In Taylor Swift’s recent documentary, Miss Americana, she gives viewers insight into her typically private life. In this 86-minute film, Taylor takes the camera behind scenes while she’s crafting her latest album, discussing her recent sexual assault case and opening up about her lifelong struggles with food and weight. The revelation about her history of eating, weight and body image concerns may come as a surprise to viewers. Like many people who experience these symptoms, Taylor has kept them relatively private. Fortunately for her fan base, she is now speaking out publicly and in doing so she highlights several themes that reflect common experiences of individuals with poor body image, disordered eating, and eating disorders.
Low or intermittent awareness of the problem
In her documentary, Taylor talks about her past eating problems and her tendency to defend her low weight at the time to anyone who was concerned. She eloquently describes a loss of perspective on the problem that can occur because, as she puts it “I don’t think you know [what] you’re doing…when you’re doing [it] gradually.” With certain eating disorders (especially anorexia nervosa), lack of awareness of the problem or denial of its seriousness is common. For Taylor, over time and repeated experiences of feeling faint while performing, she began to believe that she should feel like she was going to pass out at the end of a show. However, looking back on that period, Taylor realizes this was not healthy nor the sign of a good performance; rather, it was a signal that she was undernourished.
Healing takes time
It’s years later and Taylor shares that some of her eating, weight and body image concerns linger. Although Taylor seems to be in a better place now, old patterns of thinking and behaving pop up. She emphasizes that thinking about her body in a healthier way requires consistent effort to rewire her brain and choices. Working on recovery from disordered eating takes a while, and the path to recovery is not always linear.
Shifting one’s mindset is crucial
In her documentary, Taylor describes that when looking at pictures of herself now, she has to remind herself that it’s better to look healthy than think you look sick. When she finds herself analyzing her flaws, she reminds herself, “we’re changing the channel in our brain and we’re not doing that anymore. That didn’t end us up in a good place.” Simple reminders like this are beneficial in catching and challenging automatic thoughts that run the risk of derailing the progress.
These days, Taylor knows that her life is better at a larger clothing size. She understands, “maybe that’s how my body was supposed to be” and has found ways to focus on things that matter more to her.
Taylor’s discussion about her eating and body image concerns is important and courageous. It is not the first time that a celebrity has used his or her platform to encourage a frank conversation about disordered eating and eating disorders (see our previous posts on celebrities and body talk), and hopefully, it won’t be the last.