This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.
Lindsay Ell openly discussed her eating disorder journey in a new interview with podcast host Patrick Custer.
The Canadian country singer, who was diagnosed with anorexia subtype binge purge in 2023, told Custer on an episode of "Rooted Recovery Stories" that she developed an eating disorder over a 20 year period. The Calgary, Alta. native said she would "use food or the lack of food to get some sense of control" of her life and feelings after she was sexually assaulted when she was 13.
“I was so young at the time that I don’t think I really understood what happened and yet, I didn’t tell my parents for seven years because I felt like I did something wrong," Ell said, adding that she experienced sexual assault again when she was 21 and moved to Nashville.
The now-34-year-old, who has been in therapy for more than 10 years, admitted she was surprised to be diagnosed with anorexia because there were times she would "binge so much" before returning to a restrictive diet and overexercising.
According to the Eating Recovery Centre, although anorexia subtype binge-purge can appear similar to bulimia (which can include binging and purging behaviours), the "primary difference in diagnostic criteria" is that people with anorexia subtype binge-purge have a "low body weight" or have experienced a significant weight loss. This criteria can be controversial, since "weight is not an indicator of health" and people in larger bodies can meet the criteria for anorexia.
Ell also said she was diagnosed with osteopenia caused by years of restrictive dieting. Osteopenia is a common complication of anorexia during adolescence; the lack of nutrients and healthy diet prevents the body from acquiring optimal bone density, which can be a precursor to osteoporosis.
The "wAnt me back" singer said the breakthrough moment where she realized she needed help came in 2023 when she was sitting in her pantry eating popcorn.
"[It] sounds like totally harmless but I had eaten so much in my pantry that I had no control over like what I was putting into my mouth," she recalled. "I had come off of a week of starving myself or like working out for four hours after I had one of those binge cycles and I was like, 'I do not want to live like this like. I do not want to live like this where something else has control over me with how I how I operate.'"
Ell told Custer that she's been receiving specialized eating disorder therapy and has changed her relationship with food. The singer said she had to learn how to sit with her feelings and seeing herself as "worthy" has allowed her to work on prioritizing her own happiness in order to heal.
"I grew up in Canada," she explained. "We're like raised people pleasers, it's like part of our culture or something. We're like so friendly and... if everybody else was happy I was like, 'cool, then I'll be happy."
Aside from learning to break a pattern of people pleasing, Ell said she has taken breaks from social media to protect her mental health.
"I want to be on social media because of my job and because it's a way for me to talk to fans but I really need to manage how long I sit on it," she said. "When I get into scrolling, I just get off of it. I don't really see any of my friends updates on what's going on with their lives anymore, because I go on social media to post what I want to post and then I get off. "
Ell offered a piece of encouragement to anyone struggling with an eating disorder who feels as though it's "impossible" to heal.
"You just have to have faith in yourself to take the first step or to reach out and get some help," Ell said.