lily collins in hospital gown looking down from to the bone trailer

Why the ‘To The Bone’ Trailer Reinforces a Glamorized View of Anorexia

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The release of the trailer for the upcoming film, “To the Bone,” has been creating some controversy. The film isn’t simple. Lily Collins struggled with an eating disorder in real life and claims to be fully recovered now. She lost a significant amount of weight for the role, a role that, in my opinion, didn’t require her to lose weight. The title itself, “To the Bone,” like many other parts of the trailer, continues to reinforce the dangerous stereotype that you have to look emaciated to struggle with an eating disorder. But the fact that Lily Collins says she is recovered, yet lost weight for this film, I believe reinforces the romanticized idea that someone can choose to have an eating disorder. But to clarify: mental illness is not a choice.

Not to my surprise, the media has chosen to glamorize anorexia as the gold standard of an eating disorder; portrayed by an already stereotypically beautiful, thin, white, cisgender, able-bodied woman. I am currently in recovery from anorexia, but I still constantly question why anorexia has to be the only way we portray eating disorders. There is no certain “look” to an eating disorder, so why are we continuously failing to center stories on marginalized individuals with eating disorders?

Why does it take a more culturally accepted stereotype to play a scripted role in order to engage the public in a dialogue on eating disorders? There are so many people missing from this conversation; so many stories of people who deserve to be heard and be a part of this conversation but are being left out. There needs to be a greater representation and greater diversity in order to fight for inclusive and accessible treatment for all.

The person who Lily Collins portrays is someone’s story, someone’s memoir; but this is the memoir that is told all too often and has now become the singular story. If the media continues to show a homogenized image of what someone with an eating disorder looks like: stereotypes will continue, people will not seek treatment and more lives will be lost to the mental illness with the highest death rate

The word “funny” was used as a testimonial of the film, but nothing about eating disorders is funny. While humor can be helpful at times throughout recovery, I think describing this film as “funny” makes eating disorders out to be something we can laugh about. It hurts me to think others may view a story of this illness as funny when it has caused so much pain.

With this being said, this film is not fully to blame. It is part of the larger social context where all of these things are normalized. This is a larger issue concerned with media literacy, visibility and representation. Visibility is essential, but it has to be productive. It is not true that any visibility is better than none.

To me, this movie is pointless, if not pernicious. It’s detrimental, regressive and capitalizes on society’s need for glamorized voyeurism in the media. Now, more than ever, we need to hear more stories and more voices of recovery from those who have been marginalized.

This piece was originally published on thirdwheelED.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Photo via Netflix YouTube channel.

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Why I'm Supporting Project Heal in Their Decision to Partner With 'To the Bone'

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Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.

Since the official “To the Bone” trailer premiered on June 20, there has been a firestorm on social media — predominately aimed at the director, Marti Noxon, and Project Heal. Much of the discussion has centered around the weight loss of lead actress, Lily Collins, because she is in recovery from anorexia. Noxon has also taken much of heat for casting someone who is in recovery for the role, then asking her to lose weight. Noxon has also been accused of glamorizing anorexia through Lily’s dramatic weight loss and emaciated on-screen body. While Noxon has released statements regarding the anger many in the eating disorder community have with the film, Project Heal is also trying to clear the air and verbalize why they chose to be involved with the project.

While I do not speak for Project Heal, to me, it is evident Project Heal has been a friend for many who are taking their first steps toward eating disorder recovery. The organization has been a source of information for families, friends and those who are willing to take the time, energy and effort required to dig themselves out of the grasp of the deadly disease. It is for this reason I am continuing to support Project Heal as they promote the upcoming Netflix release of “To the Bone.”

Project Heal has been under fire for supporting a film that can be seen as triggering to people who have eating disorders or have struggled with them in the past. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when I would have watched the film in hopes of being “inspired” to eat less and exercise more — to try to hide my disease from those who care about me most. However, if there is one thing recovery has taught me, it is that triggers are everywhere and it is my responsibility to keep my recovery safe. Driving down a few particular country roads in my hometown would force me to almost relive triggering memories. A certain song coming over the car radio could throttle me back in time to when I lived for the eating disorder and the eating disorder defined me. Seeing a woman working out used to force me to compulsively exercise. Triggers were everywhere. While I’m in a healthy place now, and very little triggers my eating disordered thoughts these days, I had to learn no one could protect me from triggers but me. I had to take responsibility for what triggered me and reach out to my support network to help me avoid the temptation. If I wanted to watch movies about eating disorders in hopes it would encourage me to “try harder” to be like the main character, I would vocalize that desire to my closest supporters and safeguard my recovery from my destructive, eating disordered mind. It is for this reason I am choosing to support Project Heal. While Project Heal works hard to ensure no one is triggered by the material they share on social media, it is ultimately up to us — as people in recovery or those who are making strides toward recovery — to take responsibility for what triggers us and avoid it, as challenging as that may be.

