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Excerpt: Lindsey Vonn details struggles with weight in new book

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Lindsey Vonn is synonymous with fitness, given her appearances on the covers of magazines including Health, Fitness and Shape. But that was not always the case.

Vonn struggled with her diet and gained 25 pounds in the summer after competing as a 17-year-old at the 2002 Winter Olympics.

As she got older, she learned “all the exercise in the world can’t derail the effects of unhealthy eating.” By the 2010 Winter Games, when she won her first two Olympic medals, she was eating eggs and oatmeal for breakfast instead of bagels and pancakes.

Vonn reveals what inspired her to change her diet in the following excerpt from her new health and lifestyle book, “Strong Is the New Beautiful,” which will be available beginning tomorrow:

A few years after I joined the ski team, I moved to an apartment in Park City with three of my teammates, all guys. You might expect that in a house full of Olympic-level athletes, our kitchen would look like something from the pages of a cookbook on healthy living, but nothing could have been further from the truth. Instead, the guys stocked the kitchen with doughnuts, pasta, pizza, soda, candy, and store-bought cakes. They ate sugary cereal for breakfast, made white-bread sandwiches for lunch, and polished off pints of ice cream at night. Hardly any of us cooked, except to boil water for spaghetti and microwave jarred meat sauce to complete the meal.

We weren’t eating this way because we were lazy, trying to be lazy, or simply unschooled in nutritional trends. Quite the opposite; we thought we were following the best diet that we could at the time to build muscle, fortify our bodies for long hours of grueling training, and improve our overall performance as skiers. Carbo-loading was a popular approach for many elite athletes, especially skiers, who require a greater degree of muscle mass to train and race.

But carbo-loading never made me feel strong, and it certainly didn’t make me add muscle or lose the fat I wanted. Instead, I felt weak and tired, my face grew puffier and puffier, and whenever I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I thought that I looked less toned, even though I was working out for hours every day. 

It took me years to figure out a way to eat that would help me look and feel good. Lindsey Vonn BookAs an elite athlete, I’m always looking for the best new way to get that extra edge—the one little push that will help lift me from world-class athlete to top of the world. So for the past fifteen years, I’ve tried different diets, trends, and fads in the effort to make my body as strong and lean as physically possible. A handful have offered some benefits, but none made the significant, sustainable changes to my body that I hope for—until I found the one approach that has nothing to do with dieting or fads and everything to do with science and the foods that have helped people get strong and lean for centuries.

When I was growing up in Minnesota, my parents both worked full time, and like most families in Middle America, we ended up eating a lot of processed foods: sugary cereal, ready-to-eat dinners, Hamburger Helper, and grilled cheeses with canned soup, supplemented by a few great meals my father would make on the weekends. But we rarely ate any veggies, and when we had to, I secretly slipped them under the table to our dog, Thunder. When I went away to ski camps, I’d often just have a pint of ice cream and call it a meal. 

I didn’t give too much thought to what I ate when I was young, especially since my habit of eating ice cream for dinner didn’t seem to be impeding my career as a junior skier. But after the 2002 Olympics, when I was seventeen, I suddenly gained twenty-five pounds in one summer. My metabolism had changed, even though I was still training several hours each day. I was both surprised and disheartened, but it was one of the first of what would be many valuable lessons I had to learn on how to get strong: All the exercise in the world can’t derail the effects of unhealthy eating.

Shortly after the Olympics, while living with my pasta-loving teammates in Park City, I began a high-carb diet, eating foods like bagels and pancakes for breakfast, starchy energy bars and sandwiches for lunch, and, on some nights, an entire box of spaghetti for dinner.

It wasn’t until I was in my twenties and started going to summer camps at the Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Chula Vista that I slowly began to discover the power of unprocessed foods. The summer camps attracted Olympic-caliber athletes from all across the country in a range of different disciplines—not just winter sports, but track and field, rowing, soccer, and triathlon. When I walked into the cafeteria for lunch the first day, I realized that I had a rare and amazing opportunity to actually see firsthand what some of the strongest, leanest, and fittest people in the country ate on a regular basis.

