Demi Lovato is a veteran in a culture where many celebrities have just begun to use their star power to speak out on mental health issues. As an actress and singer since childhood, Lovato has always been very upfront about her struggles with depression, substance use, self-harming behaviors, bullying, and an eating disorder.
Her courage in speaking openly about these issues has paved the way for other celebrities to be transparent about their own struggles in a way that helps the millions out of the spotlight feel comforted and understood. Lovato’s influence has become stronger since 2018 when she relapsed after six years of sobriety and experienced a life-threatening drug overdose.
Lovato took a step back at that time, assuring fans that she would tell her story one day but that, for the time being, she was focusing on herself and her recovery. In a 2019 interview on the Ellen Degeneres Show, she shared that, 3 months previous to her overdose, she had also relapsed back into her bulimia symptoms .
The fact that so much can be written about the rollercoaster experience Lovato has had with mental health is a testament to her character. Especially since there is very little, she has not openly spoken about as an advocate for eating disorders, substance use, mental health, and many other causes.
In stark contrast with the “highlight reels” and fake showings of perfection on many stars’ social media platforms, Lovato does not shy away from acknowledging her humanity and her struggles. Continuing this trend of bold openness, Lovato again shared unique aspects of her story in a 2020 episode of model and body positivity and Health At Every Size advocate Ashley Graham’s podcast, “Pretty Big Deal .”
A changemaker in the mental health and body image industry herself, Graham is a trailblazer in the modeling world, sending an unapologetic message that fashion, beauty, and self-love is for everyone and every body. Every week, Graham sits down with different members of the industry and her circle and explores with them what makes them a “pretty big deal.”
In Lovato’s conversation with Graham, she shares that what she believed to be years of recovery from an eating disorder was “just completely falling into it.” Lovato goes on to specify that she threw herself into working out and “running myself into the ground…and trying to tell the world I was happy with myself when I really wasn’t .”
This discussion highlights an important truth in our culture, as many individuals believe they are recovered or not engaging in disordered eating or exercising due to the diet culture that veils these behaviors as desirable, “healthy,” or ‘self-care.” The truth is, these behaviors and trends are a disordered wolf in recovered sheep’s clothing.
Lovato goes on to explore what this means for her personal future as well as her career, and it is no surprise that she wants what she has learned to show in the work she puts out for the world.
Lovato stated that “I made a choice going into this next album, ‘alright, when I present this, I’m not going to worry about what I look like, I’m not going to worry about trying to look a certain way or fit a certain mold, that’s just not who I am.’ Someone needs to stand up for people that don’t naturally look that way…I had to work my ass off every day in the gym, 6 days a week to, like, maintain that figure, and that led me only one way, and I don’t want to go down that path again .”
Lovato clearly holds true to these statements in songs such as “Anyone,” a song she reports was recorded four days before her overdose. The lyrics convey a strong sense of isolation and desperation, and Lovato shares that she “listened back and heard these lyrics as a cry for help .” Lovato also stated that, hearing these songs while in rehab, she thought, “If there’s ever a moment where I get to come back from this, I want to sing this song .”
Lovato also released the song “I Love Me” in March 2020 where she details the pressure of the spotlight, diet culture, and societal expectations. Also, how this impacts her self-love and self-view. Many can identify with words of the song such as “I’m a black belt when I’m beating up on myself” or the chorus, “Why do I compare myself to everyone? And I always got my finger on the self-destruct. I wonder when I love me is enough?”
As a recovered individual with a past history of disordered eating, mental health diagnoses, and trauma, I value Lovato’s candidness about her experiences, which allows many to see that mental health does not discriminate and all the money and fame cannot buy recovery.
Lovato provides a strong and shining example that we are all, above anything else, human and that experiencing adversity and making mistakes will happen. Still, it does not have to be what defines you or where your story ends.
Resources: “Demi Lovato gets candid about her eating disorder struggle.” YouTube, uploaded by TheEllenShow, March 5, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_IterocJB24.  “Demi Lovato on practicing self care – pretty big deal. YouTube, uploaded by AshleyGraham, February 18, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9mqc4ou8Cc.  Reilley, K. (2020). Demi Lovato shares the powerful meaning behind her new song: “it was a cry for help.” Refinery29. Retrieved from https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2020/01/9296197/demi-lovato-new-song-anyone-lyrics-meaning.
About the Author:
Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.
As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published May 29, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on May 29, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC