From July 15, 2017
While the film portrays vivid and potentially triggering accounts of the realities of living with an eating disorder, it finally opens the door to more discussion on a topic we often shy away from.
To the Bone, the newest Netflix Original film released yesterday, is centered around Ellen (Lily Collins), a 20-year-old girl suffering from an eating disorder known as anorexia nervosa. She’s a talented artist living in the midst of a complicated family dynamic, including a newly-lesbian mother, an absent father, and a stepmother that’s nothing less than insane. Ellen has been in and out of inpatient facilities six times, and her stepmother decides that it’s time to visit an unconventional doctor (Keanu Reeves) she’s heard about. She enters a group home with six others, and attempts to find herself through new friends, a love interest, therapy sessions, and art. I won’t give the story away because I want you to watch it, but it’s excellent. Really.
As a woman who has struggled (and continues to struggle) against the iron grip of an eating disorder, this movie was refreshing. Yes, you read that right. Finally Hollywood has created an accurate portrayal of eating disorders that will open the door to discussion about a topic that we so often shy away from discussing.
Though I have not suffered from anorexia specifically, the thoughts, routines, and obsessions that Ellen deals with in To the Bone can be extended to anyone that struggles with an eating disorder.
“280 for the pork, 350 for the buttered noodles, 150 for the roll and 75 for butter,” says Ellen, referring to the calories in her dinner. What Ellen says out loud, is what I say to myself before each meal. I look over my plate, count up my calories, and decide how much I can eat the rest of the day. It’s taxing; physically and mentally. Later into the movie, viewers repeatedly see Ellen wrapping her fingers around her upper arm to measure its width, and when her fingers don’t touch, she sighs, defeated. Every person with an eating disorder has their habits. I habitually grab at the fat that settles around my hips, hoping that some day there will be nothing to grab. Ellen also obsessively does sit-ups, so many that her spine bruises from hitting hard surfaces so often. At the height of my eating disorder, I found myself at the gym for hours at a time, working out until I thought I was going to pass out.
Some people see those portrayals as glamorizing eating disorders, and many of said people have taken to the internet to express their disgust. But I see it as a good thing. Someone, namely Director Marti Noxon, finally put that behavior in the public eye, and now those suffering from eating disorders have something *healthy* they can relate to.
Tumblr, Twitter, and other social media outlets have a dark side. Many of them include pro-eating disorder images, text posts, and videos that only hurl victims further into a vicious cycle of their disorder. But people dealing with ED’s are often searching for something to connect to, because most of the time, our family and friends don’t understand the machinations of our disordered minds. So with nothing in pop culture to relate to, we find ourselves on Tumblr staring in the face of a sketched figure with ribs jutting out, sunken cheekbones, and a fully visible spine. We scroll through timelines of Twitter accounts centered around ED’s because “they understand me”. We need something positive to connect to, just like we need therapy, inpatient/outpatient treatment centers, and other resources, and To the Bone can be that thing.
Ellen is not happy that her life is dictated by anorexia. She’s comfortable–just as many victims of ED’s are. Feeling in control of your life is one of the main reasons people develop eating disorders, and this film is an accurate depiction of that. Ellen smiles when she sees her weight go down and she becomes satisfied when her fingers finally touch when wrapped around her upper arm. Though these are potentially triggering scenes, this film isn’t glamorizing, it’s being real.
So I applaud Netflix and the entire team behind To the Bone, because it has finally given the world a raw, real depiction of something 30+ million Americans deal with every day. I encourage you to watch this film. Be cautious if you are recovering from an eating disorder or are currently struggling with one. You know your limits better than I, and you know what you can handle.
As always, feel free to reach out if you need someone to talk to. I am always, always here for you. If you or someone you know is in imminent danger due to an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association Information and Referral Helpline: 1-800-931-2237.