Did Fiona Apple have an eating disorder? (+7 triggers)

In this blog, we shall answer the question “did Fiona Apple have an eating disorder?” and define what eating disorders are and their types. We shall also look at the life of Fiona Apple and some of the triggers of her eating disorder.

Did Fiona Apple have an eating disorder?

Yes, Fiona Apple had an eating disorder. Speculations about her having anorexia nervosa started in 1997 when a New Yorker article claimed that she looked very skinny. These rumours spread and everyone was talking about her thin body frame.

She was forced to address the issue and she opened up about developing an eating disorder after being raped outside her mother’s house when she was 12 years old. She sang about the ordeal in her song, paper bag, in 1999 where she said, “Hunger hurts, but starving works when it costs too much to love.”

Who is Fiona Apple?

Fiona Apple McAfee-Maggart is a 44-year-old American songwriter. She has released five albums from 1996-2020 with all of her songs being in the top 20 of the US billboard 200 charts. Unfortunately, her rough life story got more publicity than her music.

She had episodes of lashing out at her fans when given negative comments about how she looked and was labelled as a self-absorbed drama queen who exploited her emotional wounds. Ever since she was little, Fiona was always ridiculed for her looks and was called an ugly duckling and was at one point called a dog by her classmates.

She confessed that she was going to kill her sister and herself. She was taken for a psychiatric evaluation and diagnosed with depression and thinking too much. Therapy, however, made her feel like there was something wrong with her.

As she grew up, she used songs and writings as a way of ranting and expressing herself. At the age of 12, she was raped outside her mother’s hallway after walking home from school. This pushed her further into music and also helped her with struggles in school where she did not feel confident in herself to do anything.

When she got her breakthrough in 1999, she was filled with self-doubt about her singing career and cut a lot of weight from having trouble with eating. Fiona started to obsess over the colour and texture of her food (symptoms of restrictive eating). The trauma of her rape ordeal was also affecting her.

In 1997, she became famous during her MTV video music award acceptance speech when she said that her world was ‘bull***’. She later said that she did not feel like herself but like a paper doll moulded to play the rock-star image the world wanted to see.

The scrutiny she received about her looks affected how she viewed herself and she started believing that she was ugly. She started purging as a way to repel any sexual predator. Her candid talks and outbursts as well as refusal to conform to the ‘celebrity lifestyle’ made her be referred to as crazy and abnormal.

On top of all those struggles, she lost her dog, which was her emotional animal, and she also felt trapped by her own talent. She also struggled with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

What are eating disorders?

Eating disorders are mental illnesses characterized by abnormal eating habits, and complex and damaging relationships between food, exercise and body image that impairs physical and mental health. Fiona presented with symptoms of various eating disorders and we will be discussing them in detail.

Types of eating disorders


Pica is a feeding and eating disorder characterized by eating non-nutritive non-food substances such as ice, clay, soil, paper and stones. Can be caused by nutrition deficiencies, pregnancy, stress and cultural factors.


Rumination is an eating disorder characterized by spitting up digested or partially digested food from the stomach, re-chewing the food and either re-swallowing or spitting it out. It occurs within 30 minutes of every meal. The causes of rumination remain unknown.

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder.

Formally referred to as selective eating disorder, is an eating disorder characterized by intense restriction or selection of food consumed. Unlike anorexia nervosa, people with this eating disorder are not interested in their body image, shape or size. At one point, Fiona Apple started to obsess over the colour and texture of her food.

Anorexia nervosa

Is a severe eating disorder characterized by abnormal body weight, distorted body image, and unwarranted fear of gaining weight. In order to prevent weight gain, anorexic people try to control their body weight by vomiting food, using laxatives, diet aids, and excessive exercise. This was the first eating disorder Fiona had. 

She started to deny herself food due to the stress, pressure and trauma that she had when she was young.

Common symptoms include extreme low body weight, dizziness, insomnia, fatigue, dry skin, hair that easily falls off, preoccupation with food, skipping meals, refusing to eat, denying hunger, complaints of being overweight, measuring weight often and lying about the quantity of food taken.

Anorexia is the most deadly mental illness. One study found that people with anorexia are 56 times more likely to commit suicide than people without an eating disorder. (Eating Disorders Coalition, 2016).

Bulimia nervosa

Is a mental disorder characterized by binge eating (consuming large quantities of food over a short period of time) followed by calorie reducing strategies such as purging (induced vomiting), fasting or exercising excessively. Fiona Apple started to purge because of body image issues as she viewed herself to be ugly.

