There have been days Tina Rahimi has been so crippled by anxiety over her body, she has refused to leave the house.
A super-fit boxer who has never weighed more than 64kg, Rahimi is not immune from self-consciousness.
Australia’s first Muslim female Commonwealth Games boxer, 26-year-old Rahimi has opened up on her battle with body image and the horror weight cuts she has endured so far in her career as prepares to win Olympic gold at the 2024 Paris Games.
“You want to be a certain weight division and then you get used to seeing yourself at that weight, so then when you eat unhealthy or you have a week off training, you’re not used to that weight and looking in the mirror, you think your body doesn’t look good, or I don’t feel confident to go out,” Rahimi said.
“I’ll get invited places and then I feel like I won’t fit into the clothes that I usually fit into because I’m not at that fight weight or that natural weight that I’m used to.
“I would literally just try on my clothes and I’ll feel fat and I wouldn’t even want to go anywhere anymore.
“It’s definitely impacted me, mentally and emotionally. It’s quite hard.
“And also with me, food is something that I always think about. It’s so weird because it’s always on my mind, 24 seven, especially when I’m cutting weight.”
Rahimi opened about her body issues to help launch Insight Sport – News Corp’s new series taking a deeper look at the issues and athletes in women’s sport.
Insight Sport officially launches on Wednesday with 11 of Australia’s best athletes from a range of sports revealing personal stories about their battle with body image, disordered eating and stereotypes in the quest for athletic success.
When Rahimi won the bronze medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, wearing her hijab, the victory was seen as a game-changer for female Muslim athletes in Australia.
What the world didn’t see was the insane methods Rahimi had to use to make 57kg featherweight limit after discovering a day before her first fight that her scales were off.
“I usually use my scale every day after training and every morning to see what I weigh, I took it with me and I think just because of travel [to the United Kingdom], it stuffed up,” Rahimi said.
“So I was on weight on my scale, and then I used my friend‘s scale and I was 1.8kg over, and I was freaking out, like what am I going to do?
“And we didn’t have any access to any saunas, and there were no baths in the hotel.
“We had to go to a different hotel, and there were guys in the room who had to get out, because they aren’t allowed to see me without my scarf.
“I was in a hot bath with a towel over myself, and after 15 minutes I felt nauseous, I felt like vomiting, I was dizzy.
“I’ve never felt that before. I actually thought I was going to die.
“And I only lost like 500 grams, I still had 1.1 kilos to lose.
“I went back to my hotel room, and that night I made like a sauna in my bathroom. We closed the door and blocked it off with the towel and turned on the hot water.
“Then I had one of my female coaches come in with me, and I was in a sweat suit hitting the pads. I lost about another 500 grams like that.
“I couldn’t drink any water, because that would stay in body as water weight.
“I was up again at 4am doing the same thing, hitting pads in the bathroom, high knees, doing whatever my trainer was telling me to.
“I was just really lucky that I didn’t have to fight until later that night. It wasn’t just a few hours later, it was 10 hours later, so I had time to refuel.”
Despite her historic achievements and grand ambition, Rahimi must still endure unhelpful comments about her weight.
“I remember one time I put up a post with my coach on the pads, someone told him, ‘She’s a bit overweight’. I’m like, I was two kilos over my fight weight,” she said.
“But the fact that people notice that, it gets to you.”
Rahimi is in Europe competing at amateur tournaments, and midway through this year will fight at the national championships for her place in the Australian team for Paris 2024.
She is no doubt inspiring a new generation of Muslim girls who can see that wearing a hijab and achieving sporting success are not mutually exclusive.
“I embrace it because I’m proud of who I am and I’m proud to be representing my religion and just, looking how I how I look,” Rahimi said.
“Obviously you don’t see it a lot, there’s not many Muslim females who do compete in boxing with the hijab.
“And I feel like it’s really out of our comfort zone because there’s not many of us. And that’s what I found a challenge, just stepping out of my comfort zone. And I was quite a shy person as well, I believe, so talking to other people and just becoming more social was uncomfortable at first, but now it’s something that I embrace.
“You go through emotional breakdowns, but if you have the passion for it, then you’re willing to do whatever it takes.
“So my advice would be just to find your passion. If you’re willing to struggle, which you would be, then go for it.”
Originally published as Insight: Aussie Muslim boxer Tina Rahimi reveals mental battle over her weight