Beyond being a country singer-songwriter and musician, Caleb Lee Hutchinson is now a podcaster. And in the fourth episode of his show which he’s dubbed “Green Coach Podcast,” the American Idol season 18 runner-up got honest about his struggle with weight and eating disorders.
During an interview with Sam Aldrich, a video director and editor who has filmed concert videos for Caleb and co-directed Maddie Poppe’s video for her single “The One Who Got Away,” Caleb frankly discussed his past self-destructive behavior. Aldrich shared his own issues around the use of steroids and body building.
“I had a bad relationship with my body all my life,” Caleb explained. “I’ve been a little fatty for as long as I can remember.” He chalked his food issued partly to the southern culture he grew up in, that centered on fattening foods. But the timing of ending a bad relationship, the desire to lose weight and people rewarding him for losing a lot of weight FAST, also influenced his negative body image. It eventually made him sick enough to land in the hospital.
And then later, when he began gaining muscle mass through body building and gained weight during the COVID pandemic, so called “fans” online bullied him.
“I would have done absolutely anything to be skinny.””
At the end of high school, he broke up with a girl, his first relationship. “I was very sad about that,” he said. Also, Caleb had “a lot of personal stuff happen with family.” At that point, he was up to 315-320 pounds.
After the breakup and after he “hit a certain point” weight-wise, Caleb hit the gym. But he also began, essentially, starving himself. “I ate a granola bar and an apple every day. And I went an hour on the treadmill every single day.” The starvation was so extreme, he began losing his hair. “And then when I got sick I lost even more weight, which felt so good. So I got down to like 260 lbs…in less that 6 months.”
“I would have risked killing myself to feel good about how I looked”
“I wanted to take pride in myself,” Caleb explained. “I wanted to prove people wrong who I felt abandoned me. or underestimated me. I was plain angry. I had a grudge.” It was the first time Caleb has ever taken “direct ownership over my body and how I looked,” he added, “At the time it was the only thing that I cared about. I would have done absolutely anything to be skinny.”
Caleb’s extreme methods landed him in the hospital. “I went to the gym and I got on the treadmill and I got this pounding headache, like hypertension,” Caleb said. “It felt like someone was beating me over the head. I went to the bathroom and I threw up.”
At the hospital, the doctors gave him medicine. “They treated my headache and stuff. Once they got my headache down, I was able to eat a little bit. But during that time, I lost another 20 pounds. I felt so good about it,” Caleb added, “I was so sick, and felt so miserable. But I would have took it again if it meant I could lose another 20 lbs in a week. I’m not endorsing this! That’s one of the worst times looking back. I would have risked killing myself to feel good about how I looked.”
“I was in constant agony. I have lost a 100 lbs and I still feel fat.”
After losing a ton of weight, he auditioned for American Idol. When the producers asked for personal information to use as a backstory, he didn’t think he had much, other than his weight loss. But while he was harming his health with destructive weight loss methods, He described it to producers as if it weren’t a big deal. “I had to be all cute about it ‘I quit drinking soda and I walked more’,” when actually, Caleb said, “I was in constant agony. I have lost a 100 lbs and I still feel fat.”
“I remember my audition aired and I was at that point, I felt like I lost a ton of weight and people were referring to me as the fat kid,” Caleb continued. “It just hyper pushed me into overdrive of like ‘I’m gonna get skinny.’ and I did. I got down to 185 in about a year.”
“You went through so much to look good and now you’re getting ugly again”
After Idol, fans knew him for for his weight loss. People online noticed every weight fluctuation, even if he was building muscle mass from working out. “I would gain 10 lbs–good 10 lbs–and people would message me like ‘it’s so sad, that after everything, you’re losing your progress. You’re backtracking. You went through so much to look good and now you’re getting ugly again’.”
“It really messed me up,” Caleb said. “So I started to slip into bulimic tendencies, accidentally. I would eat, and then I would throw up. I had a realization one day that I was subconsciously picking foods that I could throw up easier.”
I started to slip into bulimic tendencies
But then, in 2020, the pandemic happened, and gyms closed, and Caleb didn’t know when he’d be able to tour again. “I lost all routine,” Caleb said. “So I just got fat again. It felt good. And then it didn’t.” Caleb admitted that he still doesn’t think he “looks great.”
“I get plenty of comments reaffirming my feeling that I look fat,” Caleb shared. “Part of the reason I didn’t suspect I had a problem is I genuinely thought that was only for women. That was for LA actress model girls. I was just being healthy for once in my life.”
The online bullies don’t bother him anymore, for the most part. “I’m not a teenager anymore,” Caleb explained. “It’s usually never someone with an actual personality and face.” However, recently he did lash out at a commenter who trolled him after Maddie posted a photo of him online.
“‘Caleb’s really been hitting the Big Macs’,” the commenter trolled. “And that bothered me and I replied and said ‘I will bench you.’ Because he’s just a skinny little rat! But I kind of hated him there. And it did rile me up. Then I was mad that it riled me up, because I know that’s the aim. That’s what they want.”
“I get plenty of comments reaffirming my feeling that I look fat”
Caleb said that he’s “gotten to a better place lately about letting it brush off my back.” He joked, “But he said I was hitting raspberry cheesecake, which just isn’t true because I don’t care for raspberry cheesecake.”
Online commenters also criticize how he reacts to girlfriend Maddie Poppe, who won the season of American Idol he competed in. The two met during Hollywood week. For instance, “Everybody’s mad that I bumped Maddie’s fist on American Idol instead of tongue wrastling her.” He’s referring to a duet the two sang when they returned to the show. Interestingly, Maddie has shared that she instructed Caleb NOT to pick up her hand or kiss her, because she hates public displays of affection.
“The people that I care about sticking around are the music fans”
“It bothered me initially,” said Caleb, “But the thing about it…is the people who only watch that show and know me for that show, they’re not watching this podcast. They’re not buying my albums. They’re not invested, and probably never will be. And that’s OK. They’re into the TV aspect. There’s nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to be a music fan to like a music show. But the people that I care about sticking around are the music fans.”
He also finds it weird that he gets blamed for everything that happens between him and Maddie as if she has no agency. “I’m supposed to propose. I’m supposed to…as if she’s Rapunzel suspended in a castle and I have to go let her down like she’s not her own sentient human being with their own thoughts and ideals. That’s annoying.”
“But,” he joked, “it just feels good to be talked about. That’s better than nothing. There’s no such thing as bad press.”
Caleb begins sharing his story about halfway through the podcast. Watch below. He also credits Youtuber Shane Dawson with helping him realize that he suffered from eating disorders. “He’s the only guy I knew about that ever talked about it,” Caleb said.