In Taylor Swift’s Netflix documentary Miss Americana, the singer solemnly discussed her struggle with disordered eating, compulsive exercising, and body image.
She told viewers how “f-cking impossible” it feels on a daily basis to meet all these beauty standards and how she ended up starving herself as a result.
It shouldn’t come as a shock that a global icon feels pressured to look a certain way but the revelation was still completely mind-blowing for viewers.
Since its release, the documentary has sparked a lot of conversation, but the eating disorder remains one of the major talking points. The film’s director, Lana Wilson, is still taking it all in and recently spoke with Glamour about how well fans are receiving it. She said,
“It’s been such a positive reaction. People are connecting to it in a really deep way, which was, of course, my dream when making the movie. I think to see Taylor, someone who’s an icon of beauty, voicing these thoughts that so many people have had is incredibly, incredibly powerful because it’s not something you would expect to hear.”
“God, I almost tear up like thinking about some of the notes I’ve gotten from teenagers about how they look in the mirror and they hate their body and they hate the way they look. But now that they’ve seen that Taylor has struggled with some of these same things too, and she’s gotten through it and she’s stronger and happier as a result, and that inspires them to keep going. It’s just so moving.”
Throughout her career, Taylor has always had a slender figure that seemed to come effortlessly to her. She always seemed so happy, energetic, and full of life. And when you think of someone with an eating disorder, a certain frail image comes to mind — that has never been Taylor.
And that’s exactly why people are reacting.
At some point, we were all taught what an eating disorder “looks” like (think Lily Collins in To the Bone). So regardless of our relationships with food and our bodies, if we aren’t in an inpatient program getting nutrients through a feeding tube, then whatever we’re doing to lose weight or look a certain way seems fine.
For Taylor, the thing that triggered her destructive behavior the most was seeing photos of herself on the internet. She explained,
“I tend to get triggered by something, whether it’s a picture of me where I feel like I looked like my tummy was too big or like, someone said that I looked pregnant or something. And that’ll just trigger me to just starve a little bit, just stop eating. I thought that I was just like supposed to feel like I was gonna pass out at the end of the show or in the middle of it.”
She essentially describes the pop-star version of what so many people do every day. And she called it an eating disorder.
Despite Miss Americana coming out weeks ago, this bombshell continues to get all the headlines because, for the first time, many people are realizing what an eating disorder actually looks like and that this normalized behavior surrounding food and exercise isn’t normal — it’s an illness. People can’t stop talking about this because, just maybe, they’re recognizing their own problematic relationship with food, exercise, and/or their body.
It’s pretty common for those with eating disorders to fail to see their own illness. Taylor said it actually took her a while to realize what she was doing was dangerous.
“I just didn’t really understand that at the time. I really don’t think I knew it. I would’ve defended it to anyone who said, I’m concerned about you. I was like, What are u talking about? Of course, I eat. It’s perfectly normal. I just exercise a lot. And I did exercise a lot but I wasn’t eating. I don’t think you know you’re doing that when you’re doing it gradually.”
Taylor is certainly not the first celebrity to reveal an eating disorder, but she’s one of the first to reveal it in a way that most people can understand. Her willingness to share her struggle with her fans and Lana’s ability to capture the discussion so eloquently are worthy of every positive conversation and headline they receive.
As of now, it seems that Taylor has largely moved past her disordered eating. Even though she still gets triggered by pictures of herself, she constantly reminds herself that she “doesn’t do that anymore,” and most importantly, she’s in a better place emotionally.
“I’m a lot happier with who I am and I’m happier with like, I don’t care as much if like somebody points out that I have gained weight. It’s just something that makes my life better the fact that I’m, you know, I’m a size six instead of a size double zero. I mean that wasn’t how my body was supposed to be.”
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Aside from being a writer, Ashley is a mom of two girls and a wife to a passionate public school administrator. When she does have free time (cue laughter from working moms everywhere) she loves going to hot yoga classes, watching anything on Netflix that isn’t a cartoon, and weaving her way through every aisle of Target while listening to one of her favorite podcasts.