Taylor Swift Opens Up About Living with an Eating Disorder in Her Documentary

Chelsey Sanchez
Taylor Swift Opens Up About Living with an Eating Disorder in Her Documentary

From Harper's BAZAAR

  • Taylor Swift's intimate Netflix documentary, Taylor Swift: Miss Americana, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Thursday night.
  • In the film, the pop star revealed for the first time that she had an eating disorder.

In the revealing Netflix documentary Taylor Swift: Miss Americana, Taylor Swift opened up for the first time about living with an eating disorder.

The documentary, which premiered last night at the Sundance Film Festival, follows the Grammy Award-winning artist over the course of a few years as she navigates her life and career. An additional interview with Variety discloses Swift's struggle with body image and her initial hesitance to speak about eating disorders.

During the film, per Variety, Swift said, "It’s not good for me to see pictures of myself every day. ... It’s only happened a few times, and I’m not in any way proud of it. ... A picture of me where I feel like I looked like my tummy was too big, or… someone said that I looked pregnant … and that’ll just trigger me to just starve a little bit—just stop eating.”

She later said in the doc, “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. Now I realize, no, if you eat food, have energy, get stronger, you can do all these shows and not feel (enervated).”

Swift gave further details about her complicated and "unhealthy" relationship with food and body image in an interview with Variety.

"I’m not as articulate as I should be about this topic because there are so many people who could talk about it in a better way," she told the outlet. "But all I know is my own experience. And my relationship with food was exactly the same psychology that I applied to everything else in my life: If I was given a pat on the head, I registered that as good. If I was given a punishment, I registered that as bad.”

Tabloids and their merciless headlines affected Swift when she first entered the spotlight as a teenager. “I remember how, when I was 18, that was the first time I was on the cover of a magazine,” she said. “And the headline was like ‘Pregnant at 18?’ And it was because I had worn something that made my lower stomach look not flat. So I just registered that as a punishment. And then I’d walk into a photo shoot and be in the dressing room and somebody who worked at a magazine would say, ‘Oh, wow, this is so amazing that you can fit into the sample sizes. Usually we have to make alterations to the dresses, but we can take them right off the runway and put them on you!’ And I looked at that as a pat on the head. You register that enough times, and you just start to accommodate everything towards praise and punishment, including your own body.”

Photo credit: Neilson Barnard - Getty Images

She continued, "I think I’ve never really wanted to talk about that before, and I’m pretty uncomfortable talking about it now. But in the context of every other thing that I was doing or not doing in my life, I think it makes sense [to include it in the film]."

The pop star also said that she learned to stop caring about comments on her weight, accepting "the fact that I’m a size 6 instead of a size double-zero."

At least 30 million people across the spectrums of gender, age, and race struggle with eating disorders in the U.S., according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. Eating disorders also have the highest mortality rate of any other mental illness, according to a 2012 study cited by the association.

Swift said she found support from women like actress Jameela Jamil, whose social media presence emphasizes inclusivity and acceptance. " If you read her quotes about women and body image and aging and the way that women are treated in our industry and portrayed in the media, I swear the way she speaks is like lyrics, and it gets stuck in my head and it calms me down," Swift said. "Because women are held to such a ridiculous standard of beauty. We’re seeing so much on social media that makes us feel like we are less than, or we’re not what we should be, that you kind of need a mantra to repeat in your head when you start to have harmful or unhealthy thoughts. So she’s one of the people who, when I read what she says, it sticks with me and it helps me.”

If you or someone you know is seeking help for an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association's hotline at 800-931-2237 or visit their site here.

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