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Country music star Kelsea Ballerini opens up about teenage eating disorder


Country music star Kelsea Ballerini has revealed that she struggled with bulimia as a teenager, during which time she also took diet pills and exercised obsessively. 

The 28-year-old has made several candid revelations in her new book of poetry, Feel Your Way Through, including about the eating disorder she battled for years.

Though she got help when she was 18, she admitted that her mind reverted back to old, dangerous ways of thinking when, in 2015, she saw a headline speculating that she was pregnant. 

Country music star Kelsea Ballerini has revealed that she struggled with bulimia as a teenager, during which time she also took diet pills and exercised obsessively

'My parents had just gotten divorced, and I think for me, it was a source of control,' she said (pictured at her senior prom)

‘My parents had just gotten divorced, and I think for me, it was a source of control,’ she said (pictured at her senior prom)

Kelsea told People that the unhealthy habits started right after her mother and father split.

‘My parents had just gotten divorced, and I think for me, it was a source of control,’ she said.

It also didn’t help that a male classmate made a cruel, thoughtless remark about her body, which she recalls in the poem ‘Kangaroo.’

‘A boy named Jackson called me “kangaroo” when I was a freshman in high school … he explained this new nickname because of my belly and little legs,’ she wrote.

Kelsea turned to bulimia, took diet pills, and excessive exercise to the point that she passed out several times.

Eventually, at age 18, she sought help.

The 28-year-old has made several candid revelations in her new book of poetry, Feel Your Way Through, including about the eating disorder she battled for years

The 28-year-old has made several candid revelations in her new book of poetry, Feel Your Way Through, including about the eating disorder she battled for years

The 28-year-old has made several candid revelations in her new book of poetry, Feel Your Way Through, including about the eating disorder she battled for years 

'A boy named Jackson called me "kangaroo" when I was a freshman in high school... he explained this new nickname because of my belly and little legs,' she wrote

‘A boy named Jackson called me “kangaroo” when I was a freshman in high school… he explained this new nickname because of my belly and little legs,’ she wrote 

But in 2015, when she was 21, those old thoughts were triggered after she performed on the Today show and saw an article proclaiming: ‘Ballerini debuts baby bump.’

She didn’t name the outlet, and the article no longer appears to be available online, but she admitted her mind went to a dangerous place.

‘I reverted back to that 12-year-old version of me but thought: Either you’re going to get triggered by this all the time, or you’re going to get to a point where you’re okay enough to look past it,’ she said.

Now, she is doing much better.  

‘I’m in a much healthier spot, and I’m much more gentle with how I talk to myself and my body. There are still days where I revert back to being that 12-year-old, and I have to catch myself, and hold myself accountable to the work I’ve done,’ she said. 

She has a healthier outlook, which means she doesn’t work out and eat salad to ‘get skinny’ but rather to ‘be healthy.’ 

She got help at 18 but recalled reverting back to the dangerous mindset after a cruel headline about her body in 2015

She got help at 18 but recalled reverting back to the dangerous mindset after a cruel headline about her body in 2015 

'I'm in a much healthier spot, and I'm much more gentle with how I talk to myself and my body,' she said

‘I’m in a much healthier spot, and I’m much more gentle with how I talk to myself and my body,’ she said

‘I’ve re-calibrated what it means to me to just look in the mirror and just be like, “Man, I’m healthy. I’m strong. I have good breath support to do my job well,”‘ she said, adding that those things matter more than whether she looks skinny in a dress.

Earlier this year, she told Shape about her diet.

‘I’ve always been an 80/20 person as far as food and drinking. I try to do what’s good for me 80 percent of the time. The other 20 percent of the time, I just enjoy my life,’ she said. 

‘I run through the McDonald’s drive-through once a month, and it’s fine. Sometimes I’ll have a little too much wine, and that’s OK too. 

