If you have your foot at all in the eating disorder & mental health world – I’m sure you’ve heard of the Netflix film To The Bone that is about to be released. And just to be clear, I’m writing this before having seen the movie – perhaps when it comes out, it will be this brilliant and encouraging thing, but here’s what I felt after seeing the advertisement: I was watching TV when I first saw the advertisement for it and just to keep it real – here were my unfiltered thoughts as I watched it. “Dang, that girl looks like a skeleton, is she honestly that thin or is it make up? ‘I’m in control’…I remember thinking that…I was clueless. I miss being underweight. She looks so frail. I can’t wait to watch this!” And these were my thoughts after being in solid recovery for three years!! At first on Facebook, I saw some of be fellow ED warriors stating that they too couldn’t wait to watch the film, then a couple days later I started seeing people post about how the film should not be released because it could be harmful for some people watching it.
And it got me thinking about it: On one hand, great! Some people are still so clueless that eating disorders exist all around them. This will help spread awareness, let people know warning signs so that they can potentially help support those struggling, and let those struggling know that they are not the only one in this mess. And that’s where my list of pros ends.
When I was my sickest, I searched out films like this & not because I needed to know I was not alone – I was looking for motivation to keep going. Watching people, even actors, engage in behaviors made me think “even if I feel weak, I can keep going.” If they can do it, I can do it kinda thing. Sick, but true. I read books about eating disorders looking for tricks to help making restricting or purging easier. Just the mention of calories would make me not want to eat at all – and in this film’s advertisement, it shows the main actress listing off all the calories in each food on her plate.
When I was my sickest, I wasn’t my thinnest. The times when my health was most iffy was actually when I was slightly overweight. But my electrolytes were off, my kidneys weren’t functioning at full capacity. This was because of the constant binging, purging, and diuretic abuse. I wasn’t thin by any means. But I was sick, and I was deserving of treatment. Seeing a film like this would have reinforced that (inaccurate) thought that I wasn’t thin enough to need eating disorder treatment. This girl is a skeleton and going into treatment, I sure as hell didn’t want to go into treatment with a bunch of skeletons and be the overweight one. That was a real and terrible fear of mine (and let me tell you, treatment was not just filled with underweight people. There were women and men from young to old, skinny to fat, white to black – EATING DISORDERS DO NOT DISCRIMINATE. So don’t let your weight, ethnicity, or age be a reason you don’t seek help. That’s bull shit.)
Next, there are people who are predisposed to get eating disorders. Did you know that? Anxiety, depression, OCD, perfectionism – all these things don’t necessarily cause or have to end up with an eating disorder – but a lot of people that struggle with eating disorders also struggle with these things. So you’re going to sit down a bunch of teenage girls who may already be perfectionistic but don’t have an eating disorder and let them watch a film practically spelling out “how to” be anorexic in great detail and potentially trigger something that would not have been triggered otherwise. Again, I know you can’t point to one movie and blame it for starting your eating disorder…..or can you? I know I can point to a specific book that set me off…
Lastly, the actress is in recovery from anorexia herself. Yet somehow, “Under the care of a dietician, in a healthy way…*cough cough BS*” was able to lose a drastic amount of weight so she could play the part of an anorexic girl. Let me clarify something: THERE IS NOT A HEALTHY WAY TO LOSE ENOUGH WEIGH TO BE UNDERWEIGHT. IT’S NOT HEALTHY IF YOU ARE UNDERWEIGHT. Period. No matter if a dietician was watching you or not. That’s just messed up. And last rant – she could have maintained a healthy weight AND played a part of a girl with an eating disorder. They could have educated people and broken down stigmas that only thin girls are really sick if they would have just had her stay in her healthy weight range and played the same role. ammirite? I am….
OK, I think I’m off my soap box now – I URGE you, if you are struggling with an eating disorder, if you are early on in your recovery – just don’t watch it. It’s not worth a potential relapse. Be wise with what you see and where you let your mind drift to.
Feel free to comment with your thoughts. Are you going to watch this film? Are you for it, against it, or really don’t care?