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Taylor Swifts Eating Disorder and the Pressure to be PERFECT

Let's discuss Taylor Swift opening up about her Eating Disorder, what could have caused her Eating Disorder, and why I DON’T think she should have edited her anti-hero video.

But first, let’s recap what you may already know about Miss Taylors struggles with food.

In 2020 she first discussed her Eating Disorder in her Nextflix Documentary Miss Americana, stating that;

I tend to get triggered by something, whether it’s a picture of me where I feel like my tummy looked too big, or someone said that I looked pregnant or something. And that will trigger me to just starve a little bit, just stop eating.”

She expressed very clearly that the media that now surrounds her celebrity life had become a big trigger to restrict her food intake to help her cope with much deeper traumas. Because if you haven’t heard me discuss this before, Eating Disorders are simply a way for us to cope with unprocessed traumas. The restrictive Eating Disorders I work with manifest in three different ways;

  1. Attempting to reach an image of perfection to keep ourselves emotionally “safe”

  2. Punishing ourselves for the perceived failure others have told us we are overtly or covertly 

  3. Or we are trying to show others how much we have been hurt by our traumas through starving our bodies, a physical metaphor for our emotional pain

In fact, did you know that traumas that live in the Emotional Abuse spectrum are actually the most common reason for the development of Eating Disorders? With Bulimia Nervosa, we most prominently see Bullying as the cause, and with Anorexia Nervosa, we see Emotional Abuse and Neglect. 

Taylor also perfectly described the battle many of us have felt with restrictive or purge based Eating Disorders, discussing in Variety Magazine;

“I thought that I was supposed to feel like I was going to pass out at the end of a show, or in the middle of it…”of course, I eat. I exercise a lot”… but I wasn’t eating.”

It is completely normal when struggling with trauma to attempt to hide the only thing that is helping you cope and get through the days, even when we know it’s hurting us. It can often feel like we don’t have another option.

So we are seeing a very traditional pattern of Eating Disorder development here for gorgeous Taylor, the pressure to be perfect put on to her by the media and society, very likely building on unprocessed traumas throughout her life, which at the very least includes bullying from society and the media, as well as her mums battle with cancer, and her parents' divorce.

She also discussed how the pressure to be perfect, how she never felt like she met any of the body standards thrown at her, yet was praised for being thin, pretty, and pleasing in her professional life. Often when we lack true affirmation based on love and growth mindset from our primary caregivers as a child, we struggle to build resilience and the ability to self-affirm. This can ultimately lead to us people-pleasing to gain the affirmation we so desperately need externally; and people-pleasing darling, it always leads to resentment and anger as our own needs go overlooked.

So let’s talk about the new information we now have from Taylors new album Midnights!

Starting with the most controversial, we have her music video for the debut single ‘Anti-Hero’. But why so controversial, you ask? Taylor shows her struggles with her Eating Disorder in a scene where she steps on some scales which then read ‘FAT’. This caused some backlash online, with one Twitter user stating that Taylor was exhibiting fatphobia. This finally resulted in Taylor editing this scene in her music video.

Frankly, I don’t think she should have, and this is why. 

For anyone who has ever battled with an Eating Disorder, whether based on restriction, binging, or purging, we have all felt the huge pressure of simply not feeling good enough, defective, or a complete failure. As an Eating Disorder specialist, I TRULY hate the unhelpful battle I see play out repeatedly by the Diet Culture movement and the Health at Every Size movement. Why? Because both are incredibly toxic. Diet culture confirms the defectiveness we feel about ourselves, and states if we simply become smaller, we will feel and be better. On the other side of the coin, HAES also minimises our traumas by telling us that our binging is normal, healthy even, and that we should just continue - as well as telling people that they are entirely well, when they are in fact often becoming incredibly unwell because of their binge eating.

Stepping away from this praise or demonisation of fat is one of the biggest parts of cognitive healing we go through during our recovery journey. With a topic as big and as trauma-based as Eating Disorders it can be very difficult to know where to draw the line creatively, but we should not minimise someone's recovery journey just because it does not align with our own. To have a major celebrity talk openly about Eating Disorder recovery can only be a good thing.

For me, it’s not just in Anti-Hero that I truly hear her struggles with her Eating Disorder, but in her song “You’re on Your Own Kid”, where Taylor sings;

From sprinkler splashes to fireplace ashes

I gave my blood, sweat, and tears for this

I hosted parties and starved my body

Like I'd be saved by a perfect kiss

In this song we truly see Taylors loneliness, her desperate need for external love and affirmation, and her willingness to people please and hurt her body to receive them.

For me, this conversation isn’t about how she artistically described her Eating Disorder in Anti-Hero, but about exploring which traumas her Eating Disorder has been helping her cope with in the first place. Taylor isn’t bad for fearing fatness in her past, she was simply struggling, and if this resonates with your journey, you aren’t bad either my love, you’re just carrying unprocessed trauma.

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