You may not know this about me, but I had disordered eating all my life. When I heard of To The Bone, a story of a girl with anorexia nervosa, I knew it’d hit a nerve. Below are some of my thoughts regarding this depiction of eating disorders, based on my experience. TW: discussions of eating disorders and disordered behaviors/thinking.
Rituals and Eating Disorders
Most depictions of eating disorders tend to reduce it to stubborn behavior. But, eating disorders are maintained by rituals. Eating, spitting out the food, repeat. I remember seeing relatives cut the food really small, and I learned that trick ever since. Counting the bites. Sit ups.
It’s weird seeing other people do it, because then you realize how destructive these rituals can be. Of course, the story’s premise is beyond the rituals, though.
Social Media and the Glorification of Eating Disorders
Look, we don’t talk about these things enough in a realistic way. Missing periods. Failed pregnancies. Body hair growing heavily. This movie is a bit more honest about how eating disorders look and feel. Measuring your body, counting calories obsessively.
But, what this story also does is show the reality of eating disorders in how they impact different people. For example, I like that there was a plus size girl also in the home Dr. Beckham set up. She talked about binging (something I relate to).
In addition, the premise of the story is that Eli posted something triggering on Tumblr, which resulted in someone’s death. In doing this, the film is self-aware and draws a thin line between providing some detail while cautiously hiding some things that could give people ideas.
As Eli’s sister says, some people look at those with eating disorders as though they are role models or heroes. They try to copy them, because we live in such a thin-idolized world.
The Breaking Point
The whole “mom feeding child” thing feels very specific to this particular story, and so I can’t actually be too mad about it. I actually found it rather healing. Just reconnecting Eli with her mother and therefore back to her origins. Even showing her going home back to her stepmother and half-sister was a gentle way of showing that the stakes are high. Eli recognizes her importance, I think.
I also like that she’s not magically healed. If anything, I find that eating disorders are a life-long battle. Or perhaps this is the case for me at this point in my life. Maybe one day I can talk about it more openly. But, I can simply say that I related to this film so much.
If you’re curious about anorexia, bulimia, eating disorders, or disordered thinking and/or eating, check out this movie. It could be a painful experience for you, though. I have to caution you to steer clear if you can be triggered by discussions of eating disorders, disordered thinking, disordered rituals/habits. We need to have this conversation, though. Awareness levels when it comes to these topics are low. Just go on Tumblr. Look at the Fitness inspo blogs. Look at Instagram feeds. Take a look at advertisements, movies, families shaming people for eating things, guilt-tripping folks about what and how they eat. So much of this film resonates because it taps into how these pressures can affect a person.
Overall, stories like this need to be told. They are not “fun,” I know. And, they can be upsetting, but this is the reality for so many people. Again, all I can say is that I have had an eating disorder and disordered thinking/habits for a long time. This movie felt truthful to my experience. It’s on Netflix, if you’re up to seeing this journey unfold.