Eating disorders were once considered uncommon, but roughly 9 percent of the population has experienced disordered eating at some point in their life. This can take many forms—such as extreme calorie restriction, binging, purging, exercise addiction, or anorexia—and affect anyone regardless of sex, race, or age.
These 45 songs have let singers share their own experiences with eating disorders and draw attention to these issues.
1. Scars To Your Beautiful — Alessia Cara
Alessia Cara’s hauntingly beautiful song Scars To Your Beautiful was released in 2015 and reintroduced the conversation around toxic beauty standards and eating disorders. The song describes a young woman who believes that she must suffer to be beautiful; subsequently, she starves herself and even engages in self-harm to distract herself from the pain of hunger.
2. Victoria’s Secret — Jax
Victoria’s Secret went viral in 2022, a tongue-in-cheek dig at companies that prey on vulnerable young women and convince them that they need to be thin to be beautiful. Lines such as “Victoria’s a dude!” illustrate that these companies are oriented toward the male gaze, not realistic health or beauty standards.
Recommended: Songs about being beautiful
3. Tunic (Song For Karen) — Sonic Youth
Sonic Youth’s 1990 hit was dedicated to Karen Carpenter, a singer who died from complications of anorexia. Carpenter was only 32 when her heart failed after years of extreme dieting and abusing medications to lose weight. At the time of her death, she was in rehab and making progress on gaining weight. Her tragic early death helped increase awareness of the dangers of eating disorders.
4. Waltz Moore — From First To Last
The danger that men face from eating disorders is not widely discussed. Waltz Moore is about frontman Sonny Moore’s struggles with bulimia and body dysmorphia. The song also describes the consequences on his health from constant purging, forcing him to cover his appearance with makeup. Bulimia also has serious health consequences and can cause damage to the mouth and throat.
Recommended: Playlist of songs about mental health
5. Ana’s Song — Silverchair
The 1999 track Ana’s Song is directed toward anorexia, often nicknamed “Ana” by those who have experienced the disorder. Frontman Daniel Johns describes how anorexia has taken over his life, making him feel as though he is no longer even the person controlling it. This makes the title all the more poignant—it is not Daniel’s song, but anorexia’s song.
6. Sophie — Eleanor McEvoy
Sophie is a song about a young woman whose anorexia has gotten so bad that it becomes apparent that she is dying. Her family is terrified, not knowing how she has hidden it for so long. In Sophie’s mind, she just wants to be like all the other girls—which hints at what those other girls do to achieve their looks.
7. Tied Together With a Smile — Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift released Tied Together With a Smile on her debut album in 2006. It was written about a friend who Swift said was extremely popular and seemed to have a wonderful life. However, it soon became apparent that she had a serious eating disorder and her happiness was all an illusion.
8. Ugly — 2NE1
Sadly, eating disorders are something people struggle with worldwide. Korean pop group 2NE1’s 2011 song Ugly describes a woman’s experience with body dysmorphia. No matter how hard she tries, she thinks that she’s ugly. She is convinced that because of this, she is unworthy of love.
9. Pretty — Lauren Alaina
Lauren Alaina’s 2017 song Pretty calls out the toxic beauty standards to which women are held. Everyone has to have thick lips, made-up faces, and be perfectly thin. Ultimately, however, it’s not achievable; it takes over people’s lives and eventually ruins them altogether. Instead, Alaina says, it’s the quality of your heart that is important.
10. Just a Little Bit — Maria Mena
Norwegian singer Maria Mena has been open about her struggles with eating disorders. Her 2004 song Just a Little Bit describes how she convinced herself to make small changes that resulted in serious consequences for her physical and mental health. The song also shows how her body image issues were rooted in her insecurity about her romantic relationships.
