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May Wilkerson May Wilkerson

Demi Lovato Calls Out Public Misconceptions About Eating Disorders

The pop star and recovering bulimic shoots down the notions that eating disorders are a choice or a sign of "strength."

7 Substance

Pop star Demi Lovato, 22, has become an outspoken advocate for awareness about eating disorders since she sought recovery in 2011. But not everyone in her line-of-business is as savvy when it comes to discussing mental health.

Fellow pop singer Meghan Trainor recently riled up some people—including Lovato—by suggesting that eating disorders are a choice and a sign of “strength.” The singer has become a controversial icon for pushing her brand of “body acceptance” in her chart-topping hit “All About That Bass,” which claims to be an empowering anthem for “bigger” girls. But as many critics have pointed out, with lines like “I’m bringing booty back. Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that,” it’s not the most female-empowering song out there. Others have noted that the women featured in the video are hardly overweight in any realistic sense of the word.

In a recent interview with Entertainment Tonight, Trainor, 20, talked about her struggles growing up as “a chubby girl” and why eating disorders weren’t her thing. “I wasn’t strong enough to have an eating disorder,” she said. “I tried to go anorexic for a good three hours. I ate ice and celery, but that’s not even anorexic. And I quit. I was like, ‘Ma, can you make me a sandwich? Like, immediately.”

Demi Lovato, who has spoken with astonishing honesty about her battle with bulimia, addiction, cutting and bipolar disorder, responded on Twitter yesterday to set the record straight. “Having an eating disorder doesn’t show ‘strength,’” she wrote. ”Strength is when are able to overcome your demons after being sick and tired for so long. Starving is not a ‘diet’ and throwing up isn’t something that only extremely thin men or women do.”

She continued: “Eating disorders do not discriminate. Neither does any other mental illness. These are deadly diseases that are taking lives daily. So please, let’s be cautious of the words we use when discussing ED’s and other mental illnesses.”

Lovato also addressed the common misconception that eating disorders are a “choice”: “It’s the ignorance and lack of education on mental illnesses that continues to put mental health care on the back burner to congress even though this is an epidemic that is sweeping our nation, and causing more and more tragedy every day.”

Perhaps we should not expect young pop stars to lend an informed, enlightened voice to serious issues. But it’s refreshing when they do.