Molly Carlson’s Inspiring Journey of Overcoming an Eating Disorder Through Cliff Diving

If you’ve been following the Olympic events, you’re likely familiar with the sport of 10-meter platform diving. Standing on a 10-meter platform and looking down at the pool, most people still need a great deal of courage to take the leap. But there are some who not only shine on the 10-meter platform, but also have the bravery to take on an even greater challenge: cliff diving. While cliff diving and platform diving share similarities, cliff divers jump from heights ranging from 18 to 27 meters, more than double the height of the platform. This significant difference in height impacts diving techniques and safety in various ways.

Diving from such heights carries inherent risks and dangers. Even diving from a platform (30 feet above ground) can result in injuries like bruises, fractured ribs, and disorientation upon impact. Therefore, becoming a cliff diver requires extensive and rigorous training, and it is not a sport suitable for beginners.

Let’s first consider the difference in speed. Divers from the 10-meter platform enter the water at approximately 30 kilometers per hour, while cliff divers enter the water from heights of 20 meters at speeds of approximately 85 kilometers per hour, comparable to highway speeds. Consequently, cliff divers experience an impact force on the water surface that is nine times greater than that of a 10-meter platform diver.

To mitigate injuries from such extreme impacts, cliff divers aim to land with their feet first and coordinate the extension of leg and core muscles. The impact force upon entry into the water is too strong for the diver’s arms, shoulders, and neck to bear when diving headfirst. Before entering the water, they try to “tense” their muscles as much as possible to reduce the risk of injury. It is not recommended for cliff divers to enter the water headfirst like platform divers.

During cliff diving competitions, scuba divers are typically stationed near the entry point to assist divers in determining their entry position and provide immediate support upon entering the water. Since divers are at a height of 20 meters in the air, it can be challenging to gauge the distance to the water surface. In such cases, scuba divers signal by splashing water on the surface.

Source:Redbull Cliff Diving Official page by Romina Amato

The story of Cliff Diver Molly Carlson

Molly Carlson, a Canadian platform diving athlete and Red Bull cliff diving athlete, has captured the hearts of many with her infectious smile, outgoing personality, and unwavering confidence. Little did we know that behind her courageous demeanor lies a story of immense effort and perseverance, as she overcame numerous obstacles to become the self-assured and charismatic individual we see today.

At the tender age of 8, Carlson was already involved in gymnastics, while her sister pursued swimming. As she watched her sister practice in the pool, she found the repetitive nature of swimming rather dull. However, her attention was soon captivated by the divers on the adjacent diving platform, their gravity-defying movements sparking her curiosity and fascination. It was love at first sight, and she immediately expressed to her mother that she needed to give diving a try.

From that moment on, Carlson embarked on a diving journey that has spanned nearly two decades. At the remarkable age of 17, she fulfilled her dream of becoming an Olympic platform diver in 2016. In interviews, she has shared that from as early as the age of 4, she harbored a deep desire to become an Olympic athlete, regardless of the sport. However, her path to the Olympics was not without its challenges.

During her journey, Carlson faced criticism from her coach for being overweight, which led her to develop an eating disorder. The pressure to conform to societal expectations and the constant comparison to her competitors took a toll on her mental well-being and ultimately affected her performance in the Olympics. Negative thoughts about her body image consumed her, and she felt lost and disconnected from the sport she once loved. The darkness seemed overwhelming, and she contemplated giving up diving altogether.

It was during this difficult period that Carlson realized she couldn’t continue down this destructive path alone. She reached out to her coach, who in turn sought the support of various experts to help her navigate through the challenges she faced. With their guidance and her own determination, Carlson gradually rediscovered her love for diving and learned to let go of the negative thoughts that had plagued her.

Today, Molly Carlson stands as a beacon of inspiration and resilience. Her journey serves as a reminder that even in the face of adversity, one can overcome obstacles and emerge stronger. Through her story, she encourages others to seek help when needed and emphasizes the importance of self-acceptance and self-love. Molly’s transformation is a testament to the power of perseverance and the indomitable spirit that lies within each of us.

Embracing Fearless Thoughts: 
Confronting the Fear of Weight Gain

In 2021, at the age of 25, Carlson made the transition from being a platform diver to a cliff diver. Despite facing even greater challenges in terms of height, she found that cliff diving had a positive impact on her mental well-being. One notable difference in her current self compared to the past is her ability to recognize and pause her negative thoughts. She shares an example of completing a three-hour diving practice and needing to eat for replenishment. As she took the first bite of a sandwich, her mind still echoed with voices telling her that it was a food that would make her gain weight… causing her to feel nauseous and triggering the common symptoms associated with eating disorders.

She spat out a mouthful into the trash can, but she was able to gather herself and courageously return to the table to finish the entire sandwich, confronting her fear of food.

With over 1.11 million subscribers on YouTube and 310,000 followers on Instagram, Carlson regularly shares the challenges and training involved in cliff diving. She also shares her journey of becoming a “brave” girl in the eyes of others, along with a group of like-minded courageous individuals she has formed, using the hashtag #BraveGang to inspire others based on her own experiences.

Finding Purpose in Overcoming Body Anxiety and Eating Disorders: Carlson’s Inspirational Journey

Carlson’s personal experiences with body anxiety and eating disorders have given her a profound sense of mission, motivating her to uplift others facing similar challenges.

She has encountered mocking comments from online users, like, “As a professional athlete, you have too much cellulite on your legs.” Instead of being disheartened, Carlson fearlessly responds and offers her perspective. She emphasizes the importance of being mindful of the content consumed on social media, including beauty brands, models, and sponsored posts. She reminds everyone that their bodies are already inherently beautiful and capable of achieving incredible feats, urging them to treat themselves with kindness. The more one becomes aware of the unsettling influences online, the less likely they are to compare their bodies to others or feel the need to alter themselves.

What truly leaves a lasting impression is not only Carlson’s breathtaking diving skills but also her willingness to authentically document her struggles and hardships. Contrary to the assumption that this brave young woman must be completely fearless in the face of heights, she reveals that she experiences discomfort and nausea due to nervousness before every competition. 

Carlson’s story serves as a powerful inspiration. In addition to her remarkable diving abilities, she openly shares her vulnerabilities and triumphs. From confronting body anxiety to proudly proclaiming, “I am proud of my body” to the world, Carlson’s journey has been one of resilience and courage, radiating an unwavering sense of strength.

At the recent stop of the Cliff Diving World Series held at the historic Mostar Old Bridge in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Carlson achieved an extraordinary feat by flawlessly completing the challenge and securing first place.

Carlson’s narrative is a beacon of hope for those grappling with body image issues and eating disorders. Her unwavering determination and resilience remind us that the path to self-acceptance and embracing our bodies may be arduous, but it ultimately leads to empowerment.

Every large goal starts with small brave successes.

 Molly Carlson

Let’s learn more Carlson’s story by her youtube video channel:

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