I support Project Heal’s decision to be involved in the promotion of “To the Bone” because I truly believe the film will be a great educational tool for those who have never struggled with an eating disorder. It is hard to explain to someone who has never wrestled with the disorder what it is like to have that eating disordered voice living inside your head, dictating your every move. I believe this film seeks to demonstrate the compulsive nature of the disease that stems from the eating disordered voice. 

One criticism I agree with is that it is hard to see another film with an emaciated character, seemingly perpetuating the stereotype you have to “look like” you have an eating disorder. This is where I can step in and advocate for those — like myself — who were never emaciated but were still very sick. The film gives me a chance to share what it is like to live inside an eating disordered mind, regardless of weight and size. This is what Project Heal is also trying to promote — a glimpse into the mind of an individual struggling with an eating disorder.

I believe “To the Bone” will not be a perfect portrayal because every eating disorder manifests a little differently and many have pointed out there are flaws with the film. But I believe the concept is genuine. Project Heal is continuing its mission of spreading awareness and helping those who do not understand eating disorders to get glimpse into the mind of someone who is struggling. I will be supporting Project Heal in this by sharing the film on my social media (with a trigger warning) to help others get an idea of what it was like to live in my disordered mind. I’m choosing to own my recovery and my triggers, knowing what triggers me is half the battle to remain in recovery. On the day this film is released, I will assess where I stand in recovery to ensure I safeguard myself from any potential pitfalls. I encourage others in the throes of the disorder, or in early recovery, to really assess where you are and reach out for help from your supports if you feel triggered by this film. I also ask you to acknowledge the movie may help your support network understand your struggle a little better by watching it.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Screenshot via Netflix YouTube channel.

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The Small Victory That Let Me Know I Was Recovering From My Eating Disorder

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I stepped up to the sink, looking down as I washed my hands. I couldn’t bear the thought of looking into the mirror. If I caught a glimpse of myself, I knew that my eating disorder (Ed) would pick out each and every “flaw” on my body. I would need to fight negative thoughts, potentially making me exhausted for the rest of the day. No, it was much better to look down.

I moved my hands to the towel to dry them, and caught a glimpse of myself. Crap! I braced myself for the onslaught of negative comments that were about to enter my mind.

I look cute today.

What? No comments on my messy hair, imperfect skin, clothing or weight? No thoughts of restricting? Where did Ed go? The mirror is his favorite place to hang out! I was so confused. Something like this had never happened before. I had a positive thought about myself and it didn’t feel fake. I let myself look in the mirror again, for longer this time.

I look cute today.

There it was again! I walked out of the bathroom, flabbergasted. A positive thought? It couldn’t be true. It couldn’t be me. And again, Ed was upon me.

Looking in that mirror, I had a few seconds of myself back. I won a battle today. A positive body thought lets me know I am making progress on my road to recovery.  It may be small, but it served as a reminder that I’m going through all of this for a reason. It may have taken over a year of blood, sweat and tears to get to this place, but I’m excited to be here. Let’s hear it for the small victories!

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via jetFoto.

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23 Signs You May Have an Eating Disorder – From People Who've Been There

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In today’s society, fad diets, exercise trends and juice cleanses cloud our idea of what “health” truly is. It can blur the lines between wanting to be healthier, struggling with disordered eating or struggling with an eating disorder. But an important difference between disordered eating and an eating disorder is the severity in which the “abnormal” and intrusive behaviors around food and body occur.

Personally, I knew my behavior was a real problem just by the intensity and frequency of thoughts I had about food and body that I knew were not typical. They were obsessive, intrusive and always cruel. Being in recovery now, I am able to see even more how unhealthy my thoughts when I was sick were.

To find out when others realized their thoughts and behaviors surrounding food were more than just a habit, we asked people in our Mighty mental health community and eating disorder community to tell us “signs” that made them realize they had an eating disorder. It should be noted that this is not an all-inclusive list or a diagnostic test — just a tool for starting a conversation. If you see yourself in this list, and want to learn more, you can take this screening test provided by the National Eating Disorder Association. You can also visit their website to find treatment near you or call the call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

If you don’t see yourself in this list, and your relationship with food still makes you unhappy, don’t hesitate to still use the resources listed above. Your feelings are valid, and you don’t have to wait to get “bad enough” for help.

Here’s what people in our eating disorder community shared with us: 

1. “I felt worthless when stepping on the scale, regardless of what the number was. If I gained I was useless, if I lost, I clearly was also useless as I could have lost more.” — Hannah T.