Recommended: Playlist of songs about feeling insecure
11. Somebody I Once Knew — Dead Celebrity Status
Somebody I Once Knew is a look at an out-of-control eating disorder that has completely taken over someone’s life. She spends her days obsessing over her weight and convincing herself that she’s healthy, but in reality she is slowly killing herself. It’s a heartbreaking and visceral look at the real health consequences of anorexia.
12. I Go Hungry — Mother Mother
I Go Hungry is a song about a man struggling with an eating disorder. However, far from realizing that he needs help, he is still deep in denial. He boisterously describes how he plans on starving himself until his upcoming date and how his extreme dieting is a sign of his manly dedication. Sometimes people have to go through the period of denial before they’re ready to admit they have a problem.
13. Shatter Me — Lindsey Stirling
Before breaking into music, pop violinist Lindsey Stirling worked at a treatment center for young women. During that time, she realized that she was also struggling with anorexia. Her 2014 song Shatter Me, a collaboration with singer Lzzy Hale, is about her experiences with anorexia and the need to be perfect.
14. Anorexic Beauty — Pulp
Anorexia wasn’t well understood in the 1980s and was largely thought to be a problem faced by celebrities. Songs such as Pulp’s 1987 song Anorexic Beauty drew more attention to the issues, though it has also been critiqued for its ambiguous lyrics which can be interpreted as being pro-anorexia.
15. I Lie Awake Every Night — James Vincent McMorrow
Irish singer James Vincent McMorrow has been open about his issues with anorexia, bulimia, and body dysmorphia. He required professional treatment for his eating disorders as a teenager. “I Lie Awake Every Night” is said to be about his thoughts relating to these struggles, particularly his own self-loathing and self-doubt.
16. Bleed Like Me — Garbage
Garbage’s 2005 song Bleed Like Me isn’t just about anorexia—rather, it’s about disorders that are a cry for love and empathy from others. These can include eating disorders as well as self-harm and other issues. The point of the song was to remind people that we all suffer and are more similar than we realize. Ultimately, we all want to know we’re loved.
17. Paper Bag — Fiona Apple
Fiona Apple’s 1999 song Paper Bag is about many issues, including anorexia. But more broadly, it is about the female tendency to dismiss or minimize one’s own pain. The cold-blooded line “Hunger hurts, but starving works” is a common mantra among those who struggle with eating disorders.
18. Numbers — Pompeii
Numbers is a song about confronting someone who is suffering from bulimia and doesn’t seem to realize how bad their issue has become. Their life revolves around numbers, including the numbers on the scale, the minutes they spend in the bathroom, and the bathroom tiles they count while purging.
19. She’s Falling Apart — Lisa Loeb
Eating disorders can often become serious before a person’s family or friends even notice. She’s Falling Apart is about a teenage girl suffering from anorexia. Though it consumes her entire life, her family doesn’t realize how much she is struggling, in part because she is careful to hide it from them.
20. Control — Alexisonfire
Control is a song about a person who is not only struggling with an eating disorder, but who is also deep in denial about the extent of their problem. They keep insisting that they are in control of themselves, but in reality, their food avoidance has become more serious than they even realize.
21. Orange Juice — Melanie Martinez
Orange Juice is a visceral depiction of a woman struggling with bulimia. She tends to eat a lot of oranges to make herself feel full, then purges—hence the idea of turning oranges into orange juice. The song references other extreme tactics that serious bulimics use, such as eating tissues.
22. In Front Of The Mirror — GLAM
K-pop group GLAM released In Front Of The Mirror in 2013. The song is about a woman looking at herself in the mirror and hating what she sees. However, it becomes clear that her body issues are rooted in her lackluster love life, which makes her worry that it is her appearance that keeps men from showing interest.
23. Me & Mia — Ted Leo & The Pharmacists
Me & Mia is about a couple who both struggle with an eating disorder, making it all the more difficult to conquer the problems. “Mia” and “Ana” are nicknames for bulimia and anorexia, with the narrator suggesting that there are actually four people in the relationship—their eating disorders are so severe that it’s like they are people.
