believe in health and fitness. I think everyone should live and try to be active and be fit and be healthy and get out and do something. Once you start doing that, you naturally become more confident and feel better about yourself. You feel like you’ve accomplished something, you feel proud about it.

Find out what works for you and go balls out and do it. Don’t half ass it. If you’re going to go do something you love, go do it.  Once you do it, you’re going to feel better about yourself. It might not even be athletics. You could be the best underwater basket weaver. If you’re the best at it, you rock at it, you’re proud of it, more power to you.

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You talked about how you handle bullies and people who body shame, what advice do you have for women who face these things?

AB: I really wasn’t bullied that much because a lot of people were just scared of me and thought I would kick their ass. If you have a solid group of friends and a support system who are there for you, who cares what other people say?

For every person who said I was too fat to do something, I had 5 other people come to my aid. They said, “No, they don’t know what they are talking about, you’re beautiful, you’re confident, you kick ass, you’re a great athlete,” building me back up.

It’s all about who you surround yourself with. You have to surround yourself with people that support you and love you and not worry about what other people have to say.

I facilitate a support group for people with eating disorders and I wondered if you have any message I could share with them.

AB: Continue to seek out that support. They are so much more than just what the scale says. There is so much more to them. Find something they enjoy doing and are good at and can feel good about. They are so much more than a number. That’s the hardest thing to overcome and get yourself to believe is ‘I’m worth something. I’m worth more than what the scale says, what size pants I am.’

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You talked about your parents contributing to your positive body image. What did they do?

AB: My parents are awesome, they told me to get over it. It was always “Hey, people are going to say this. We don’t think that way. You’re great at sports. You’re not fat. They’re just being dumb and ignorant. Go off and go kick a ball.”

When someone calls me fat or has something negative to say about me, I’m just like “OK” and I get over it. Because what they say does not affect how I feel about myself. I love myself and there’s nothing that anybody can say that’s going to change that.

How has your life changed since the ESPN shoot?

AB: It’s changed dramatically. All of a sudden I’m a body image icon, going to the ESPYs, red carpets, doing all these interviews. This is not what I signed up for when I decided to throw the hammer. It’s been completely 180. You don’t get into throwing to be a millionaire or get all this attention. It just doesn’t happen.

Amanda Bingson didn’t intend to become a body image icon, but that’s exactly what she did. Her radical self love and outspoken encouragement to women to love their bodies is just as powerful as the statement she makes posing naked on the cover of ESPN. She bared her body on the cover, and her heart in her words, and that’s why the nation has fallen in love with her.


About the author

alison_sonAlison Tedford is a single mom of one rambunctious boy, from Abbotsford, BC. She is a data analyst, a pole dance instructor, an eating disorder support group facilitator and fitness enthusiast. She documents her adventures in fitness, feminism and parenting on her blog, Sparkly Shoes and Sweat Drops. You can follow Sparkly Shoes on Facebook and Twitter.

Lead photo and ESPN cover image by Peter Hapak 

  • andersm0

    I’m in awe of your accomplishments, Amanda. It was such a boost to see this pictorial of a confidant athlete struttin’ her style.

  • Anne A. Radcliffe

    Amazing! You should feel totally bad ass. You look like a Greek statue and like you really could whoop some haters. Great questions, Alison!

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  • Susan Maccarelli

    I’m a little late reading this – what an awesome interview! She is a real inspiration and I loved the questions.

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