A former Boston University lightweight rower has revealed that she used to starve herself and spit in a cup for hours on end in order to slim down for her weekly weigh-ins, while exposing some of the extreme measures team members would take to lose weight.
In a new YouTube video, recent BU graduate Gretchen Geraghty, 22, who is originally from Latham, New York, opened up about the realities of women’s lightweight rowing, which requires competitors to weigh 130lbs or less before races.
Gretchen, who quit lightweight rowing after her freshman year, explained that her coaches would turn ‘a blind eye’ while she and many of her teammates would go to extremes to quickly shed the necessary weight they needed to make their weigh-ins.
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Keeping it real: YouTuber Gretchen Geraghty, 22, from Latham, New York, opened up about the realities of women’s lightweight rowing in her latest video
Stress: To compete in lightweight rowing, women must weigh 130lbs or less on race day. She said she and her former teammates at Boston University would go to extremes to make weight
Gretchen and her twin sister Lucy started rowing in the eighth grade and ended up doing it competitively throughout high school.
She explained that she was drawn to the lightweight program because even though she is 5-foot-9, she knew she would never be ‘jacked’ enough to be an open-weight rower.
Looking back at her first high school weigh-in, she said it was the first time in her life that she felt bad about her weight and started comparing herself to others.
Too much: The recent BU graduate quit lightweight rowing after her freshman year
‘I remember freshman year of high school I stepped on that scale. I was, like, 138lbs,’ she recalled. ‘I was like, “I’m so big. There are so many smaller girls.”‘
Gretchen said she was determined to become a lightweight rower, and after a few changes to her diet, she naturally got down to about 127lbs.
However, in hindsight, she realizes she wasn’t eating nearly enough to sustain her energy while training. She actually stopped menstruating and didn’t get her period for about three years, from ages 16 to 19.
‘It was just because I didn’t have enough body fat,’ she explained. ‘I know for me, if I am under 135, I’ll just lose my cycle.’
She admitted to ‘just eating strawberries and pistachios’ when she and her sister traveled to compete at Youth Nationals in Sacramento in 2015.
Gretchen and Lucy both made BU’s lightweight rowing team, and she recalled being worried that they would be the slowest ones their freshman year but their fears were unfounded.
‘Everything was good until it wasn’t. I quickly started struggling with weight,’ she said. ‘Do I think I could have gotten through four years of lightweight rowing at BU? Yes.
Start of it all: Gretchen and her twin sister Lucy (not pictured) started rowing in the eighth grade and ended up doing it competitively throughout high school
Appeal: Gretchen (left) explained that she was drawn to the lightweight program because even though she is 5-foot-9, she knew she’d never be ‘jacked’ enough to be an open-weight rower
‘I think I would have been miserable — I know I would have been miserable,’ she continued. ‘It would have ruined my metabolism, my self-esteem, my relationships socially, my mental state. It was just like bad, bad, bad.’
While she and her teammates had access to a nutritionist, she said they were constantly given contradictory information and hearty meal plans that most girls could never follow and still make weight.
The nutritionist stressed that the rowers should speak to her if they weren’t getting their periods, which surprised Gretchen because her doctor had always told her it was fine.
The woman explained that Gretchen’s body was telling her that she wasn’t healthy enough to carry a baby and her missed cycles put her at risk for osteoporosis.
‘It’s like, you need to gain weight for your health, but you need to lose weight to stay on this team,’ she recalled.
Not only was Gretchen getting older, but she was also lifting weights for the first time in her life and had gained a lot of muscle, making it even more difficult for her to get down to 130lbs.
Rowing is one of the few sports that athletes practice year round and compete in both the fall and spring, though spring is the primary season for college rowing.
Gretchen said by the end of the fall, she and Lucy were both injured. She had a stress fracture in her rib, which she said is common for rowers, but she admitted she was running her body into the ground.
Looking back: Gretchen and her twin sister Lucy competed at Youth Nationals in Sacramento in 2015, right before they started their freshman year at Boston University
Alarming side-effect: Gretchen, pictured in 2016, said she stopped getting her period for three years, from ages 16 to 19
While juggling rowing, YouTubing, and her course load as a biology major, she was only getting about four hours of sleep a night.
‘I was told that it was my fault that I had a stress fracture in my rib because I wasn’t getting enough sleep,’ she recalled. ‘So, yeah, that didn’t really make sense to me.’
Gretchen recovered and was able to compete in the spring but Lucy wasn’t. She quickly realized that what she enjoyed most about lightweight rowing was spending time with her sister.
She admitted that it was ironic that Lucy was the one who was injured because she was completely dedicated to rowing, while she started to dread the sport and her weekly weigh-ins.