‘I’ve spent so much of my life feeling guilty for things that I eat or having an unhealthy relationship with food or the gym or whatever. So I just try to be nice to myself and do what’s good for me. And when I don’t, I start again the next day.’

She also said she has been working otu with the same trainer, Erin Oprea, for five years. She does strength training intervals for 45 minutes, three days a week. 

She has a healthier outlook, which means she doesn't work out and eat salad to 'get skinny' but rather to 'be healthy'

She has a healthier outlook, which means she doesn’t work out and eat salad to ‘get skinny’ but rather to ‘be healthy’

‘It’s been really good for me in understanding that exercise isn’t necessarily for the way I look; it’s also about the way I feel,’ she said.

‘And I show a lot of grace to myself: There are days when I take lots of breaks between sets and it’s not the best workout in the world, and that’s OK. I don’t ever want working out to feel like a punishment — like I’m doing this because I didn’t do something else right.’

Kelsea also spoke about body image on CBS Mornings yesterday, saying: ‘It’s not always easy to just feel good in your skin. It’s a journey, and I just think when you say it out loud, it takes the sting away from it.’

‘I’m in a good place, as a woman, especially as a woman in 2021, if you feel good about yourself all the time, I would like to read your book. But I’m honest about it,’ she added. 

Kelsea broke down in tears on TV yesterday as she discussed one tragic moment that shaped her: the death of a classmate by gun violence in her high school cafeteria

Kelsea broke down in tears on TV yesterday as she discussed one tragic moment that shaped her: the death of a classmate by gun violence in her high school cafeteria

Kelsea was there when her 15-year-old classmate, Ryan McDonald, was shot in the chest fellow classmate Jamar Siler, then 15

'I will cry. I was worried about that,' Kelsea told CBS News' Anthony Mason this morning as her face crumpled

Kelsea was there when her 15-year-old classmate, Ryan McDonald, was shot in the chest fellow classmate Jamar Siler, then 15

Kelsea recalled how she watched him take his last breath as he died on the cafeteria floor, and how carrying that memory with her as made her afraid of loud noises and guns ever since

Kelsea recalled how she watched him take his last breath as he died on the cafeteria floor, and how carrying that memory with her as made her afraid of loud noises and guns ever since

During the interview, the singer also opened up about a particularly painful memory, breaking down in tears as she discussed one tragic moment that shaped her: the death of a classmate by gun violence in her high school cafeteria. 

Kelsea was a sophomore at Central High School, in Knoxville, Tennessee, when her 15-year-old classmate, Ryan McDonald, was shot in the chest by a fellow student, Jamar Siler, then 15. 

Kelsea recalled how she watched him take his last breath as he died on the cafeteria floor, and how carrying that memory with her as made her afraid of loud noises and guns ever since.

‘I will cry. I was worried about that,’ Kelsea told CBS News’ Anthony Mason this morning as her face crumpled.

‘With this particular situation, you know, I’ve never talked about it before but as the book was forming I was realizing that if I’m gonna talk about the things that have made me me, I certainly can’t avoid this,’ she said.

‘I’ve never talked about it before,’ she added. 

The star was a sophomore at Central High School, in Knoxville, Tennessee in 2008 when the tragedy happened (pictured in 2011)

The star was a sophomore at Central High School, in Knoxville, Tennessee in 2008 when the tragedy happened (pictured in 2011)

Ryan, a junior who lived with his grandmother, was one of several students in the school cafeteria the morning of August 21, 2008 when Jamar shot him

Ryan, a junior who lived with his grandmother, was one of several students in the school cafeteria the morning of August 21, 2008 when Jamar shot him

The tragedy made headlines at the time: Ryan, a junior who lived with his grandmother, was one of several students in the school cafeteria the morning of August 21, 2008 when Jamar shot him.

According to the AP, Ryan was bullied because he had alopecia, which left him bald.

Jamar’s motive for shooting him was unclear, though some reports said that he and Ryan had had a disagreement on the bus that morning. His defense attorney claimed he had fetal alcohol syndrome.

