I’ll be honest, I and likely loads of others picked up this book because it has Ellie Goulding’s name on the cover. Lights is such a terrific album (I’m listening to it again as I type) and I always thought the media hubbub over her moving on from Ed Sheeran to Niall Horan was overblown. And yes, she does mention it obliquely in the book, and yes, I absolutely agree with her take on things.
But more importantly to fans and readers everywhere, this is a book about how 30-something Ellie discovered how to nourish her best self. She freely admits to having had an unhealthy relationship with exercise, as well as to having bought into the false dichotomies of good and bad foods. Years of research and experience taught her the two most important things she imparts in this book: food should be nourishment for the body and soul, and exercise is about celebrating what your body can do for you, not punishment for eating.
The rest of the book is written with those two key ideas in mind, and is honestly really inspiring. There’s some “getting rid of toxins” nonsense, but for the most part the book is grounded in common sense and devoid of silly buzzwords. I think the most valuable lesson this book had for me personally was the idea of exercise as a joyful expression of your body and exploration of its capabilities. Ellie reminds us that exercise shouldn’t be about the way you look — tho she certainly doesn’t blame you if you like the way exercise does make you look — but about the way you feel. Our bodies weren’t designed to sit for hours at the computer or on a couch, and we should find the kinds of movement that make us feel most energized.
I was also fascinated by the 1% gains mindset she espouses. It’s a very simple thing to do, trying to improve on your last performance by 1% — whether in pace or difficulty or other metric — but it’s surprisingly meaningful, providing readers with a small new goal for their next training session. I also enjoyed the various different workouts she included in the book, all provided by certified trainers, tho I do wish that there had been more illustrations of the various exercises. I’m usually fine with only text, but pictures are super helpful when trying to show people how to do something. There are a great many photos of Ellie looking strong and healthy tho!
The other main part of this book revolves around food. Ellie is quick to remind readers that eating should be for enjoyment, and anything goes as long as it doesn’t make you feel terrible afterward. This means listening to your body, not just when it’s sending you “I’m full” signals (or, as I’ve discovered to my middle-aged regret, when you’re on the precipice of full) but also as to what foods work for you and what don’t. More people are lactose-intolerant than they care to admit, myself included, and sugar spikes are a real and unhealthy thing.
She also talks a bit about food sustainability, which is a very important topic, and mindful consumption. In fact, mindfulness is the watchword for the entire book, as she encourages readers to be thoughtful about their eating and exercising and taking enough time for themselves. She reminds readers to be as kind to themselves as they are to their best friends, and just gives a lot of lovely, sensible advice packaged together in a way that encourages readers to love themselves.
I will say that I thought a bit about making one of the recipes included in the back, since I cook book-related recipes weekly at my day job. I quickly realized however that the ingredient lists here are a lot more complicated than the ones I usually work with, as they’re rather British health-food-store-oriented, and that I’m honestly too tired to shop for all these, much less put them together. The pictures and presentations are lovely tho!
Finally, I just loved the sense of humor and tone throughout this book. It felt ghostwriter-free, almost like a series of letters written to you by your fitter, calmer friend who just so happens to be a global pop star. I do think that she’ll revisit some of her material as she gets older, but I look forward to reading more of her books!
Note: In a gesture of solidarity, I deliberately held this review till after HarperCollins successfully resolved the HarperCollins Union strike to the union’s satisfaction.
Fitter. Stronger. Calmer.: A Mindful Approach To Exercise And Nutrition by Ellie Goulding was published January 3 2023 by Harper Horizon and is available from all good booksellers, including