Lauren Alaina’s Battle With Bulimia Nearly Ended Her Country Career
In May, Lauren Alaina opened up about her battle with bulimia, and now the American Idol alum is sharing a new story about her eating disorder -- one of triumph. Alaina sat down with the Tennessean to talk about her new single, "Road Less Traveled," and how it was inspired by her journey.
Calling bulimia her "deepest, darkest secret," Alaina says that her struggle began after seeing a blog during her early days on American Idol. The writer of the blog had nicknamed Alaina "Miss Piggy" and superimposed a pig nose and ears on every picture posted of her.
"I was letting someone I was never going to be in the same room with impact my everyday happiness," says Alaina, who went on to place second on the show (just after Scotty McCreery) and enter a years-long battle with body image, health and food.
While on the American Idol tour, Alaina ate only 500 calories a day and gave herself injections in an effort to lose weight. This quickly led to bulimia, and Alaina dropped 40 pounds in a short amount of time. The singer says she was able to hide her eating disorder with a strict diet and exercise plan, but many people -- including her mother -- still had questions.
"I think people kind of wondered how I was losing all of that weight,” says Alaina. "At the time, I was so sick, but I still wanted to be smaller. I’m 5-8 and was wearing a size 0."
Alaina finally had to face her eating disorder when she visited a doctor to treat severe polyps on her vocal cords that had been there since childhood. The doctor ordered vocal rest, but it was when he asked if she'd ever had an eating disorder that Alaina broke down. She tried to deny it, but her mom forced her to tell the truth.
"I remember being so embarrassed," recalls the 21-year-old singer. "I thought I was hiding it from her, so when she said that, I was like, ‘Oh.’ I burst into tears."
Because of her extreme illness, the doctor told Alaina that if she didn't stop making herself throw up, she would never be able to sing again. It was just the wake-up call she needed.
"Obviously, singing is the only thing I want to do in life," she says. "I have no backup plan. People knowing [about the bulimia] made me not want to do it."
Over the next two weeks, Alaina and her mom retreated to a beach house to recover and begin to learn new and healthy habits. It took a while, but with the support of family and close friends, Alaina says that she has overcome her eating disorder. Now she's ready to get fit in a healthy way, and has hired a personal chef, personal trainer and started using the Atkins 40 plan. Alaina also says that releasing "Road Less Traveled" has been a pivotal part of the healing process as well.
"I still wake up with the uglies, and I still have days where I say things to myself that I shouldn’t say," she says. "But I feel like speaking out about it has made me want to be healthier."
"Road Less Traveled" is off Alaina's self-titled EP, released in October of 2015. The five-song project is available via iTunes and Amazon.
Do Lauren Alaina + These Other Country Stars Look Like Their Moms?
What Are American Idol's Country Contestants Up to Now?