The Mighty Logo

To People in Eating Disorder Recovery Who Want to Watch 'To the Bone'

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

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.

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 two minutes I saw of the movie in the trailer, I believe it is not meant for those struggling with eating disorders or people who are in eating disorder recovery. 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 they do a good job at depicting a young girl with anorexia, I believe that making this movie was a bit negligent and insensitive to some of its viewers.

Let me back up. I am not one that generally believes we need to tiptoe around issues to not “offend” anyone. I do not find this trailer/film offensive per se. And I fully believe we are all responsible for ourselves, and if we struggle with an eating disorder, we are responsible for our own recovery. That being said, for many with eating disorders, it can be so easy to fall back into old ways. And with this film coming out, it is also easy for those who struggle or have struggled with an eating disorder to be drawn to the film because of their own history and experiences. I believe this can be dangerous. If you are aware of your own triggers and are 100 percent certain that this will not affect you, then by all means watch it. 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 two minute glimpse of the movie, I experienced a plethora of emotions, including being somewhat triggered.

Oh boy, where to begin…

It was hard to hear Lily Collins lost weight for this part. I understand they want to make it as realistic as possible, but I believe 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 worry about her well-being and recovery. Second, to see an emaciated young girl on the screen gives people the idea that all eating disorders look the same, and that this is what anorexia looks like — which, to be clear, is not always 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.

In regards to Lily Collins’s 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 didn’t think I was thin enough. I still thought I could lose more weight and I still thought I was “fat.” In seeing her body, there was a very small part that made me sad that I don’t look like that anymore. As someone with an eating disorder, this can be hard to explain to those without eating disorders. But thin, maybe even emaciated appearances may 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 from my disordered behaviors. 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 they emphasized her bones was unsettling. 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, I believe it just is not warranted. This, I feel is one of those situations. In the trailer, they hint it is humorous how she knows calories inside and out. To me, there is nothing funny about having calories consume your mind. In fact, it is one of the most distressing and upsetting symptoms I experienced. I obsessed about every little calorie I consumed. I laid in bed, running a mental check of the calories and what foods I ate that day. I worried it may have exceeded my set number, as tears ran down my cheeks in fear and disgust. If I went over a certain amount of calories, I felt I had to compensate the next day. And this I do not find to be funny. This is dangerous. This is the part of the disorder that kills. We need to remember 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.

I know I have not seen the whole film, and maybe there are some funny parts put in that are justified, but I felt compelled to write a reflection after seeing the trailer because it evoked a strong emotional response in me. 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 sometimes the ways in which we go about this 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, in my opinion, glamorize mental illness and quite frankly, give young people ideas about these diseases and false representations, is just not OK with me.

A few weeks ago, I watched the documentary, “Embrace.” It was wonderful. 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 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 am certainly not going to. I need to be OK in my recovery. I worked so hard to get where I am, and I will not let a film like “To the Bone” set me back.

So, if you have an eating disorder or are in recovery from an eating disorder, watch if you like, but please do so 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. If you are starting to feel upset or are triggered in any way, please stop watching. I believe it is not worth it. While we may be initially drawn to this film because it portrays a young girl who shares our struggles, please 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 it is. But in any case, please proceed with caution and guard your heart and mind.

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.

Originally published: June 26, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home