Why celebrities are suddenly talking openly about eating disorders

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Since the creation of modern society, eating disorders have haunted men and women while lurking in the shadows. The pressure to appear a certain way or maintain a specific weight has driven all sorts of dangerous behaviors, fad diets, and purging techniques. But, society refused to talk about it.

Over the past few years, however, that has significantly changed. Suddenly, everyone from Lady Gaga to Zayn Malik have gone public by sharing their unique experiences with disordered eating and poor body image. The singer Kesha has detailed how she recovered from bulimia at the height of her career. Even unlikely figures like Bam Margera have found the courage to openly discuss how eating disorders have affected their lives.

For some, this wave of celebrity activism may be confusing. Why are all these celebrities suddenly bringing eating disorders into the light? Cynical people may even suggest it is a ploy for attention from stars whose light has faded.

Of course, that isn’t the case. The truth is that the public is finally disregarding the taboo surrounding eating disorders and making it okay to speak their truth. Celebrities just happen to have the most powerful platform for spreading awareness and advocating for more treatment options for people.

The destruction of the taboo around eating disorders didn’t happen overnight (and the stigma still isn’t completely erased). It is the result of decades of activism and the increasing awareness that disorders like anorexia and bulimia aren’t just a “phase” or a “teen girl” issue.

While these disorders used to be brushed off as a minor issue of vanity, the world has come to realize they go much deeper and are much more dangerous than many thought. Those who have lost children, siblings, or friends to eating disorders have helped show the world that eating disorders can be insidious, hard to see, and deadly.

Helping this process along has been the growth of social media in society. While platforms like Twitter and Instagram are often criticized for allowing pro-eating disorder communities to develop, many forget that communities for support and recovery have also grown into significant forces for encouraging body positivity and healthy eating behaviors. With every post from an eating disorder survivor telling their story, they chipped away at the stigma surrounding eating disorders.

This phenomenon has also helped celebrities connect directly with their fans to educate and encourage treatment.

In the past, disordered eating among celebrities has been relegated to tabloid fodder. Even Princess Diana’s struggles with bulimia were ignored by much of the mainstream media while cheap magazines speculated on their weight and their health. But, social media let’s these celebrities cut through the gossip and rumors to address these issues directly and honestly.

It is not unremarkable that a number of celebrities have chosen social media as their platform to reveal their struggles with eating disorders. Kesha and Lady Gaga regularly use their social media channels to talk about how eating disorders have affected their lives while directly responding and offering support to fans who have gone through similar experiences.

Those who disclosed their experiences with eating disorders in other places, such as in memoirs or TV interviews, have also relied on social media to provide more context and share resources that can help others with eating disorders.

While the voices of the everyday men and women with eating disorders made cracks in the wall of stigma keeping others from seeing the truth about eating disorders, these stars have magnified that effect into a wrecking ball. Combined, the effect is a radical transformation in how we talk about eating disorders, body image, and our relationships with food.

Hopefully, this process keeps making it more okay to acceptable to be open about how eating disorders affect people’s lives every single day. Without conversation, these disorders are able to fester in the dark. But, as we drag eating disorders into the light, we also show that anorexia or bulimia do not define a person and recovery is always possible.

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