Thoughts From an ED Survivor on Netflix "To The Bone" Trailer: To Watch or Not to Watch?

After all the hype about the new trailer coming out for the Netflix film To The Bone, I had to scope it out for myself, and I have some thoughts:

As an eating disorder survivor (of Anorexia in particular) just seeing this trailer brought me to tears. In the 2 minutes that I saw of this movie, I can tell that it is not for those suffering with eating disorders or who are in recovery from an eating disorder. I see what they are trying to do; bring awareness to a widespread disease that is prevalent in our culture and make a film on a touchy topic to make a statement. While some may argue that they do a good job at depicting a young girl with Anorexia, I believe that making this movie was a bit negligent and insensitive. Let me back up...I am not one that generally believes that we need to tip toe around issues to not "offend" anyone. I do not find this trailer/film offensive per se. And I fully believe that we are all responsible for ourselves, and if we suffer from an eating disorder we are responsible for our own recovery. That being said, people with eating disorders are fragile in the sense that it is SO EASY for them to fall back into their old ways. And with this film coming out, it is also easy for those who suffer or who have suffered from an eating disorder to be drawn to the film because of their own history/experiences. This is dangerous. If you are aware of your own triggers and are 100% certain that this will not affect you, then by all means no one is stopping you from watching. However, I can say from my own experience and being around others with eating disorders that there are multiple triggers for people, and in this 2 minute glimpse of the movie, I experienced a plethora of emotions, including that of being somewhat triggered.

Oh boy, where to begin...

Lily Collins losing weight for this part. I understand that they want to make it as realistic as possible, but there are SO MANY things wrong with this. First off, Lily Collins has a history of dealing with an eating disorder, so to lose weight for this part, I cannot even fathom what that might do to her own well-being and recovery. Second, to see a young girl of skin and bone on the screen gives people the idea that all eating disorders look the same, and that THIS is what Anorexia looks like - which is, to be clear, not the case. One does not need to be emaciated or underweight to have an eating disorder, including Anorexia. Eating disorders affect all different types of people and these people have all different body shapes. You could be in front of a person with an eating disorder and have no clue that they have an eating disorder, and that does not mean that their eating disorder is less severe either. Lastly, in regards to Lily Collin's stick thin figure, it made me sad. It downright upset me and brought me to tears because that is what I used to strive for. That was me. And yet I STILL wasn't thin enough. I still thought I could lose more weight and I STILL thought I was fat. Seeing her body, well, there was also a very small part that made me sad that I DON'T look like that anymore. As someone with an eating disorder, this is hard to explain to those without eating disorders. But thin, emaciated appearances have a strong hold on those of us with eating disorders, and influence us to the point where, at least for me, I start missing my old body. I miss the comfort and safe feeling that came with being so small. I miss that (false) feeling of strength, confidence, and success. As you can see, it is a bag of mixed emotions. Knowing that Lily Collins lost weight for this part angered me, knowing that they emphasized her size angered me, seeing this portrayal of someone who resembled me at one point saddened me, seeing her thin body and the way she counted calories upset me.

And that's another thing. This film is a dramatic comedy. I am all for using humor to lighten some situations. Sometimes, a little humor can go a long way. But one needs to be careful when using humor because in some situations, well, it just is not warranted. This, I feel is one of those situations. There is nothing funny about having calories consume your mind. In fact, it is one of the most distressing and upsetting symptoms. You obsess about every little calorie that you consume. You lie in bed running a mental check of the calories and what foods you have eaten that day. You worry that it may have exceeded your set number as tears run down your cheeks out of fear and disgust. You went over 'X' amount of calories? Well, you better compensate for tomorrow. And this I do not find to be funny. This is dangerous. This is the part of the disorder that kills. Yes - you heard me - Anorexia and other Eating Disorders are lethal. They can kill you. In fact, they are the mental illness with the highest mortality rate. This is no laughing matter. Now, I know I have not seen the whole film, but I felt compelled to write a reflection after seeing the trailor because, well, it evoked a strong emotional response. I cannot tell others what to do. But I can share my experience and hopefully spread some awareness in my own way. With 13 Reasons Why and now this, I am a little disappointed in Netflix. I think it is important to raise awareness to such dire and critical issues. However, I think that sometimes the ways in which we go about trying to make awareness goes too far, or pushes the envelope so to speak. If you want to learn about eating disorders, talk to those who have gone through it or read about it. Heck, even watch the documentary Thin. But to create all of these movies and TV shows that glamorize mental illness and quite frankly, give young people ideas about these diseases and false representations, is just not okay with me.

A few weeks ago I watched the documentary Embrace. It was wonderful. In fact, I might write a review on it and save my thoughts on Embrace for another day. I am all for awareness and addressing these critical issues, which I feel like Embrace does in a positive, healthy way while still revealing the raw realities of body image in current day society. I just think we need to be more cognizant and careful of what we are putting out there, because we don't know how it will affect others. Could this graphic movie portraying a young girl with an eating disorder promote thinspiration and encourage others to engage in eating disorder behaviors? Could it give a misrepresentation of what all eating disorders are like? I believe it can do both. I cannot say for certain because I have not watched the entire film, but I do not need to and I am certainly not going to. I need to be okay in my recovery. I worked so hard to get where I am, and I'll be damned if I let a film like To The Bone set me back.

So - if you have an eating disorder or are in recovery from an ED - watch if you like, but with caution. I would advise those with eating disorders to steer clear from this film, but if you are going to watch it, make sure you know your triggers. And know that when you start feeling upset or triggered in any way to regress into old behaviors or progress further into behaviors, do yourself a favor and stop watching. It is not worth it. While we may be initially drawn to this film because it portrays a young girl who shares our struggles, don't forget about yourself, your well-being, and your recovery. Don't forget how strong you are and certainly don't forget your worth. You are so much more than your body, and having a thin body won't bring you happiness. Maybe the final message of this film is a positive one, and I hope to God that it is. But in any case, proceed with caution and guard your heart, and your mind.


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