Love Your Body

Aly Raisman on facing middle school bullies and learning to love her body

Aly Raisman is an Olympic gymnast and gold medalist who is part of Team USA's "Final Five." The 22-year-old 2017 TODAY Style Hero is proud of the muscular physique that's a result of her hard work, even when bullies and body-shamers have something negative to say.

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Aly Raisman on why she loves her muscular arms

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Aly Raisman on why she loves her muscular arms

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I used to struggle with accepting how muscular I was, but now I feel very strong mentally and physically, because I realize that my body has made me into the girl I am today.

In fifth grade, all the boys in my class told me that I looked like I was on steroids or that I was anorexic.

And then in seventh grade, I was wearing a tank top at school and one of the boys told me my arms were disgusting. So I didn’t wear a tank top to school ever again. Thinking about that makes me so sad because I let one kid affect how I see myself.

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Aly Raisman shows off her toned arms and abs during New York Fashion Week in September 2016.

But now, I almost force myself to wear tank tops because you have to appreciate your body — and people compliment my arms all the time.

You can’t let someone dictate the way you feel about yourself. It just makes me mad that I was so insecure about it for so long because my arms made me one of the best gymnasts in the world, so I would never do anything to change that.

If there’s anyone in the world who says that they’ve never been bullied, then I would like to meet them because I don’t believe it. Everyone’s had their feelings hurt.

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TODAY Style heroes 2017

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TODAY Style heroes 2017

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Luckily, I've had my mom because she has always taught me from a young age to be confident and be comfortable in my own skin. Even now, I call her sometimes when I feel insecure and she’s always the person I go to. Just having someone to talk to I think is really important.

Darren McCollester / Getty Images for Reebok
Raisman poses with her mom, Lynn Raisman, at the The Avon Walk For Breast Cancer in 2014.

Overall, my beauty philosophy is less is more. I am not a perfectionist because I realize that in the gym for gymnastics, I have to be a perfectionist. Outside of the gym, it’s OK to not be perfect. It’s OK to have messy hair. It’s OK to not have a perfectly put-together outfit.

And it's definitely not about the number on the scale. When I go to the doctor’s office, I actually tell them to cover up the result. I face the other way because I don’t want to know what I weigh. It doesn’t matter what number is on the scale; it's about how you feel.

As told to TODAY's Emily Sher.

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Women strip down to embrace their beauty ahead of swimsuit season

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Women strip down to embrace their beauty ahead of swimsuit season

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This article was originally published on on April 25, 2017 on TODAY.com.

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