Towards the end of his life, the globally renowned singer Elvis Presley gained an immense amount of weight and shocked his fans. His weight gain was an unignorable part of his deteriorating health condition, which resulted in a fatal heart attack. Elvis was known for being a “foodie.” He celebrated several food items during his lifetime, only for restaurants across the world to name dishes after him. The Elvis sandwich became a part of the popular culture, reminding us how his food habits affected him. However, food was not the only thing that contributed to his weight gain. Baz Luhrmann’s biographical drama movie ‘Elvis’ offers a glimpse of The King’s transformation after adding several pounds at the end of his career!
Elvis Presley’s Startling Weight Gain
As per sources, Elvis Presley weighed around 350 pounds (nearly 159 kg) at the time of his death. When he died in 1977, he reportedly weighed 180 pounds (over 80 kg) more than what he weighed a decade ago. Weight was always a concern for Elvis. Even while becoming the heartthrob of a nation, he didn’t care to maintain his body. When he started acting, his manager Colonel Tom Parker was severely concerned about his weight. “If you look fat, your fans aren’t going to love you, and neither are the producers,” Parker told Elvis, as recollected by the singer’s friend Marty Lacker to Alanna Nash for her book ‘Elvis and the Memphis Mafia.’
Elvis’ eating habits were not at all balanced, which contributed to his weight gain initially. “Elvis liked sweets, and he loved to eat, period. […] In the sixties, he gained [weight] because he liked to eat too much, and the wrong things, like a pound of bacon and a six-egg omelet. Away from Hollywood, man, he ate like a stevedore,” Elvis’ cousin Billy Smith told Nash. “[…] he ate whatever he wanted — hamburgers, steaks, and all kinds of stuff that put weight on him,” Lamar Fike, another friend, told Nash while recollecting a vacation in the late 1960s.
Another major reason Elvis gained weight was the use of prescription drugs. The singer consumed several “downers,” which were depressant or tranquilizing drugs like barbiturates. “In ’70, he looked great. God, he was trim, and his cheekbones showed when he smiled. He was damn near gorgeous. But downers will put weight back on you pretty quick. Elvis loved downers, and he loved getting totally fucked up,” Fike said about his friend’s weight gain, as per ‘Elvis and the Memphis Mafia.’
Elvis and Priscilla Beaulieu’s divorce aggravated his drug consumption, as per Fike. “I think the divorce weakened his resolve. When all this brewed up, Elvis got more into downers and started gaining weight. […] he got into sleeping pills in a big way. Elvis loved downers. It was nothing for him to have all this stuff in his system at one time, like a Valium, a Placidyl, a Valmid, some Butabarb, phenobarbital — all of which are downers, sedatives — and some form of codeine. So, he started looking to other things — things past Percodan and liquid Demerol, even,” Fike added to Nash.
After a point, both drugs and junk food contributed to Elvis’ weight gain. “The drugs didn’t help a bit, but Elvis was a strange eater. At times he would eat, and you’d think he wasn’t ever going to stop — maybe three cheeseburgers and several banana splits at a time. But then he would go for days and not eat that much. And when he started eating again, he’d eat so much junk food that he’d put on weight just quick,” Smith added to Nash.
According to Lacker, cortisone injections were a major reason behind Elvis’ weight gain as well. “The food contributed, of course. But since he had that intestinal blockage, they were shooting him with cortisone because his colon was two or three times its normal diameter and it had lost its elasticity. […] The cortisone was one of the big reasons he blew up like he did. And he couldn’t do anything about it,” he told Nash for ‘Elvis and the Memphis Mafia.’