Inside Elvis Presley’s weight loss battle: the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll gained 80kg during his final years following unhealthy food habits like the ‘Elvis sandwich’ and rumoured eating disorders

Investigating Elvis’ weight woes: how the King of Rock n’ Roll gained, and fought to lose, 80kg pounds during his last years. Photos: @elvispresleytcb_, @priscilla.presley_/Instagram

When Elvis Presley died in 1977, he was a very different man to the sex symbol millions had come to love. Over the years, fans saw the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s physical appearance transform, with his very public weight fluctuations on display for all the world to see.

Today, Presley might have received help for an eating disorder, but back then he was ridiculed and labelled “fat Elvis” in the press. He reportedly weighed an astonishing 158kg (350 pounds) at the time of his death, at age 42 – around 80kg, or 180 pounds, heavier than a decade before.

So what happened? STYLE investigates his tragic weight woes, and remembers his battle to return to a healthy body shape.

He loved food

Elvis Presley onstage in the 1970s. Photo: @elvis_fanpage2/Instagram

OK, it’s no secret that the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll loved his food. Those close to him said he was very open about being surrounded by “good Southern meals” when he was away from home. At the end of his life, he was reportedly consuming 10,000 to 12,000 calories a day – up to five times the recommended intake today.

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Elvis Presley was a proud fan of food. Photo: @elvisinmemory/Instagram
In a CNN interview, Linda Thompson – his long-term girlfriend from 1972 who was widely considered to be “the one” by fans – said Presley loved to go out and eat. She said he structured his life around food.
Elvis Presley and girlfriend Linda Thompson. Photo: @ltlindathompson/Instagram

The blonde, who eventually broke up with Presley because of his cheating ways, said that as he got heavier, the criticism around his weight started to bother him. She said he was a very sensitive person and he was aware of what people thought of him, saying the comments “hurt his feelings”.

Eating disorder behaviours?

Elvis Presley worked out hard onstage, but it wasn’t enough for his own high standards. Photo: @elvisinmemory/Instagram

Although there was speculation that it was his use of drugs and alcohol abuse that led to his bloated appearance, those close to him have said it was his eating that was out of control. He even used to start his monologue during his Las Vegas residencies talking about how much he loved burgers and Pepsis when he was touring.

According to Music Times, when he returned home to Graceland, he would eat the same thing over and over again for months after he had found something he really enjoyed.

In an interview on Elvis Fans Matter, the musician’s cousin Billy Smith said he loved a bacon sandwich with mustard. He said that Presley would stack up tons of bacon with mustard and potatoes and eat all of it in one sitting.

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Eerily, a biography written about Presley in 1960, early in his career and at the height of his physical prowess, perhaps half-jokingly diagnosed him with gluttony. “Note for his future wife: Elvis loves enormous breakfasts complete with sausage, bacon, eggs, fried potatoes, home-baked rolls and coffee. He has a tremendous appetite at breakfast. His wife should never develop elegant or expensive tastes,” author James Gregory wrote in The Elvis Presley Story.

The “Elvis sandwich”

Make your own “Elvis sandwich” at home? Photo: @kanamekatsuyama/Instagram

The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s love for food is so well-established that a famous “Elvis sandwich”, or simply “the Elvis”, has become a staple menu at many dinners and restaurants around the world.

One of the many takes on “the Elvis” sandwich on Instagram. Photo: @takuro0603/Instagram

Presley apparently loved a peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwich – so these are all naturally base ingredients of a good “Elvis sandwich”. Variations of the recipe abound, but none are likely to tick many diet goals.

Dangerous food habits

Elvis Presley between takes on the set of Follow That Dream. Photo: @elvis_presley_officialfanpage/Instagram

Acutely aware of the attention on his growing frame, Presley reportedly began several crash diets and other dangerous weight-loss measures in order to trim down. According to The Independent, he once tried a diet where he only ate jelly made of black cherry soda and bananas.

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Elvis Presley reportedly tried numerous crash diets. Photo: @elvislife3577/Instagram

When dieting didn’t work, he reportedly turned to drugs – sleeping tablets, that is, to knock him out. The reasoning being that while unconscious, he couldn’t eat more. According to reports, he once even asked a doctor to put him into a medically induced coma.

We can only wish the help, support and awareness of eating disorders we have today was as widespread in Presley’s day, and salute The King’s sincere battles to reclaim his health and reputation alike.

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  • In the 60s, Elvis Presley was a global sex symbol, but by the 70s his weight ballooned – was it due to drugs and alcohol, or simply his well-documented love of high-calorie Southern foods?
  • Today you can order the ‘Elvis sandwich’ at diners across the world, but it’s worth remembering The King battled hard to regain his health and reputation, even tragically turning to sleeping pills