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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.

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Screenshot via Netflix YouTube channel.

Originally published: June 28, 2017
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