Eyewitnesses said Ryan was ‘walking and holding his chest’ before he fell over, and there was ‘blood everywhere.’

Jamar later pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. 

Kelsea describes watching the scene unfold that day in a poem in her book, which came out today. 

The country star also discusssed her bad luck last year when, just as the pandemic was sweeping throught the US, she released a new album, Kelsea, on March 20, 2020

The country star also discusssed her bad luck last year when, just as the pandemic was sweeping throught the US, she released a new album, Kelsea, on March 20, 2020

She also addressed a controvercial tweet she shared earlier this year after fellow country musician Morgan Wallen was caught on camera using a racist slur

She also addressed a controvercial tweet she shared earlier this year after fellow country musician Morgan Wallen was caught on camera using a racist slur

‘His name was Ryan, and he died on the cafeteria floor from a gunshot wound to the chest. I can’t be too sure, but I think I saw him breathe his last breath,’ she writes.

‘I’m scared of loud noises, I’m triggered by the news, I’m terrified of guns, I’m sensitive in crowds. But I’m alive.

‘And because of a boy named Ryan, I know what a gift that is.’

Speaking on television yesterday, Kelsea shared what she took away from what happened: ‘I think I became very aware of [the fact that] life is short.’ 

The country star also discusssed her bad luck last year when, just as the pandemic was sweeping throught the US, she released a new album, Kelsea, on March 20, 2020.

They had made it to the touring stage before everything had to be called off — a moment she called ‘terrifying’ after being on the road for five years.   

She tackled a lot of important subjects, including body image. 'It's not always easy to just feel good in your skin. It's a journey,' she said

She tackled a lot of important subjects, including body image. ‘It’s not always easy to just feel good in your skin. It’s a journey,’ she said

‘That was just not the state of the world that it was released into,’ she said. ‘Stopping after you’ve been sprinting — that’s like, oh, how am I?’

That’s when she began writing the poetry she has since turned into her new book. 

She also addressed a controvercial tweet she shared earlier this year after fellow country musician Morgan Wallen was caught on camera using a racist slur.

Her tweet read: ‘The news out of Nashville tonight does not represent country music.’

While her intentions were to condemn Wallen, there was plenty of backlash against her tweet from people who insisted that his use of the slur did, in fact, represent country music — and acting like racism wasn’t a problem in the community meant that it wouldn’t be addressed properly.  

‘I can acknolwedge a misstep,’ she said.  ‘I have learned that sometimes, even in the purest intentions, you should keep your mouth shut and learn. And that’s what I’m doing now.’

'I can acknolwedge a misstep,' she said. 'I have learned that sometimes, even in the purest intentions, you should keep your mouth shut and learn'

‘I can acknolwedge a misstep,’ she said. ‘I have learned that sometimes, even in the purest intentions, you should keep your mouth shut and learn’

Kelsea, who is on tour with Jonas Brothers, also noted that she thinks of herself as a writer before a musician

Kelsea, who is on tour with Jonas Brothers, also noted that she thinks of herself as a writer before a musician

‘I have had a very small corner of cancel culture around that. I’m such a peacemaker by default. I’m a chronic people pleaser. I’m an only child from a divorced family, I’m just like, everyone good? What can I do?

‘So standing up for anything is me crawling out of my skin. But it’s something that’s important to me. It’s something I’m trying to learn about, that I’m in a lot of therapy about, and something that I’m trying to do better and better and more eloquently as I get older,’ she said.

Kelsea, who is on tour with Jonas Brothers, also noted that she thinks of herself as a writer before a musician, which offers a sense of relief that she will still be doing what she loves if the fame ever goes away.

‘One day when the radio stops playing me, which it will inevitably, I still get to be a songwriter. How much peace does that bring me, just to know at the end of the day, when all the glitter fades, that’s my favorite part and I still get to do that forever,’ she said.



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