Kelsea Ballerini lets fans in on a whole other side of herself in her poetry book Feel You Way Through, which was released on Nov. 16. Perhaps one of the most gut-wrenching poems in the book is “Kangaroo,” where Kelsea reveals her past struggle with an eating disorder for the very first time. Kelsea explains how her body image struggles were intensified when the boys at school started calling her “kangaroo” because of her “belly and little legs.” Kelsea was already insecure, and was also dealing with her parents’ divorce at home. Eventually, she began picking up unhealthy habits.
“I started taking diet pills, buying them like a pack of gum,” she writes. “Insisting to the mirror it wasn’t wrong, shuffling around my plate of crumbs. There was a little less food with every little pill, hidden i the back of my bathroom cabinet. Two an hour before every meal, my best kept secret, my worst kept habit.” It didn’t end there, though. Due to being plagued with an eating disorder, Kelsea still had a warped image of what her body looked like, and felt like she needed to do more to lose weight.
“I began bingeing and purging, and that started working,” she recalls. “I’d make a generous order, consume the carbs I told my stomach it didn’t deserve, excuse myself like a performer, lock the bathroom door and purge.” The poem reveals that Kelsea got down to 110 pounds at one point, despite standing tall at 5’8″. Although she was an unhealthy weight, though, she was showered with compliments, and it only made her want to work harder to lose the lbs.
“I got a membership to the YMCA, worked out a few times a week, then a few times a day,” she continues. It wasn’t until she started passing out — both privately and in public — that Kelsea realized she had “crossed the line” and was in dangerous territory. “My throat ached from the vomit, and my hands shook from the pills, my legs sore from the extra mile, I ran on the treadmill,” she writes.
The country singer reveals that she stopped the excessive workouts, bingeing and purging and suppressants when she was 18 years old. She concludes the poem with a message for anyone who might be dealing with similar body image issues. “These lies we are fed are meant to keep us insecure, sad and small,” she concludes. “Feeding us lies, while telling us not to feed ourselves at all. Now it’s bold and brave to stand in our skin so tall, and not pick up when projected insecurities start to call. It is a process to find self-love, it is ongoing and it is forever, so if you’re on that journey, know you’re worthy, and we are in this together.”
Although Kelsea notes that she will be dealing with her self-love process “forever,” she has certainly come a long way since these difficult days. In fact, she is even now a spokesperson for Aerie, and confidently stars in their un-retouched advertisements. “Very thrilled to partner with Aerie for the launch of our #AerieREAL Voices campaign,” she wrote on Instagram in August. “It’s all about celebrating what makes us confident and doing it with no filters and with all the self love.”