Arguably one of the most well known musicians of our time.
The price? Well, as revealed in her new documentary, Miss Americana, that premiered recently at the Sundance Film Festival — a lot of things.
For starters, her name sparks…well…a gut reaction for a lot of people. Some — like her rabid fan base of Swifties — absolutely love her. Can’t get enough. For others, thanks to the ~often unfair~ tabloid headlines about a feud with Kanye West, her dating history, and more recently — her political outspokenness, some people are staunchly not Swifties.
Myself — I have always loved her music. It’s catchy, fun to play on the guitar, and had lyrics I could relate to. However, I always made sure to separate the musician from the music. Why? Because as a young woman who has recovered from a severe case of anorexia, Swift’s image was unhealthy for me oogle over.
Having spent two years entrenched in a disease that nearly cost my life, there are certain “tell-tale signs” that I can pick out from a mile away. And I always had an uneasiness in my heart that this young musician was struggling from some sort of eating disorder. And I’m sad to say, that – as she revealed in Miss Americana – she absolutely did.
But this article isn’t going to be a scandalous recount about it. I’m not here to put her under a magnifying glass, or scrutinize her past, or fetishize her new image and recovery.
Rather, I want to highlight the incredibly impactful message she shared in her film, in a candidly honest and impromptu conversation after being photographed by paparazzi leaving her NYC apartment.
Because – the courage it took to open up about such an intimately personal and painful part of her past – one that still carries a gross stigma in society at large because of sheer misunderstanding and stereotypes — it turns out that Swift is the eating disorder recovery advocate we never knew we needed.
Here’s the thing – this past week, I had many readers email me about Taylor’s revelation in the documentary. And so I watched it for the sole purpose of writing this article. And so I was waiting with piqued anticipation for this segment of the film.
And while some headlines may just grab onto the clickbait of “Taylor Swift’s Eating Disorder” — the fact of the matter is that she brought up four incredibly important and powerful points in this off-the-cuff conversation.
So I wanted to really let her words speak for themselves, and point out the beautifully nuanced deepcuts that are getting glossed over for those catchy one-liner headlines.
First: Words have power.
“I’ve learned over the years it’s not good for me to see pictures of myself every day ’cause I have a tendency to — and it’s only happened a few times and I’m not in any way proud of it — I tend to get triggered by something — whether it’s a picture of me where I feel it looked like my tummy was too big or, someone said that I looked pregnant or something – and that will just trigger me to starve a little bit. Just stop eating.”
It doesn’t matter if you’re Taylor Swift: words cut deep. You can have all the success, all the material things, all the most amazing designer clothes, celebrity friends, you can literally be on top of the world, and you can still be impacted by negative comments. You can still feel insecure, alone, not good enough. Words are powerful. And we need to realize that. At the end of the day, a negative remark reveals more about the one speaking, than the one spoken about. Be kind. Words can hurt.
Secondly, RECOVERY IS THE BEST DECISION OF YOUR LIFE.
“I thought that I was just supposed to feel like I was gonna pass out at the end of the show, or in the middle of it. I thought that was how it was. And now I realize: No, if you eat food, have energy, get stronger, you can do all these shows and not feel it! Which is a really good revelation, because I’m a lot happier with who I am. I don’t care as much if somebody points out that I’ve gained weight. It’s just something that makes my life better – the fact that I’m a size 6 instead of a size double zero. That’s wasn’t how my body was supposed to be, I just didn’t really understand that at the time, I really don’t think I knew it.”
One of the most terrifying things about recovering from an eating disorder, is that you don’t know what your life will be life without your disease. It has become all you know. And believe me, at 78 pounds, I had completely lost myself to the disease that was strangling the literal life out of me. So the thought of — who am I without it — creates a paralyzing fear. But as Swift so beautifully puts it, without it: you’re happy with who you are. And that, friends, is the gosh darn truth. There is freedom – and that is a beautiful thing. Freedom to feel, fully. To love, fully. To experience life, fully. None of which, you were able to do, when your body is literally surviving in SOS mode, doing everything it can to just keep you alive.