2. “I realized there was not a second in my life that my mind wasn’t consumed with thoughts/worries about food. Every decision I made was influenced by what food might be involved. I realized this consumed every inch of my being, and choked me like a heavy dusty blanket.” — Cara A.

3. “The moment I realized I couldn’t stop like I thought I could.” — Staci A.

4. “My desire to be ‘healthy’ was turning into my desire to not eat.”  — Megan H.

5. “I started to hoard sweets, chocolate and other ‘junk foods’ in my room. The initial idea was that when I lost enough weight, I would treat myself to them. But when it actually got to that time, I was too scared.” — Rebecca D.

6. “I first learned about binge eating disorder (BED) in eighth grade. We got new health books and this eating disorder wasn’t in our previous one. I remember sitting in class and our teacher was having us read the chapters as each kid would read a paragraph, then the next kid would read, etc. when we got to BED, I remember trying so hard not to cry in a room full of my peers because, ‘OMG. This is what I do.’ It was a lightbulb that went off. It scared me so badly and gave me a little peace at the same time.” — Tiff K.

7. “I stopped going out to eat and avoided eating with other people as much as possible. I couldn’t stand to eat in front of other people for fear of judgment.” — Ronna H.

8. “I don’t think there was just one thing, but different occurrences together. Some include crying because I didn’t want to work out, but also crying because I didn’t want to get fat, avoiding situations where there was a lot of ‘bad’ foods, being cold on hot days.” — Sam A.

 

9. “I first wondered when I started getting scared of my weight going over a certain number. I remember writing in my diary, ‘Does a person know if she’s anorexic? I hope I’m not.’ I was 12-years-old at the time. I realized that I actually did have an eating disorder many months later when I was lying to my mom and my friends about what I was eating.” — Emily D.

10. “There was no ‘one sign.’ It was a combination of many little things that, taken separately, seemed perfectly harmless to me and even to others. It wasn’t until I had the realization that these little things were connected that I started to understand they were not harmless and I had a very real problem. I had to start to see the big picture before I was able to recognize that I needed help.”  — Robbie K.

11. “It was all I thought about. My entire day revolves around the topic of food. I would bring every thought I had back to it or find a way to focus on it even more. I realized that it was dangerous when I couldn’t function around others because I was so absorbed in it. I had to leave school, couldn’t work or go to social events.” — Michelle B.

12. “When the numbers on the scale were used as the way to validate myself and my worth.” — Cheryl C.

13. “After I went from feeling happy and motivated to ‘eating healthy,’ to suddenly feeling guilty no matter what I ate. I started feeling ashamed, embarrassed and guilty for eating — even in the midst of my irrational anorexic thoughts I could see that that was a sign things were getting too far.” — Ella K.

14. “When I realized I was really unable to stop myself was a big moment.” — Laura G.

15. “I realized I had an issue when I was up crying at 3 a.m. because I was thirsty and the fear of gaining even water weight terrified me. Or when I would watch documentaries about the anorexia and bulimia to ‘punish myself’ for not being skinny enough. I am still ashamed of my diagnosis because of the way my body looks. You just have to surround yourself with positive people and remind yourself that you’re worth more than a number on a scale.” — Kirsten D.

16. “Avoiding parties or gatherings where food might be involved.” — Julia W.

17. “The biggest sign was that I spent more time obsessing over numbers and staring in mirrors than I did living or eating. My whole life revolved around that scale, those sizes, each calorie.”  — Jordyn D.

18. “When I couldn’t get through a grocery store without a panic attack.” — Abby L.

19. “I realized my binge-eating disorder was real when I had $20 in my bank account and spent all but $3 on food for me to binge on by myself that night instead of putting gas in my car since my gas light was on.”  — Caitlin A.

20. “When me and my family went out to dinner and the food wasn’t ‘right.’ It made me so anxious I broke down crying.” — Kayden L.

21. “The very idea of eating made me feel ashamed of myself. And seeing people eat less than I was was upsetting.”  — Nicole M.

22. “When I couldn’t enjoy mealtime with my husband and children without great anxiety about what I was eating.”  -Bethany D.

23. “Thinking of food all the time.” — Charlie H.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Why I Will No Longer Keep My Eating Disorder a Secret

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A secret — something often tied to feelings of shame or embarrassment. Something you would only tell to your closest friends or family members, or maybe keep it to yourself forever. Something that should never be known by the public.

Well, everyone knows my secret – and it was my choice.

For about half of my life, my eating disorder was something I kept hidden, but unfortunately, hiding it gave it a sanctuary. Since nobody knew, it could easily continue to exist until the external symptoms gave it away. And I came to realize that I could not fully recover until I left it without a place to hide.

