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ESPOSITO: Taylor Swift’s ‘Miss Americana’ shows that eating disorders can manifest silently

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Column: Unapologetically

This past weekend, Taylor Swift released her much anticipated documentary “Miss Americana” on Netflix. 

The documentary follows Swift during her 10-years-and-counting in the spotlight. It showcased her known public battles with Kanye West and the Kardashians and her struggle to open up politically and risk backlash. But what shocked so many viewers was when Swift candidly opens up about an eating disorder she still battles to this day. 

For the duration of Swift’s career, she has been known for being extremely thin. When she opened up about subconsciously starving herself, it came as a shock to fans. And for many, it served as a wake up call.

With 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States suffering from some sort of eating disorder, the stereotypes and false stigmas surrounding them are as ever present as they were 10 years ago. Swift put it perfectly herself as she explained in her documentary that as she starved herself after receiving negative comments about her appearance in the media, she did not come to terms with having an eating disorder.

“I don’t think you know that you’re doing that when you’re doing it gradually,” she said simply.

When picturing eating disorders, what immediately comes to mind are sickly, unhealthy-looking people suffering from anorexia or a girl throwing up in a bathroom after binge eating. Sometimes the signs are not as obvious. 

Sometimes it starts with obsessing over your calorie count and feeling guilty for eating even when you are hungry. Maybe it starts with taking a laxative after you ate too much or forcing your fingers down your throat just one time, which turns into two times and more. It is easy to justify in the beginning.

With constant scrutiny from social media, everyone — not just celebrities — has platforms to feel insecure, which can lead to dire consequences. 

Swift explained how when she was stuck then, she received backlash for not having curves, but now that she has grown sizes and gotten over her eating issues, she is scrutinized for not gaining weight. 

“There’s always some standard of beauty you’re not meeting,” she said. 

And for some, these expectations unfold into serious and obvious eating disorders, but for so many across the country, the battle every day is much less obvious.

“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,” Swift said.

It is underrated how easy it is to experience body dysmorphia and eating disorders. It is so typical to fall prey to the judgments of social media and the unrealistic expectations posed in movies and the internet. Eating disorders and body dysmorphia are a growing problem as social media becomes more and more prominent in everyday lives. 

With constant access to viewing people deemed “better than yourself,” it is easy to want to skip a meal. We must, as a society, look past the facade of social media, where edits run rampant and only the very best is put online. It is a breeding ground for feeling insecure. And insecurities lead to unhealthy relationships with both food and exercise.

Swift was very vocal about the fact that she was once a size zero and is now a size six. And though people still make comments about her gaining weight she explains she is happier this way, because this is how she is supposed to be: more energized and healthier than she has ever felt before. Because a preoccupation with weight and an obsession with exercise only make you feel worse. 

With years in the spotlight under her belt, Swift is an expert when it comes to hate and negative comments. But even she succumbed to insecurities that blossomed into eating problems, which shows how even the strongest among us are susceptible to potential eating disorders due to the toxic environment of social media.

Laura Esposito is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in journalism and political science. Her column, "Unapologetically," typically runs on alternate Tuesdays.

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