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Jordan Chiles Had to Heal Her Relationship with Food After a Coach Limited Her to 800 Calories a Day (Exclusive)

The Olympic gymnast tells PEOPLE how she overcame the "very unhealthy relationship" she developed with food early in her career

<p>Harry How/Getty</p> Gymnast Jordan Chiles poses during the Team USA Paris 2024 Olympic Portrait Shoot at NBC Universal Studios Stage 16 on November 16, 2023 in Los Angeles,

Harry How/Getty

Gymnast Jordan Chiles poses during the Team USA Paris 2024 Olympic Portrait Shoot at NBC Universal Studios Stage 16 on November 16, 2023 in Los Angeles,

Olympic gymnast Jordan Chiles is opening up about how she overcame a previously unhealthy relationship with food.

As Chiles, 22, prepares for the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympics, kicking off July 26, the silver medalist tells PEOPLE she was "shamed into thinking" she needed to restrict her calorie intake by a former coach.

"Early on in my gymnastics career, I was shamed into thinking I wasn't fit enough and that I should just consume clear-based soups," Chiles reveals. "At that time, I had no body fat and abs for days."

The gymnast says the issue began when her former coach told her "that things I liked eating were going to keep me from being an Olympian" and that she was "encouraged" to "eat 800 calories a day" if she wanted to succeed.

As a result, Chiles says her view on nutrition suffered. "The truth is, I developed a very unhealthy relationship with food because of that," she tells PEOPLE.

Chiles says leaving that coach enabled her to repair her relationship with the foods she enjoyed. "When I moved away from that toxic encouragement and ate what I wanted, my body responded more. My body needed fuel," she says, explaining, "We train 34 hours a week so our bodies can do insane things, and we need food to keep our bodies moving."

<p>MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP via Getty</p> USA's Jordan Chiles warms up before performing her routine

MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP via Getty

USA's Jordan Chiles warms up before performing her routine

Related: Gymnast Jordan Chiles Says Being Named After Michael Jordan Helps Her 'Keep Grinding' (Exclusive)

Now, the Olympian says she tries "eating clean" on most days, "but if I want pizza, I eat pizza."

With Paris 2024 just under five months away, Chiles says she's "a little more settled" than she was when she first competed in the Games in 2021.

"I am more comfortable with knowing I can’t control the uncontrollable," says Chiles. "I am already an Olympian and World Champion and those titles can’t be taken away from me. That history has been written."

Jamie Squire/Getty Jordan Chiles
Jamie Squire/Getty Jordan Chiles

Chiles continues, "So, heading into Paris I feel good knowing that I don’t have anything to prove to anyone. Last time, I was trying to prove I was capable and now I know that I am. I can’t control the outcome, but I know I have more to give so I am heading into this Olympic year wanting to see what I look like at 100%."

The Tokyo medalist admits she's "never seen" herself at 100%. "I have accomplished so much but never have been at 100%. I look forward to getting there, to having fun, to vibing my way and to hopefully writing more of my history."

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As she reflects on her journey to a second Olympic appearance, Chiles says she "can't thank" her parents, Gina and Timothy Chiles, enough for their support. "They are still on this journey with me and still making sacrifices," she says. "This sport is tough on the athletes, but the parents go through every emotion too — especially my mom who cannot watch me without almost passing out."

"My mom has been my biggest supporter from the beginning, and she has helped me become the person I am today," says Chiles. "She helped me to remember that my dream was mine and mine alone. It was up to me to give the power to people who would fuel my journey or to change directions and walk away on my own terms. She taught me that no one had the power to just take it away. She is my rock."

And her father, Timothy, is "the person I need in the toughest moments because he has a way of comforting me when I feel overwhelmed," says Chiles. "There is nothing like the arms of my dad to make me feel like everything will somehow be okay."

Related: Simone Biles Is 'Working' Out Her 2024 Paris Olympic Plans: 'Heading in the Right Direction'

Jamie Squire/Getty Images Jordan Chiles
Jamie Squire/Getty Images Jordan Chiles

In the last year, Chiles reveals she was able to make a big "goal" of hers come true for her parents.

"My goal was to buy them a house one day and this past year I was able to do that. Material things are not important, but I really wanted them to know how much I appreciate them."

To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit TeamUSA.com. Watch the Paris Olympics and Paralympics this summer on NBC and Peacock.

If you or someone you know is struggling with  an eating disorder, please go to NationalEatingDisorders.org.

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