Ellie Goulding’s Real Reason for Getting ‘Fitter, Calmer, Stronger’
Artist, activist, mother and new author Ellie Goulding reveals the mindset shifts that have helped her find the brightest version of herself.
Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.
She’s known for rocking concert venues, stealing red carpets, performing at royal weddings (!) and gracing podiums as a UN Environment Ambassador…but in truth, singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding says she hasn’t always felt this confidence she seems to effortlessly project. The artist recently shared her struggles with anxiety on Instagram—and it’s a topic she deeply opens up about in her January 2023 book, Fitter. Calmer. Stronger.
So, what’s kept Ellie Goulding grounded and able to course-correct through the ebbs and flows of her career? “Fitness has always been the one thing that’s been my kind of stability,” Goulding tells The Healthy @Reader’s Digest.
In the book, Goulding, 36, dives into her health and wellness journey (which she refers to as “still a work in progress”)—but not in the way you may expect. There’s no 28-day plan to a bikini body, no dietary restrictions, no magic pills. Goulding opened up with The Healthy about how, instead, she’s worked to unravel this perfectionism-oriented mindset to form a healthier relationship with fitness, her body, and ultimately, her mental health.
Deepak Chopra’s #1 Meditation for Happiness
Ellie Goulding on her new book
The Healthy @Reader’s Digest: What inspired you to write about this topic?
Ellie Goulding: My industry can be notoriously dark and booze-heavy, late nights and mad people. And I come from a place of imposter syndrome. I’m somebody who’s always felt a little bit out of place, like I don’t deserve to be where I am. I passionately want women to know their own worth, to stop being afraid of themselves, and start trusting themselves. I just wanted to show people how I did it.
The Healthy: What’s your personal philosophy when it comes to health and wellness?
Ellie Goulding: For women especially, we are constantly told different things, it’s just nonstop conflicting ideas, mixed messaging about diets, disciplines, plans. In my book, I talk about the flexibility of completely owning flexibility. One day, getting up and doing an amazing workout—whatever makes you feel good. And then the next day, not feeling like you have to, not always trying to achieve perfection. So, my philosophy is that there isn’t just one to follow.
7 Essentials Fellow Shoppers Say You Need For a Cozy Mental Health Night at Home
Ellie Goulding on healthy body image
The Healthy: As a society, we’re just starting to have this conversation, especially for women, about fitness as a tool for mental health and not just weight loss. Can you speak to your own experience with that?
Ellie Goulding: I believe exercise is a tool for confidence. And that doesn’t mean “I’ve lost weight, therefore I feel better.” You build up this strength in everyday situations, this kind of inner strength and inner empowerment. And I really focus a lot on that because we still feel so much pressure—we’ve created this average in our brain of what people are supposed to look like, and it’s making people miserable.
The Healthy: In the book, you reference at one point thinking you needed to look like the classic “pop princess.” How did you shift your perspective on fitting others’ expectations?
Ellie Goulding: I [used to] feel as if I was slightly overlooked as a cover star because I was more athletic—I didn’t think I had the figure or a face for magazines. I stopped apologizing for it to myself or to other people in the industry, I started lifting heavier weights and running farther. It always seems like the answer is in changing other people’s perspectives, but sometimes it just actually is within yourself. Once you change your own attitude and you’re kinder to yourself, you give yourself much more self-love and respect.
Research Says This One Goal Will Motivate You to Exercise—and It’s Not Weight Loss
The Healthy: In the book, you mention that a remarkable number of us have had complicated relationships with food and eating—something so many will relate to. From your experience, what thoughts would you share with someone who is navigating this in their life?
Ellie Goulding: I was a bit OCD with food, I sort of used running as an excuse to undo anything I’d eaten. I think it was all about control, and the more I understood that, the more I relaxed into the food that I would eat and actually see the joy in food. But understand, it took time to get myself out of that situation. I started to educate myself about food, being a bit more flexible, and was just kinder to myself.
How to Love Yourself: 5 Ways to Achieve Body Acceptance
Ellie Goulding on grounding her mental health
The Healthy: When anxiety hits, what’s your go-to way to calm yourself?
Ellie Goulding: Breathing. Sometimes that’s the only tool you have. Or splashing my face with cold water or even just using my hands, feeling a new sensation. Basically, I find little distractions while still staying in the moment. One mistake I used to make in the early days of my anxiety was to try and completely distract myself, push it to the back of my head—and it’s a debt that will always come back. But [these small distractions] let my thoughts pass through so I can acknowledge them, allowing them to come and go.
The Healthy: What daily self-care practice do you refuse to skip?
Ellie Goulding: I cannot skip my morning coffee routine—which isn’t even coffee. It’s a chicory root alternative. I have this little section in my kitchen with things like ashwagandha powder, mushroom powder, adaptogen powders, collagen powder, bee pollen, and I’ll whiz that all up, add some almond or oat milk, and froth that up.
The 11 Best Self-Care Ideas Trending for 2023, Tested by Our Editors
The Healthy: What’s your favorite smoothie recipe?
Ellie Goulding: I do everything in my power to make it taste like a dessert. I like starting with some almond milk, add some pea protein powder, mix it with loads of cacao, some almond butter, maybe half a banana. I’m very big on things with a lot of pigment, like berries, acai powder, spinach—so I can have a really nutrient-dense smoothie but make it taste chocolatey and vanilla-y.
The Healthy: What about your book are you most proud of?
Ellie Goulding: I struggle a lot with anxiety and imposter syndrome. I’ve always wanted to put my own practices into writing, and so just to write the book made me feel powerful. I was proud to see in writing everything that I’ve been through and everything that I’ve overcome, all the ways I’ve been kinder to myself. And then, within that, I get to help other people.
The Healthy: Will you keep writing?
Ellie Goulding: I’m going to write another one—and this time it’s going to be I Had a Child Since I Knew Nothing Then. [Motherhood] completely changed my entire life.
This interview has been edited for context and length.
- The 10 Best Health & Wellness Books for Your 2023 Reading List
- If Your Attention Span Is Burnt Out, a Leading Scientist’s Simple Fix Will Come as Relief
- Cardiologists Recommend 3 Gentle Exercises for a Healthier Heart
- Eva Longoria Just Shared Her Secret to Healthy Aging
- Bear Grylls Reveals His 6 Keys to Staying Fit at Any Age