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Why I Believe We Should Give 'To the Bone' a Break

Last week, my social media newsfeeds flooded with negative comments and links to articles denouncing the preview for an upcoming Netflix movie, “To the Bone.”

A friend from treatment called me about it. Another friend asked for my opinion that evening over drinks. Everyone wanted to know what I thought. The truth was, I hadn’t even viewed the trailer.

As a woman very deep in eating disorder recovery, I was drawn to this movie due to the overwhelming media response just from the trailer. I watched and rewatched it. I read every article I could find. I planned to form an opinion after I saw the movie.

Everyone deserves to have his or her story told. Marti Noxon, the writer and director, has shared on several occasions that the movie is a glimpse into her struggle with anorexia. Critics are faulting the movie due to the stereotypical appearance of the main character, Ellen: a rail-thin, white young woman. They argue the movie fails to acknowledge the diversity of people struggling with eating disorders. I believe even if Ellen’s is not a mirror of your struggle, you may still identify with her.

A huge part of my eating disorder recovery has been facing triggers as they come each day. This was not something I was initially ready for or something I willingly wanted to fix. But I had to realize: I will never be fully recovered if I am set back by content from the media. I’ve had to learn to brush off comments about my new size and to not participate in discussions about fad diets. I’ve had to choose to make recovery-focused decisions even when I knew I would feel more gratified to sink back into old habits. If watching this movie is not a recovery-focused decision for you — or if you just have no desire to see it — you can make the choice not to watch it.

While every movie condenses a conflict into about 90 minutes and ultimately simplifies a struggle, the truth is recovery from an eating disorder is possible. Longitudinal studies indicate that 60 percent of people struggling eventually recover from anorexia at some point in their lives. I believe it is important for young and seemingly vulnerable viewers to realize those struggling can recover. While a happy ending is cliché and may simplify the recovery process, it shares a message of hope. I believe young people need to hear life can go on.

I’m not saying this is a movie everyone must see. I am simply advocating we choose not to judge the movie because the content makes us uncomfortable. I have found I’ve had to get very uncomfortable and share my story to fully recover. Nixon has every right to share her story, too. When we can share our stories, we have the ability to offer insight, advocacy and hope.

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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Screenshot via Netflix YouTube channel.

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