So I posted on Facebook about my history and my commitment to recovery. I had seen others post about their journeys before, but I was worried that people would think of me differently after they knew. After all, I wasn’t just telling my close friends my deepest secret – I was also telling that girl I met at summer camp, that guy from my middle school theater class, and the family friends from holiday parties.

I didn’t want to be known only as the girl with the eating disorder.

So I became the girl who harnessed the power of words. The girl with the wild imagination. The girl who always had a bad joke or pun. The girl with the nose ring. The girl with the leadership potential. The girl who liked alternative music. The girl who savored the outdoors. I made sure there was more that defined me other than my struggles.

So what is it like to go through life knowing that everyone I meet knows my secret? It has definitely made me a lot more careful. Friends will come to me asking for advice on how to help themselves or their friends battling similar issues. It makes me more aware of the ways that I talk about food and dieting around others. I realize I have the power to change the way we discuss these common topics.

It still makes me wonder if others are watching what I eat and think differently of me. It is as if food has become fragile — I have to try twice as hard to show that I won’t fall to pieces if someone wants to converse about their meal.

But it has made me free. It allowed me to move past my guarded nature and realize there are others who care and I am never as alone as I believe.

Everyone’s recovery is different. A major part of my recovery was making my darkest secret not a secret anymore. If you are considering sharing your own story, please know that most reactions will be positive and you can learn a lot about yourself in the process. Even if we have never met, you have my support.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Everste

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What Happens When You Make Friends With 'Empty'

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Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.

I don’t really think I understood the word “empty” until last year.

I didn’t understand that “empty” could be a state of being. I didn’t understand that “totally empty” could exist right alongside “absolutely full.” I didn’t know that after a certain threshold, the degrees of emptiness cease to matter. I quit rocking back and forth between full and empty. After a while, “full” vanished from my life. I just went along until I felt it. Empty again. It’s that same ache that burrows into the pit of my stomach and spreads through the marrow in my bones.

I didn’t realize I was courting a darkness that was deeper than I could understand.

I didn’t realize I was making friends with Empty.

I made Empty a bed. I invited Empty in. I let Empty live alongside me, day in and day out.

I didn’t know.

I wish I’d known.

When Empty is your friend, you’re scared to sit still. You’re scared to relax. If Empty is a good friend — and Empty tells you over and over again that it’s your very best friend — you want to believe Empty wants the best for you.

Empty paints pictures of a spring breeze. Of balloons floating through the clouds. Dancing and loving, unhindered by your feet or your “too heavy” skin. The way Empty tells it, you aren’t a person anymore. You’re a collection of “could be’s” — a bundle of wonderful dreams and possibilities. Empty spins you around the room and you laugh. That sounds beautiful, doesn’t it?

When Empty is your friend, Empty starts to take up the space you used to count as sacred. Empty lives in silence. Empty gets to stay warm under the covers watching you shiver and drag to the harsh outside. Empty is endless counting and unending lists. Empty whispers, asking for more and more and more…

But Empty reminds you of that breeze. The balloon. The dancing. Empty sings beautiful songs explaining how it will all matter in the end. Empty promises it will find a place of its own just as soon as it helps you reach that elusive dream. But… Empty doesn’t do dishes. Empty doesn’t buy groceries or pitch in with rent. Empty isn’t a good roommate. When you stop to think, it doesn’t really seem like Empty cares.

I don’t let Empty sing songs anymore.

Empty isn’t gone. It still lurks in the basement bedroom with the too-big mirror on the wall and the freshly made bed. I invited Empty in. I let Empty seduce me. I’m ashamed, but Empty is a part of me now.

If I could go back, I’d like to believe I’d make a different choice. Slam the door. Lock the windows. Hide away until Empty gave up knocking and went looking for love elsewhere. I’d like to think, given another chance, that’s what I’d do.

But… I don’t really know, do I?

If I’m honest with myself, I sometimes want to be lost in that summer breeze Empty promised. I want to dance and love without a second thought. I want the wonder that comes from floating through the clouds…. Weightless. Free. Untethered. Empty.

But, Empty didn’t tell me the whole story.

Empty didn’t tell me how scary it is to not feel the ground under your feet. How, as you begin to float, you remember you aren’t a breeze. You’re a person. Balloons never come back.

When you make friends with Empty, the possibilities seem endless.

But, when you make friends with Empty, it’s far too easy to float away.

When you make friends with Empty, you realize…

You are Empty.

(And if you aren’t careful, that’s all you’ll be.)

You can follow this journey on Hello My Name Is.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure.

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