24. Dressed In Decay — CKY
Dressed In Decay is about a young woman who has bulimia. She is so proud and sure that she is beautiful, with others confirming the lies The narrator says it’s more like she is dressed in decay, telling herself she looks amazing while she’s slowly killing herself. It is a shocking description of a disease that causes serious and unglamorous health issues—and ultimately can lead to death.
25. Eyesore — Maria Mena
Eyesore is a song about Maria Mena’s struggle with anorexia. She thinks that she is ugly, but her eating disorder gives her a purpose. The weaker she becomes, the stronger she thinks she is. Like many other songs, Eyesore personifies anorexia as a voice whispering lies, telling the singer that she is ugly and overweight—but also in control of her own actions.
26. Ana & Mia — The Trews
“Ana” and “Mia” are common nicknames for anorexia and bulimia. This corresponds strongly to the phenomenon that many people describe, that their eating disorder seems to be another person who takes over their body and mind. The Trews’ song portrays these disorders as though they are real girls leading others into dangerous pastimes.
27. Two — The Antlers
Two is a song that seems to be written about the spouse of a person who is becoming seriously underweight. The song implies that the issues began with a childhood cancer diagnosis, then grew worse because of abusive parents. The person in the song eventually just stopped eating, hoping to slip out of everyone’s notice. The lyrics describe her dropping down to 87 pounds and the doctor saying there is nothing more they can do to help her.
28. Mary Jane — Alanis Morissette
Mary Jane is a song about women whose personalities are shaped around supporting others. While their compassion is admirable, they may often neglect their own needs and hide their struggles. Morissette paints a picture of a woman named Mary Jane whose struggles with an eating disorder, and depression are masked by her outgoing, friendly nature that prioritizes other people.
29. Teen Idle — Marina & The Diamonds
Teen Idle is a regretful look back on wasted youth; frontwoman Marina sings about everything she wishes she could redo from her teenage years. While the whole song describes the memory of a teenage cry for help, she also mentions wanting to gorge herself on cake, knowing that she’ll make herself vomit later. Binging on junk food and purging is a common and dangerous cycle of bulimia..
30. Cars & Calories — Saves The Day
Cars & Calories is a critique of the celebrity life portrayed in the media. Everything the image sells is a lie, from the flashy lifestyle to the ultra-thin celebrities. The girl who grew up watching this experiences an eating disorder after the narrative “took bites” from her self-esteem, a visceral tie-in to her own starvation.
31. Sober — Demi Lovato
Demi Lovato has been open about her struggles with both substance abuse and eating disorders. In some ways, an eating disorder can be compared to an addiction. The song is about experiencing a relapse after years of sobriety. Coincidentally, people who have eating disorders also may experience relapses.
32. Please Eat — Nicole Dollanganger
Watching someone you love suffer from an eating disorder can be one of the most difficult experiences to endure. Nicole Dollanganger’s song Please Eat is about trying to support a loved one as they fight anorexia. It describes watching the person’s spirit fade and wishing they could give them the emotional fulfillment they need to eat, while at the same time feeling completely powerless to support them.
33. Courage — Superchick
Courage was written about band member Melissa Brock’s experiences with anorexia. The song describes some of the common excuses that anorexics give to avoid having to eat with other people. When she gets a compliment about how beautiful she looks, the subject of the song is happy for just a moment before descending back into depression. It’s proof that eating disorders are rooted not in real self-improvement but in feelings of self-loathing and isolation.
34. Deadly Beauty — Falk
Deadly Beauty is about a teenage girl who is unnoticed by the boy she likes. Convinced that he doesn’t notice her because she’s overshadowed by a prettier girl, she decides to do whatever it takes to become more beautiful. Some of her tactics are deeply dangerous, including unsafe amounts of exercise and starving herself. By the time her parents realize what is wrong, it’s too late to save their daughter.
