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How I Feel About the 'To the Bone' Trailer as Someone in Anorexia Recovery

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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 have been counting down the days for the premiere of the film, “To the Bone.” The trailer was just released and the controversy is already well on its way. Similar to the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” this film seems to either be “raising awareness about eating disorders and eliminating the stigmas” or “taking a sensitive topic and turning it into entertainment while triggering those who struggle with eating disorders.” I believe we are all entitled to our own opinions, however, as someone who was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa two years ago, I feel inclined to contribute to this conversation.

This film is going to trigger those who struggle with an eating disorder or have struggled with one in the past.

Triggers. I am triggered every single day. In the grocery aisle as I walk past the laxatives, “slim fast” drinks and “weight loss” pills. I am triggered when I am waiting in the aisle at the cash register and the magazine headline reads, “How To Lose 15 Pounds In 15 Days.” I am triggered when I am at the gym and I see the treadmill I fell off in the past because I hadn’t eaten. I am triggered when I compare myself to other girls. I am triggered when I see an old picture of myself. I am triggered when I see a pack of sugar-free gum or a Diet Coke. I am triggered every time someone talks to me about their weight loss and/or weight gain. I am triggered when I walk past a scale — something that used to produce a number that determined the content of my day, and on most occasions, my self-worth. I won’t list every trigger, but I hope what you can take away from this is that I am triggered every single day. Every single day. I have restored my weight, I eat at least three meals a day, but I am still triggered. All of the time. So yes, this film may be triggering for some, but I also think it has an important and powerful message.

This film is making entertainment out of a sensitive, serious topic.

I agree with half of this statement. I do believe it is a very sensitive, serious topic. “Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness” (National Institute of Mental Health, 2017). The statistics speak for themselves – for those who live in Australia, it was estimated that “9% of the total Australian population is affected by eating disorders” (National Eating Disorders Collaboration, 2016). And for my Canadians, “10% of individuals who struggle with anorexia die as a result of health problems or suicide” (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2016). Despite these statistics, as terrifying as they may be, the stigmas still very much exist. It’s as if our anxiety around food and our deep dislike for our bodies — and ultimately ourselves — isn’t enough to be taken seriously. The stigma often contributes to long waiting times at the doctor’s office, shame and isolation. Eating disorders are not about food and they are not about weight. It is not a diet, and it is not self-discipline. It is a mental illness. In my opinion, entertainment is the only way to spark a conversation with society at large. If people aren’t interested in mental health or are personally affected by it, they probably will not take the time to educate themselves on it. However, it seems everyone has time for entertainment — do you see where I am going with this?

For those of you who are unaware, Lily Collins, the lead actress in the film personally struggled with anorexia. So, before you jump to conclusions, please think about how triggering it was for her to take on this role. Although I have only watched the trailer and I cannot be certain of how this film will portray eating disorders, I am confident it will spark an important conversation — the trailer already has, after all. I don’t care what your opinions are on this controversial spectrum, but I am just grateful you’re on it and are thinking about the implications of this movie. I am grateful people are talking about it — please, keep talking about it.

If you are in a place where your eating disorder makes all of your decisions — I am here for you. I have personally experienced that isolating, debilitating place. Please know you are not alone. You did not choose this for yourself — an eating disorder is not a choice. For those of you who do not know what it is like to have an eating disorder, think about how many times in a day you interact with food. Now imagine the most anxious you have ever been in your life. Many of us experience that feeling of anxiety every single time we are faced with the terrifying obstacle of eating a meal.

Many of us struggling with eating disorders isolate ourselves from all social interactions. Why, you ask? Most social interactions involve food. Many of us are so terrified of food, we avoid it. Eating disorders are psychological illnesses. Yes, they have physical complications of course, but you may not see the often dark, self-destructive thoughts.

Talking about it — this is the only way we can eliminate the stigma. This film isn’t just about anorexia, it isn’t just about eating disorders — it’s about mental health. It’s about closing the gap between physical and mental illnesses. Thank you, to all those involved with the production of “To the Bone.” I believe you are sparking an important, much needed conversation. And to those who are struggling, I stand beside you. Your voice needs to be heard. We are not alone. You are not alone. It’s time, let’s talk about 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.

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Screenshot photo via Netflix YouTube channel.

Originally published: June 22, 2017
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