So I watched as if I were a researcher in an observational study—and I learned. Many triathletes and track-and-field runners weren’t lining up with me for pancakes or pasta, but were ordering eggs or oatmeal in the morning, making their own salads at lunch, and going for grilled meat and vegetables at night. 

Seeing how these athletes ate and listening to them talk about how food made them feel—light, energized, and aerodynamic—I resolved to start experimenting. I began by eating eggs and oatmeal for breakfast—two dishes not part of my regular routine—and swapping out some pasta and pizza for chicken and steak. I also started trying to eat more vegetables, which I had previously consumed only when asked (and usually then only if they were doused in butter or garlic). Without Thunder under the table, I was surprised to learn that I actually liked the taste of some.

Almost immediately, I began to see what my runner and triathlete friends had been talking about: I felt lighter, peppier, more focused—as if I could go longer and harder in workouts. The puffiness in my face began to ease, my clothes started to fit a bit better, and I thought that I might be looking more toned when I watched myself doing squats and lunges in the gym mirror.

From STRONG IS THE NEW BEAUTIFUL by Lindsey Vonn. Copyright (c) 2016 by Lindsey Vonn. Dey Street, an imprint of William Morrow Publishers. Reprinted by permission.

Several women’s players spurn worlds inquiry from USA Hockey

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As sports organizations and notable hockey figures express support of the U.S. women’s team, several players say they rejected overtures from USA Hockey to serve as replacements for the upcoming world championships.

Two players told The Associated Press on Friday that USA Hockey reached out to them to gauge their interest for the worlds, which begin next week in Plymouth, Michigan.

Brittany Ott, a goaltender for the Boston Pride of the National Women’s Hockey League, and Annie Pankowski, a junior forward at the University of Wisconsin, said the email from USA Hockey was not an invitation but rather an inquiry about their availability.

“I responded to that email and I said I’m not willing,” Pankowski said.

A third player, goalie Lauren Dahm, told the AP on Saturday she also turned down an invitation. Dahm plays for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League Boston Blades.

The U.S. team has said it plans to boycott the worlds over a wage dispute with USA Hockey, which confirmed Thursday it would begin reaching out to potential replacement players. Several players posted messages on social media saying they support the national team and would decline or have declined any outreach from USA Hockey.

“From a personal standpoint I have never been invited to a USA Hockey series or camp or anything like that and I would honestly love to be invited to something like that,” Ott said by phone. “However at the current time, this is a fight that I believe in and I’m definitely going to stand up and help fight as much as I can.”

Many players posted a version of a Jerry Rice quote on Twitter on Friday: “Today I will do what others won’t so tomorrow I can do what others can’t. I said no to USAH & will not play in the 2017WC.” Not all players who tweeted that message were asked by USA Hockey if they could play.

On Saturday, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith joined the chorus of support for the players, saying on Twitter the organization stands behind their pursuit of fairness and equality.

“These women understand inequality when they see it and are expressing their right to be treated fairly as athletes and workers,” Smith tweeted. “Of course, they have the NFLPA’s support in daring to withhold their services until a fair agreement is reached.”

Philadelphia Flyers coach Dave Hakstol posted his support on Twitter, calling players competitors and role models.

On Friday, the NHL Players’ Association and Major League Baseball players posted messages of support. The NHLPA posted on Twitter that it supports players and panned USA Hockey’s bid to stock the team with replacements, adding that the decision “would only serve to make relations, now and in the future, much worse.”

The MLBPA encouraged all female hockey players to stand united behind their national team colleagues.

Players are seeking a four-year contract that includes payments outside the six-month Olympic period. The sides met for 10-plus hours Monday, but players have called USA Hockey’s counterproposal “disappointing.”

USA Hockey said Thursday its priority was to have all the players selected for the national team on the ice March 31 when the tournament begins. But the organization added that it informed players’ representatives it would begin reaching out to potential replacements with the tournament coming up.