Third: Beauty Standards are tearing our girls (and guys) apart.
“I would have defended it to anyone who said “I’m concerned about you.” I was like, ‘What are you talking about? Of course I eat, it’s perfectly normal, I just exercise a lot.’ And I did exercise a lot, I just wasn’t eating. … I don’t think you know you’re doing that when you’re doing it gradually. There’s always some standard of beauty that you’re not meeting. Cuz if you’re thin enough, then you don’t have that a$$ that everybody wants. But if you have enough weight on you to have that a$$, then your stomach isn’t flat enough. It’s all just fu**ing impossible. You don’t ever say to yourself, ‘I’ve got an eating disorder!’ But you know you’re making a list of everything you put in your mouth that day, and you know that’s probably not right, but then again, there’s so many diet blogs that tell you that that’s what you should do.”
I don’t need to sit here and tell you how unrealistic and unhealthy our societal standards for beauty or masculinity are. Spend 0.5 seconds scrolling through Instagram, and you’ll see: society demands perfection. We’ve come to demand photoshopped-flawlessness, when the truth of the matter is that, none of those concepts of beauty are either a) actually as they appear, and b) really truly what actually matter. Beauty comes from within. Beauty comes from being a product of He who handcrafted us. It’s your light — His light — shining through that makes a person truly beautiful. Not the right waist-to-butt ratio.
And finally, DO WHAT YOU’VE GOTTA TO DO PROTECT YOUR RECOVERY!
*Pointing to a paparazzi photo of herself* “This would cause me to go into a real shame-hate spiral. This. I caught myself yesterday starting to do it, and I was like, ‘Nope, we don’t do that anymore. We do not do that anymore.’ Because it’s better to think you look fat than to look sick. And we don’t do that anymore, and 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.”
When Taylor shared this, I was literally standing up and cheering. This, my friends, THIS is the secret to a lasting recovery: protecting it. WE DON’T DO THAT ANYMORE. Amen. This is why I don’t have a full length mirror in my apartment. This is why I don’t own a scale. This is why I threw away all the clothes I wore when I was sick, and have banned all those “safe” “diet foods” from entering my apartment. This is why I’ve turned down opportunities to attend New York Fashion Week shows. It’s because protecting your recovery has to be the number one priority in your life. (That and God). But you have to do whatever you need to do to change that channel in your brain, and stay focused on your health, your recovery, your new abundant life.
And sure, when you’re first starting out your recovery journey, that decision will have to be more deliberate, and intentional. But as the years go by — and as someone entering my 13th year of recovery, I can tell you that it does get easier. And those triggers subside, and eventually you do get to a place where that freedom isn’t so laborious, but rather, natural – second nature.
I am so proud of Taylor. I know that sounds — almost patronizing, and I don’t mean that to be. But as someone who has watched her from afar over the years, with honestly, a broken heart — having had an inkling that something was terribly amiss — I am so overjoyed for her that she’s found the freedom of recovery.
There was something in her voice during this documentary that truly resonated with me. There was a strength. A power. An ownership of self that only comes through overcoming the darkness. It was the voice of a young woman who had crossed the thrashing sea and made it to the other side, a skillful sailor.
Forgive the painfully cheesy metaphor there, but sometimes a hackneyed mental image like that speaks louder than anything I could type this rainy Thursday morning, here in Manhattan.
So Taylor, thank you for sharing your story with us. In recovery, you learn -after many highs and low- that vulnerability is actually a beautiful thing. Vulnerability is powerful. And it’s a true gift to those you share it with.
I’m cheering for you, and the new life you’ve embraced. Because whether you’re a Grammy Award-winning megastar, or just a humble blogger that gets excited over a 40% off coupon from CVS — recovery is the great equalizer. And we’re all on the journey together, supporting and cheering for one another along the way.
“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5
A big thank you to my foundational sponsor, BetterHelp Online Therapy. I cannot begin to express how beneficial therapy was for my recovery from anorexia. Speak with an online therapist. Or check out content about eating disorders from BetterHelp.
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