‘I would say it was a very bad team culture,’ she said, explaining it was a really ‘hush, hush’ environment.
‘The coaches know everything that’s going on . . . and the unhealthy really bad activities that are going on for people to make weight,’ she added.
‘Everyone just kind of turns a blind to it and are like, “You have to make weigh-ins on Friday. Like you got this. It’s on you girl.”‘
Gretchen said she ‘knew deep down’ how small she was, but she was also being told she needed to lose weight to stay on the team and compete.
Hungry: Gretchen, pictured in 2015, recalled how she and her teammates would starve themselves from Wednesday to Friday, the day of their weigh-ins
Then and now: Gretchen said she had trouble staying under 130lbs while on her college team. She is pictured in 2015 at the start of her freshman year (left) and in 2017 (right)
She stressed that there are girls who are naturally small and able to meet the weight requirement without starving themselves, but that wasn’t the case for most of them.
‘You just would not eat Friday, like no matter what, before weigh-in, unless you were one of the magical few on the team that were naturally like 120 or 125,’ she said, noting that most people started starving themselves on Wednesday in preparation.
Gretchen recalled one former teammate who would weigh 142lbs on Wednesday and would somehow clock in weighing under 130lbs on Friday.
‘We would all be like what? That’s crazy. How?’ she said.
A few years later, the woman abruptly left the team because she had been struggling with bulimia for several years.
‘It just broke my heart, and I know she wasn’t the only one,’ Gretchen said.
The former lightweight rower explained a lot of girls would shed up to 10lbs in two days, recalling how her ‘biggest cut’ was 5lbs in one day.
Even though they all had to sign waivers in the fall saying they wouldn’t go into saunas or sit in hot tubs for long periods of time to try to lose weight, she said almost everyone did it, herself included.
Bad behavior: The YouTuber, pictured last month, said she and her teammates would spit into cups to try and shed pounds quickly
Over it: She said she decided to quit the team after having to do a 45-minute ‘sweat run’ wearing layers upon layers of clothes to lose one last pound before a race
‘I would go into this sauna that I found in the faculty locker room and I would sit there for like ever to sweat out weight,’ she said, noting sometimes she would even do crunches in the heat.
When they were desperate, they would spit into cups to try and dehydrates themselves even more in an attempt to shed pounds.
‘We would fill up cups of spit, but you can’t spit when you’re really dehydrated, so we would suck on lollipops and Jolly Ranchers because it would make you spit. I remember of having these full cups of red, purple spit,’ she said.
‘My mouth would hurt. Everything would be like raw and just awful because you’d be spitting for like six hours and that probably got rid of another pound or two. Seriously. You can spit out way more than you think you can and it’s so messed up.’
On the day of her most traumatic weigh-in, she spent about an hour or two in the sauna but still weighed 133lbs before her race.
Gretchen recalled being in a panic while speaking to an assistant coach who assured her she could lose the weight in time.
‘That’s just what the culture was — go do what you need to do to lose weight,’ she said, adding: ‘I never had to work this hard for a weigh-in before.
‘This one was just the beginning of the end because it was so difficult. I remember on the six-hour bus ride spitting the entire way.’
During a pit stop on the way to the race, she got on the scale and learned she still weighed 131lbs despite all her efforts.
Self-care: Gretchen said she would have been ‘miserable’ if she tried to stick with lightweight rowing for another three years
All smiles: Gretchen, who graduated from Boston University this May, noted that only a few members of her recruiting class stuck with lightweight rowing for all of college
‘You can’t pee, you can’t poop, you can’t spit anymore,’ she said. ‘I’m like, “I don’t know what to do?”‘
When they arrived at the race course, Gretchen was given as many clothes as she could fit on her body and had to go on her first ‘sweat run.’
She recalled feeling ’embarrassed’ and ‘ashamed’ when she ran past the other teams wearing her countless layers.
It was at this moment that she realized she was going to quit lightweight rowing. After 45 minutes of running, she stepped on the scale and clocked in at 130.0.
Gretchen said getting ready for weigh-in was a weekly cycle that was so grueling most of her fellow recruits quit, with only a few of them making it to their senior year on the team.
In addition to her struggle to maintain her weight, she was also prohibited from YouTubing about her experience because of NCAA rules, which was something she had a hard time with.
The college grad said the main reason why she made the video was that she often has young girls asking her about lightweight rowing, and she wants them to really know what it’s like.
She stressed that its inevitable that they will gain weight in college, and for a lot of people, it’s too difficult to stay under 130lbs without disordered eating. The sport also takes up must of your time, making it difficult to have a social life.
‘I just want to scream from the rooftops don’t do it,’ she said. ‘For most of you, I don’t think it’s the best idea.’
DailyMail.com has reached out to Boston University for a comment.