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Westenra: Diet obsession caused breakdown

10:00 Wed Aug 3 2011
Hayley Westenra has opened up about the
Hayley Westenra has opened up about the "breakdown" she suffered in 2009 (Getty)

Kiwi classical singer Hayley Westenra has opened up about the "breakdown" she suffered in 2009 after an extreme diet caused her weight to plummet.

The 24-year-old soprano tells Britain's Seven magazine she began obsessing over her meals while on the road touring, away from her family and friends.

"(A) breakdown... That's what I thought I was going through. I told my family, 'That's it, the end.' I saw a picture and I thought I looked full of puppy fat. It's hard when you see lots of photos of yourself. You can say, 'I'm happy with my curves', but as a girl you're going to be a bit self-conscious...

"Food was a thing to focus on. I got into the habit of not eating much. I'd buy fruit, some salad and almonds and be eating nothing really. It's terrible, but you get used to it after a while. I know that's not healthy because I was eating just boiled vegetables, nuts and seeds and it was terrible. I just got into the habit of saying no to things, no to food... I think I would have been a US size zero."

Westenra took a turn for the worse after contracting bronchitis at the end of 2008, prompting her to call off her 2009 tour dates and leading to a "vicious cycle" of scoffing sweets.

"I got really depressed. I convinced myself that I could never go back. Usually if I'm ill I eat healthy food, but (instead) I thought, 'I don't want to go back on stage, I want to eat ice cream and chocolate biscuits.'

"Most of the time I was walking around the house, hoodie up, eating all the naughty things that were in the house. I couldn't help myself. I couldn't stop. It was as if I didn't want to get better, I didn't want to be able to perform. I became self-destructive and it was a vicious cycle. You're tired, you eat really bad food, you feel worse, then you eat more. I wasn't sleeping."

But after the death of two close friends, the star admits she began to re-evaluate her life and career. "I rediscovered my passion for performance. I realised how important singing was for me. To do a show, to get the applause. New (tour) dates were confirmed and I thought, 'That's it. I'm going to get my act together.'"

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