There has been lots of speculation around Taylor Swift’s relationship with food over the years, with many (unnecessarily) commenting on her weight. But the star has never addressed any of the rumours - until now. In her new documentary on Netflix, Miss Americana, Taylor talks for several minutes about her struggle with an eating disorder, revealing that constant criticism of her appearance forced her into a reward-based way of eating. "It’s not good for me to see pictures of myself every day," she said, revealing that after seeing "a picture of me where I feel like I looked like my tummy was too big, or someone said that I looked pregnant, that’ll just trigger me to just starve a little bit - just stop eating."
She further elaborated on the struggle in an interview for Variety magazine. "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 punishment.
"And then I’d walk into a photo shoot and be in the dressing room and somebody who worked at the 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."
Taylor admitted that it was difficult to open up about it for the documentary. "I didn’t know if I was going to feel comfortable with talking about body image and talking about the stuff I’ve gone through in terms of how unhealthy that’s been for me - my relationship with food and all that over the years.
"But the way that Lana (Wilson, the film's director) tells the story, it really makes sense. I’m not as articulate as I should be about the topic because there are so many people who could talk about it in a better way. But all I know is my own experience. And my relationship with food was exactly the same psychology that I applied to everything 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."
Sounds familiar, doesn't it?! We get so bogged down in others' perceptions of us that we learn to see ourselves through their eyes, rather than our own. And too often, that results in controlling weight behaviour. This behaviour leads to shame, which, conversely, stops us from telling others. I commend Taylor for being honest about her struggle - we need to de-stigmatise having an eating disorder and eliminate the shame surrounding them. After all, it's been proven that shame only perpetuates eating disorders.
And maybe Taylor's experience can be a lesson to all of us to stop praising people for losing weight, and shaming people for gaining weight. You know what would be good? If we didn't talk about weight altogether. Crossing my fingers that that will, one day, be a reality.