Bulimia is a severe, life-threatening eating disorder. Symptoms include; binge eating, vomiting, self-harm, fatigue, dehydration, avoiding food, irregular and absence of menstruation, constipation, heartburn and guilt.

Causes include genetic factors, psychological factors such as personality, dieting and societal pressure.

Binge eating disorder

Binge eating is an eating disorder characterized by consuming large amounts of food over a short period of time, and feelings of being unable to stop eating even when full. It is the most common eating disorder with a prevalence of  5.5%.

Symptoms include; eating large amounts of food over a short period of time, eating even when not hungry, feeling that your eating behaviour is out of control, eating until you are uncomfortably full, eating in secret, eating alone and feelings of depression and guilt.

7 triggers of eating disorders

Life changes and transitions

Some life changes and transitions can cause emotional and psychological distress and instabilities, which can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, like the development of eating disorders. These transitions can include moving houses or schools, the death of a loved one, or relationship breakups. Fiona’s transition to a celebrity caused some issues and worsened her condition.


Like Fiona, people who have experienced trauma, i.e., emotional, sexual or physical abuse are at a high risk of developing eating disorders. Being sexually abused and bullied made led to the development of her eating disorders. Research has shown a very strong correlation between eating disorders and trauma.

Hormonal changes

Puberty comes with hormonal changes that can trigger eating disorders. These hormonal changes can make the body of a teenage girl grow bigger and this might trigger disordered eating which can lead to the development of an eating disorder.


The negative comments about how she looked made Fiona start to have body image issues. Weight loss has been getting positive reinforcement as the media glorifies and portrays beauty and health as being skinny. This has encouraged many people, especially the youth, to adopt dieting and extreme exercises to keep up with the norm and societal standards of being healthy and “sexy”. Excessive dieting and exercising lead to the development of eating disorders.

Extracurricular activities

People who are involved in extracurricular activities/ are in strenuous careers are at risk of developing eating disorders. They include; gymnastics, swimming, modelling, and cheerleading, among others. This puts them at a risk of developing eating disorders as they work on maintaining their body shapes and sizes.

Some become too focused on their bodies, thus progressing into developing eating disorders.

Family history and genes

Genes are considered a big factor in the development of eating disorders. This means that teenagers with close relatives who have eating disorders are at a high risk of developing eating disorders.

Body dissatisfaction

It is very common for people, especially teenagers, to have a negative body image. Body image refers to how one feels about his/her body shape and size. Fiona Apple disliked her physical appearance are at a higher risk of developing disorders.

Anxiety and depressive disorders

Research has shown that teenagers and young adults like Fiona, who have met the criteria for anxiety and depressive related disorders, i.e, OCD, generalized anxiety disorders and major depressive disorder.

Media and cultural tendencies

Social media plays a huge role in influencing the attitudes and behaviours of young people. There is also a cultural tendency where people judge others by their physical attributes. Media and people portray images of ideal weight as people who are slim and fit. 


We hope ‌‌this blog post has helped you understand who Fiona Apple is and her struggles that led to the development of the eating disorder, anorexia nervosa. We have also looked at what eating disorders are and the types. Finally, we have discussed the common triggers of eating disorders.

If you have any questions or comments, please let us know in the comment section below.

Frequently asked questions: Did Fiona Apple have an eating disorder? 

Is Fiona Apple still vegan?

By 2020, Fiona Apple, who was once a one-bottle-per-day level drinker, was now sober and was vegan. She pledged ‘two years’ worth of earnings’ from her song Criminal to the While They Wait fund, which was used for legal support and necessities for immigrants seeking asylum.

Why was Fiona controversial?

Many critics of her song ‘criminal’ labelled her an “underfed Calvin Klein model”, because of her slight figure. She was not a legal adult then, and it was a few years after she was raped outside their house.

Does Fiona have an ED?

She opened up about developing anorexia nervosa after being raped outside their house at ‌12. In her song, paper bag, released in 1999, she said “hunger hurts, but starving works when it costs too much to love.”


Madia J.V., (August 12, 2015). Celebrity Eating Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.rxwiki.com/slideshow/celebrity-eating-disorders/fiona-apple#:~:text=Singer%20songwriter%20Fiona%20Apple%20opened,my%20day%2C%E2%80%9D%20Apple%20said.

Heath C. (January 22, 1998). Fiona: The Caged Bird Sings. Retrieved from https://www.rollingstone.com/feature/fiona-the-caged-bird-sings-244221/

Grimes A.C., (December 29, 2020). Fiona Apple’s tragic real-life story. Retrieved from https://www.grunge.com/121329/fiona-apples-tragic-real-life-story/

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