Star national team forward Hilary Knight said last week she wished USA Hockey luck putting together a suitable team of replacements to defend the gold medal because the player pool was united in the dispute. Ott and Pankowski said they had not heard from any players expressing a willingness to play in worlds.

“It’s a very unified front,” Ott said. “It’s a tight-knit community that we have in women’s hockey here. This is definitely a big opportunity for us to make a big change and have a big impact on our sport and have it grow. We’re all standing together.”

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World Figure Skating Championships pairs preview

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Volosozhar and Trankov couldn’t do it. Neither did Shen and Zhao. Nor Gordeeva and Grinkov.

Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford can win a third straight pairs world title next week, a feat not seen since Irina Rodnina and Alexander Zaitsev of the Soviet Union won six in a row from 1973 through 1978.

But they don’t feel like favorites.

“We’re coming in a little more under the radar,” Radford said.

They lost their two most recent international competitions — third at the Grand Prix Final in December; second at the Four Continents Championships in February.

Duhamel and Radford are seeded fifth by best international scores this season going into the world championships in Helsinki (broadcast schedule here).

“Sometimes it feels like worlds last year was so long ago,” Radford said.

Last year in Boston, Duhamel and Radford had the performance of their seven-year partnership in the world championships free skate. They tallied a personal-best 153.81 points, more than seven points clear of their previous best.

It was easily enough to overtake Chinese short-program leaders Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, who were relegated to silver behind the Canadians for a second straight year.

This season, Duhamel and Radford haven’t come within 13 points of their 2016 World Championships total. Duhamel went through “an unforeseeable circumstance” in her personal life in November that she chooses not to reveal.

They implemented the throw triple Axel, but Duhamel fell three times in a four-event stretch this fall. They lost by nearly 13 points at December’s Grand Prix Final, which ended with a Duhamel backstage meltdown.

“We never fell like that at home [in practice],” Duhamel said on the IceTalk podcast. “It started to shake us up a little bit.”

They replaced the throw triple Axel in their program. Without it in February, both skaters had trouble with jumps at Four Continents at the 2018 Olympic venue and finished nearly 13 points behind Sui and Han.

“We kind of went back to square one, to the drawing board after Four Continents, reassessing what’s gone on this season, why are we underperforming, why are we not succeeding in competition the way we are training,” Duhamel said.

They made program changes, notably on their throw and jump entrances and overhauling the footwork in their short program.

Duhamel adopted a rescue dog from South Korea. Radford, who had surgery over the summer to remove a cyst from his ankle bone, leaned on a sports psychologist.

“I personally feel a lot more relaxed and seemless,” Radford said. “That feeling has come a little bit later this season.”

Five pairs could take gold in Helsinki in perhaps the most wide-open event.

Germans Aliona Savchenko and (French-born) Bruno Massot won both of their fall Grand Prix events but missed the Grand Prix Final after she tore an ankle ligament. They returned to take silver at the European Championships in January with the best score of their two-year partnership.

Young Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov stepped up to win the Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual competition, and then the European Championships. But free-skate struggles have dogged them this season.

Another Russian pair, Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, are perhaps the biggest wild card. They missed the fall season due to Stolbova’s left leg injury, but then beat Tarasova and Morozov in their season debut at the Russian Championships. Stolbova fell on their throw triple flip in both programs at the European Championships in January, and they finished fourth.

Then there are Sui and Han, looking to break through for a first senior world title in their sixth try (though Sui is just 21 years old, and Han 24). They missed the fall season after Sui underwent right ankle and left foot surgeries last spring. They returned at Four Continents and posted personal-best free skate and total scores, ranking only behind Tarasova and Morozov for the season.

U.S. pairs Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim and Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier have both missed significant time due to injury in the last two years. They are behind the top pairs from Canada, China and Russia.

The U.S. hasn’t put a pair in the world championships top five since 2006, and that doesn’t figure to change next week.

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NBC Sports researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.