I sat down in front of a nutritionist (via Zoom due to the pandemic) like I have been doing for weeks prior. This is not why I started seeing her. I was actually encouraged by my mom to talk to someone about going vegetarian.
“I think you have behaviors of disordered eating,” she said.
It was not until that moment that I realized it was abnormal to cry after eating a piece of pizza or to skip meals in middle school to the point where I would get dizzy in class. Maybe it is because the older women in my family grew up in the height of 1980’s and 1990’s diet culture, where even eating too much fruit scared them because it has too much sugar. Maybe it is because I grew up in the age of social media, where I was looking at models with thigh gaps in sixth grade. Maybe it is a combination of both.
With the surge of activism that has flooded the media within the past decade, people seem to be more open about eating disorder discussions and fighting back against the unrealistic standards set for women and their bodies. We praise celebrities like Lizzo for being unapologetically secure with her body. However, there are moments where I doubt if people actually care about bringing awareness to EDs, or if they just want the brownie points for pretending to care with their progressive Instagram stories. A good example of this is a recent controversy that Taylor Swift found herself in. Swift has been very open about her issues with food and weight in multiple different media forms, one of the biggest being her documentary on Netflix called Miss Americana. She said there were moments on her 1989 tour where she almost passed out on stage because she was not eating due to the fact that every media outlet was aware of every pound she gained. She also referenced “starving her body” in one of her new songs “You’re on Your Own Kid” from her new album “Midnights.” On Oct. 21, she released a self-written and directed music video for her song “Anti-Hero” which is about all of her own internal struggles that keep her up at night, including her image. In the video, she is standing on a scale right next to her evil twin that is supposed to be all of the bad thoughts that run through her head. The camera closes in on the scale that just reads “FAT” and her evil twin shakes her head in disapproval. Anyone who understands Swift’s way of art knows that she loves to hint at multiple messages at once. The scale was an obvious reference to her struggles with ED and the fact that she was called fat in the media. People on the internet decided to turn that around and claim she was being fatphobic because it gives the word fat a bad connotation. Due to the controversy, Swift had to completely edit out the scale from the music video. This not only minimizes her own struggles, but also could potentially keep other women from speaking out about their own experiences out of fear of being canceled. Meanwhile, other celebrities who actively perpetuate toxic diet culture are given a pass like when Kim Kardashian admitted on her social media story during the last Met Gala that she did not eat sugar or carbs for weeks prior in order to fit into a dress. As much as people want to believe we have made progress when it comes to changing the culture of body image and ED, there are absolutely still moments of setback.
I hope that one day artists will not have to filter their art about their own experiences to appease a culture that praises progression until progression actually tries to be made.
Haley Master is a second-year English major with minors in Law, Politics, & Society and Civic & Professional Leadership. HM948534@wcupa.edu