This Sunday, despite of a lot of hesitation, I decided to snuggle up in my bed and give To the Bone, a Netflix movie about a young woman named Eli with a severe eating disorder eating disorder, a whirl.
I was avoiding watching the movie (and writing about it) for a lot of reasons. On one level, I was intimidated to watch it because the movie has caused quite the stir on the internet. Therapists, doctors, survivors- all people I incredibly respect, took strong and even heated opinions on the matter and part of me thought *I don’t want my opinion to be the wrong one. * Finally, on a deeper level, I was avoiding the movie because I didn’t want to feel whatever emotions I have healed and have nicely tucked away since my recovery.
Most of the buzz about the movie has been negative- some say it portrays a limited perspective, some say it’s triggering, others say it’s irresponsible, etc. I went into viewing the movie thinking I would agree with that. To be honest, I agree with a lot of those opinions. But I think the good things outweigh the bad especially since the movie sheds light on a serious illness that is usually swept under the rug. Anywayyy….
I was breezing through the movie emotionally unscathed until the rainfall scene. During the scene, the doctor (Keanu Reeves, an interesting casting choice) takes his patients to an art installation which simulates an indoor rain shower. Upon entering the dark room, the doctor asks the patients why they think he took them there. There’s a stunning pause and then the only male patient at the inpatient care facility replies, “Because we’re alive.” He steps into the rain and starts to dance. At that moment, with his narrow silhouette moving slow and strong in the rain, something in my brain clicked. I started to ball my’ eyes out. These weren’t cute little tears; I was full-on blubbering. I wasn’t expecting much of an emotional response at all since I’ve been recovered for almost 6 years. Low and behold, these were big shift tears.
This movie helped me realize in a very clear way that recovery really starts when your perspective broadens from a hyper-focused perspective (perhaps the need to “be skinny”) to “there’s more to life than this.” On a conscious level this is something I’ve always known as it makes logical sense. However, during the height of my disorder, I never felt that perspective as I was fixated on such a narrow focus. When I started to personally experience the “more to life” factor, (dating, deepening my relationships, family love, going to college) the healing started. This “more to life” factor is shown throughout the movie as Eli experiences other beautiful parts of life and chooses to heal. Viewers watch her fall in love, heal her relationship with her mother, and hit rock bottom (on literal rocks, another interesting choice). Perhaps this is one of the reasons why most women and men suffer with eating disorders when they’re young- the “more to life” factor tends to come with age and perspective. In short, this perspective shift needs to be felt to recover. This was a huge component of my recovery that I hadn’t consciously realized/put into words until I watched To the Bone. To the Bone gave me the power to reflect on my recovery in a new way and deeply realize where my strength came from during that time. For that, among several other reasons, I support this movie.
On the flip side, I do want to mention one negative part of the movie - and I plan to write an article on this subject soon. To my beautiful, strong readers out there: Just because you’ve never checked into an inpatient treatment center doesn’t mean you don’t have an eating disorder. It also doesn’t mean you’re healthy enough. To the Bone, made me question the severity of my disorder, which is like telling someone who was sexually asssaulted that their experience wasn't that bad. While my eating disorder fully existed, I was never officially diagnosed by a doctor. I never went to inpatient treatment. I was not depressed. I was not completely emaciated, I could not wrap my pointer finger and thumb around my arm like Eli and I never almost died. Just because none of those things are happening to you right now, doesn’t mean you’re ok. To The Bone illustrates the worst of the worst case (besides death), and also a very stereotyped case (white, heterosexual, young girl). Everyone should know this before watching the movie.
I am curious to hear your thoughts on the movie. Reach out! I love to read your e-mails and comments.