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Please Stop Sharing How Lily Collins Lost Weight for '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.

Like most mental illnesses, eating disorders are difficult to understand from the outside looking in, so it’s reasonable those who’ve been there want to see a portrayal of their experiences. That seems to be the premise for Netflix’s film “To The Bone,” where actress Lily Collins plays the role of Ellen, a girl struggling with anorexia. The movie itself is based off of the experiences of director Marti Noxon, who wanted to shed light on the illness.

Collins has been pretty transparent about her own past struggles with anorexia and what it meant to play Ellen. She opened up to Refinery29 about the role, but as I read through the interview (which I’m not linking to intentionally), all I could do was cringe with disappointment. The interview questions dove immediately into how Collins prepared for the role, and landed on the question everyone was really wondering, “How did you lose the weight?”

Collins said that throughout her preparation and the filming of the movie, she was carefully monitored by coworkers and a team of doctors and dietitians; explaining she lost weight in a “healthy way.”

As someone who has lived through an eating disorder, I think attaching the word “healthy” to how she obtained the thin-frame of Ellen is detrimental to those struggling, those in recovery, those who have never struggled and those who are susceptible to the messages that can aid in the development of eating disorders.

In addition, the interview included details of what “kinds” of foods she avoided, and how she lost weight while maintaining “enough energy” to actually fulfill the role. This information is completely inappropriate, and unnecessarily triggering to those in the midst of an eating disorder.

Please stop sharing how Lily Collins lost weight, because for those who are struggling, this portrayal could feel like an impossible standard and expectation to compare their own illness to. I so clearly remember being 18 and in treatment for the first time and believing I wasn’t “sick enough” because I didn’t look “thin” enough. But the truth is, an eating disorder affects everyone in its own awful and deceptive way. There is no “healthy way” to restrict yourself from nourishment — but conversations like this make it seem like getting to, and maintaining, a low weight is feasible. And after working and living in the eating disorder sphere, I’m pretty sure no dietician I have seen or know would endorse this.

Please stop sharing how Lily Collins lost weight, because for those in recovery, this could be incredibly confusing to their own recovery process. Just like an eating disorder is specific to each person, so too is recovery. Between the millions of messages we are bombarded with about health and weight and appearance, it can be so challenging to redefine a new version of “healthy.” It’s dangerous to imply there’s some way out there to get extremely “thin” in a “healthy way.” On top of that, no one has talked about what it meant for Collins to gain the weight that she lost back. It can be incredibly difficult to break free from the eating disorder mindset, even if you have been in recovery or recovered for years. Anorexia may present primarily as physical symptoms, but so much of it is mental, and I can’t help but be skeptical and concerned for Collins mental well-being.

Please stop sharing how Lily Collins lost weight, because for those who have never struggled, this perpetuates societies infatuation with conversations about weight and appearance. It also reinforces what it means to “be anorexic” or “become anorexic” — to restrict food intake to the point of emaciation. But what about the long list of other eating disorders that never get talked about? What about those who are struggling and don’t find a support system or a boy who “saves them”? 

Please stop sharing how Lily Collins lost weight, because there are young minds who are currently being shaped by the media. I can’t help but be concerned for the young boys and girls soaking in the messages around them. I think about the daughters, sisters, nieces, sons and nephews who I hope will grow into people who find their worth in the content of their character, not their appearance. It scares me that we are adding to the conversation in ways that could make them believe differently. By adding focus to Collins’ weight-loss, we reinforce what it means to be worthy and beautiful.

Although I am grateful that attention is being brought to an illness that is commonly misunderstood, we need to continue to remember the focus should be on bringing light to eating disorders as a mental illness, and not on losing weight. I hope that when the movie actually comes out, my hope becomes a reality. As for right now, my concern remains for the true well-being of Collins, the eating disorder community and the community at large.

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.

Screenshot via Netflix

Originally published: June 22, 2017
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