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Image / Living / Culture

Ellie Goulding on fame, gym obsessions and ‘debilitating’ panic attacks


by Jennifer McShane
15th Aug 2021
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We are quick to judge those in the public eye for seemingly having it all. We scoff when they ask for privacy and even more so when they announce news on their terms in an attempt to control the narrative. Fame can be suffocating as singer Ellie Goulding knows all too well.

Goulding revealed she suffered “debilitating” panic attacks and an addiction to exercise at the height of her fame.

The singer who recently had her first child with husband Caspar Jopling has shared details of her struggle with mental health in her new book, Fitter. Calmer. Stronger (out September 2nd).

“My low days used to be ridiculously low. I just couldn’t find a way out of them. I often felt as if I was failing because when I felt down I wasn’t being productive,” she said.

“My 20s felt like a combination of complete euphoria and utter terror. My main thoughts seemed to run like this: This isn’t real. Is this real? I don’t deserve this! This is a complete fluke. Did they get the wrong person?”

She also said her gruelling schedule of TV shows, interviews and travelling to “three different countries in one day” left her suffering “debilitating panic attacks.”

“It was like being strapped to a space shuttle. I was performing live on TV, going to awards ceremonies and sometimes flying to three countries in a day.”

It was, she says, a “dream career” but she said her panic attacks began slowly, and writes of experiencing a panic attack on a photoshoot and a live TV show, which she still cannot watch back. “To this day, I have never watched that show back. I’m scared I will spot the terror in my eyes,” she continued, according to The Sun.

She said she felt shame and confusion over her ability to cope, she received cognitive behavioural therapy, which she says was life-changing.

Her sanctuary became the gym, but this proved to be another extension of a coping method, leading to a poor diet and what she calls “an obsession” with counting calories.

It seemed that all I could think about was when my next workout was going to be. It became my prison.

“I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was using exercise as a crutch. I couldn’t control many things around me, but I could control how much I exercised. Exercising too much led me to start eating poorly.”

“Rather than seeing food as fuel and making wise decisions, I’d eat rubbish and think I could just burn off the calories. In my case, it wasn’t about weight and being super-thin, it was about distracting myself from how I felt.”

Her new book candidly reveals the step stones to her mental health journey as it is now.

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