Resilient. That’s one word you should use to describe Jamie Hagiya.
From fighting her way back from an Achilles tear in 2014 to struggling with body-image issues her entire life, the CrossFit Games and former GRID athlete has proven how tough she is, both physically and mentally.
A former USC basketball star, Hagiya played two years professionally overseas before returning to the United States. When she didn’t make WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks in 2012, Hagiya decided to “give the CrossFit thing” a try.
She placed 18th overall at the 2016 CrossFit Games and made waves earlier this summer for her Instagram post about overcoming body image issues. Hagiya, who is also part of Athlete Daily’s Nutrition Series, took some time to also talk about her weight struggles growing up, occasional Oreos and silencing body shamers.
Athlete Daily: That social media post you had about body image and the fact that you don’t need to have six pack abs to be considered an athlete. Can you talk a little about that and where that post came from?
Hagiya: “In the beginning, especially coming from an Asian American family—my sister is 105 lb., my mom is tiny—everyone growing up was tiny and I was always bigger, so I think in my head growing up I’ve always had a body image issue. In fifth grade I did judo [where] you get weighed before your matches, and I weighed more than the popular boys that everyone liked. And I was so embarrassed that I quit.
It’s things like that, [where] it’s always been on my mind. But when I first started CrossFit, I was so happy because I looked at Camille [Leblanc-Bazinet] and [thought], ‘Oh, wow, we have similar body types and people think she’s strong and beautiful’. It made me feel good about myself.
I think it’s good that people think strong is beautiful, but now it’s shifted to this thing where literally these people have crazy six packs. And honestly when I made the Games, I was like I don’t look like [the other athletes]. And I know people are going to look at me and say ‘she does not look like a Games athlete, how did she get there, how did she make it?’
What really triggered it [was when] I went to the Reebok Training Grounds Camp. It’s right before the Games, they invite all the athletes out, and you get to meet all your competitors in a friendly environment. So it was Katrin Davidsdottir and Jen Smith and Christy Adkins, and all these girls have shredded abs.
Usually, this is why I don’t take off my shirt when I’m working out in the gym, but we ran this crazy hill—hill sprints with Ben Bergeron. Obviously it was outside and I [said] ‘whatever’ and I took off my shirt. And we took a picture after on top of the mountain with all the girls. I literally looked at it and said ‘Ew.’”
Athlete Daily: You really said that?
Hagiya: “[Yeah], and to each his own—everyone thinks differently of themselves. Not that I [think], ‘Wow I’m so fat and disgusting.’ Just that I don’t look like these women and my stomach—okay it’s flat but there’s no definition.
There was even a time [my friend and I] went to go get ice cream after and she said ‘Jamie I don’t know…’. And I go ‘you’re right, that picture—I look so bad’ So, then I didn’t even get ice cream that night. Then I came back home and was just thinking about things.
It had been on my mind and I don’t have a blog or a website where I can write my thoughts down. One night, I was sitting on the couch and I wanted to blog my thoughts about the topic and feeling the way that I did, and that’s what came out.”
Hagiya: “Literally had zero idea it was going to go [viral] like that. I think I just came from a place of honesty, and for the most part people got that. It’s not like I mentioned ‘I’m so fat and blah blah blah’.
It was literally just, ‘I don’t look like these other people, and that’s okay. This is how I eat and this is my body and part of it is genetics’. So that’s where it came from.”
Athlete Daily: People say they want to eat to fuel their performance, which is great, but a handful of those people are still really under eating. So then it almost becomes are they really eating to perform or just eating to look good?
Hagiya: “Right. And I think [those are] two totally different things and that’s totally fine. If you want to eat for aesthetics, then great, do that. But if want to eat to perform, then eat how you need to.
Eating to perform—that’s what my whole thing was. I can [eat less], but then I would probably suffer. I’d rather eat what I need to and look however my body is going to look and perform.
And it’s also about your body type. That’s what I was talking to Jen Smith about—I asked her, ‘Do you eat crazy clean?’ and she said ‘Jamie, it’s crazy, it’s just genetics, I’ve had a six-pack since I was eight years old. And when I gain weight it goes to all the good places like my butt.’
Where for me, it goes straight to my stomach, my arms, and my face, and it is noticeable!”
Athlete Daily: And then gets ridiculed on social media.
Hagiya: “After I tore my Achilles, I gained a lot, and I went to Hawaii on vacation and posted a picture in a bathing suit. I was already self-conscious about it, but when I got back to my gym —without having to say anything— a guy came up to me and asked ‘Why did you post that picture? You look soft in the middle.’
So I took it down initially, because I was self-conscious about it. And then I put it back up. I [thought], You know what, I took it down because someone mentioned me being soft in the middle, but I don’t care. I tore my Achilles, I’m working on coming back, I can’t work out like I used to; but this is how I look now, and people liked the post I wrote on that too. Who cares, you’re coming off an injury, you’re still doing the best you can.”
Athlete Daily: Can you talk about how important it is for you to still be able to eat Oreos every now and then? And that people can have their nutrition dialed in and still enjoy food?
Hagiya: “I think it’s okay every once in a while. Obviously I love to eat so my [social media] posts are “FRUITY PEBBLES, OREOS, etc. And then my [CrossFit] coach Mike Lee will say “Jamie…seriously?”
But that’s part of always being with family and friends, and we gather around food and everything. So, it’s hard. I did learn the difference between eating a whole bag or the row of Oreos -two or three rows. Having two, three, or four Oreos. That’s okay, but not having 2 rows.
I think that’s an important part of me maturing. I wanted to look like stick skinny and look like all my friends and everyone you see in the media. But a big part of growing up is realizing this is who I am, which I’m kind of glad is catching on.
The coolest thing about that [body-image] post is that so many people reached out and said ‘I feel exactly the same way. I work my ass off in the gym but I can’t get a six-pack’ It was cool hearing that people resonated with it and got it and felt the same way.
Because it made me feel like ‘OK good, I’m glad everyone feels this way and guys too.’ You just think of girls but guys too—now it’s a world where you have to have a six-pack to be [considered] a good-looking guy. You see all these CrossFit guys and that’s what you automatically think of.”
Athlete Daily: Your attitude about food and about life is so refreshing, especially coming from a family where we love food and celebration always involve tons of food. It’s great to see that you continue to embrace that and live life.
Hagiya: “I think part of the reason why I had a good year this year…I surprised myself. I did well at Regionals, I made the Games, was [because] I was a little bit more relaxed about everything. I know that sounds kind of crazy. The past two years I would stick to [my diet] to a T. And this year, just in general I think I needed to relax a little bit.
Everyone was saying, ‘You’re was getting so wrapped up—just train, eat, sleep and that’s it. You’re so boring’. So this year, [I had the mindset of], ‘Yeah, if I want a bite of ice cream at night or a cookie, I’m going to eat it. It just made me happier. And I think that’s so important to working out and doing well and performing well is being happy.”
All photos courtesy of Jamie Hagiya.