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Lauren Alaina’s honesty about her eating disorder is giving hope to millions Sanford Myers/Invision/AP
Sanford Myers/Invision/AP

Lauren Alaina’s new single, “Road Less Traveled,” is a life-affirming, up-tempo anthem with a message about loving and accepting yourself — flaws and all. It’s a message that took many years for Lauren to learn herself.

When she hit the national spotlight at age 16 on “American Idol,” Lauren charmed everybody with her infectious smile and big, southern charm. That bubbly personality was hiding a lot of internal pain. That pain was manifesting itself in an eating disorder — bulimia.

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Lauren tells Rare Country, “I was on ‘Idol’ at 16, and I had an eating disorder before I started. It just got way worse while I was on the show. It was awesome [being on ‘Idol’], but there’s that part they don’t tell you about. For, me it was the people who weren’t nice online — calling me fat at 16. How do you deal with that?”

She adds, “I was lost, so lost for so long and didn’t love myself for so long. Which, I was always outgoing and no one ever really knew. I hid it really well, but I was secretly miserable.”

Even though “Idol” had counselors on set to help the young stars deal with their sudden fame, Lauren hid the hurt and the truth about her eating disorder at all costs.

“The counselors always wanted to talk to me, so I think they knew something was going on,” Lauren admits, “but I didn’t want to talk about it. I was like, ‘Thanks, I’m good.'”

After “American Idol,” Lauren went on to launch her country career, but the eating disorder continued and took a heavy toll on her health.

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“I was so sick, my hair was falling out,” Lauren tells us. “I had bald spots all over my head. I can’t even think about it. I ended up cutting my hair really short. That’s when I was really sick ’cause my hair had fallen out, and you could tell. Can’t even, like, think about it. It was horrible.”

The illness also contributed to problems with her vocal cords, which led her to see a doctor. That office visit was a real turning point for Lauren.

She explains, “I didn’t want to talk about it until I went to the vocal cord doctor, and he asked me if I ever had an eating disorder, ’cause I ruined my vocal cords with not singing healthy and just the specific eating disorder I had was not good for vocal cords. I told the doctor, ‘no,’ and my mom was in the room. My mom said, ‘Lauren,’ in that mom voice, and I lost it.”

From that point on, Lauren’s mom really took a big role in helping her to start loving herself. That wasn’t easy since Lauren was in her late teens.

“It was a really hard age,” Lauren says. “I was thinking I was a grown woman, and my mom was traveling with me. But when that happened, I fell to pieces. I needed my mom. She would make me do different things. She made me look in the mirror and say three things I loved about myself every day. When we started, I could not say one.”

The road hasn’t been easy, but Lauren has gotten better over time. A big part of her healing came through writing “Road Less Traveled.” You can listen to the song here.

Now that Lauren has opened up about her story, she is hearing from other young people facing eating disorders and the parents who are loving their kids through it all. The song is giving them hope, and it’s a big sign that Lauren made the right decision in opening up about her struggle with bulimia.

Says Lauren, “I want people to feel comfortable in their own skin and not let what other people say dictate their happiness.”

She adds, “It’s a process, but knowing there are other people out there who used to feel the way I feel makes me want to love myself more. Because I want to be an example for them. I want to be fearless with who I am, so they can be, too.”

Hunter Kelly is a senior correspondent for Rare Country. Follow him on Twitter @Hunterkelly.
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