35. Invisible — Skylar Grey
Many people who develop eating disorders say that their habits began when they felt as though no one loved them; eventually, they did something drastic in the hopes that someone would notice that they were actually hurting themselves. Skylar Grey’s song Invisible touches on this, describing a narrator who drugs and cuts herself both to change her physical appearance and as a cry for love from those around her.
36. Starving For Attention — Geri Karlstrom
Right from the start of the song, Geri Karlstrom draws attention to the parallels between disordered eating and drug addiction, calling bones her “drug of choice.” She describes how while she’s physically hungry for food, she is actually starving for her parents and loved ones to notice that she’s fading away. This isn’t to imply that people engage in disordered eating because they want attention, but rather that it is a cry for help rooted in deep depression and loneliness.
37. Prom Queen — Beach Bunny
Prom Queen is a song that follows the internal monologue of a teenage girl struggling with body dysmorphia, disordered eating, and self-esteem issues. Nothing she does ever feels good enough for her own impossible standards. Subsequently, she counts calories obsessively and constantly finds new things to hate about herself, from her body type to her hair and eye color. The song suggests that instead of trying to change herself, the world’s expectations should be more realistic.
38. 4st 7lb — Manic Street Preachers
The song 4st 7lb doesn’t pull any punches, detailing the frightening health repercussions that anorexics often experience. This includes kidney damage, amenorrhea, low blood pressure, and vision changes. As the song continues, the narrator’s weight drops lower and lower, yet it is never enough. At last, she reaches only 4 stone, 7 lbs, or 63 lbs—considered the threshold for unavoidable starvation.
39. Skinny Skinny — Ashton Irwin
Ashton Irwin, formerly of the band 5 Seconds of Summer, made his solo debut with the song Skinny Skinny, a tale of body dysmorphia. Problems with body image frequently go hand-in-hand with eating disorders, and sadly, men are just as susceptible as women. The song describes Irwin’s issues with his self-image and how they turned into an eating disorder.
40. 90210 — Wale
The song 90210 refers to the zip code of Los Angeles, where many people dream of becoming famous. It follows an unnamed woman who wants to become an actress but is told that she can’t get any parts unless she achieves a certain weight. Subsequently, she purges everything she eats in the hopes of attaining her dreams.
41. Grapefruit — Tove Lo
Tove Lo first developed an eating disorder when she was 15 after a modeling agency told her she needed to lose weight. For the next five years, she followed a diet of extreme calorie restriction and frequently made herself purge. The title comes from the grapefruit diet, which is said to burn fat. Lo sought help for her eating disorder after a doctor told her she was in danger of losing her voice permanently.
42. Beauty From Pain — Superchick
Christian rock group Superchick released Beauty From Pain as the title track of their 2005 album. The song describes a period of suffering, with indications that the lyrics may refer to a person struggling with an eating disorder. But it’s also meant to be a song of hope, promising the listener that good things can come out of this, despite the difficulty.
43. Cause & Effect — Maria Mena
In Cause & Effect, Maria Mena describes being caught in the endless cycle of starving herself for six days a week, then binging and purging when she can’t take it any longer. She says that the pressure comes from her childhood home’s rules around food, which expected her to follow a strict diet even while she was young.
44. Hunger — Florence + The Machine
Hunger is a reflection back on Florence Welch’s teenage experiences with an eating disorder. Now many years later, she realizes that she was hungry for love and self-acceptance. But because those were more difficult to deal with, it was easier to starve herself. Pain from hunger is easy to understand, while pain from loneliness isn’t.
45. Big Fat Lie — Nicole Scherzinger
Though the song Big Fat Lie doesn’t explicitly mention eating disorders, Nicole Scherzinger shared elsewhere that her own struggles with disordered eating served as inspiration for the song. It was one of only two songs that she composed alone on her 2014 album. Subsequently, it was highly personal. The song describes many aspects of her life that seem to be perfect but are ultimately completely fabricated.
As the Head Editor and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced from professional music/media journalists and other contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.
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