Why "To The Bone" is everything that's wrong with how we view eating disorders

Left: Lily Collins in "To The Bone". Right: Me.

Left: Lily Collins in "To The Bone". Right: Me.

Last night the trailer of “To The Bone” popped up on my Facebook feed. As someone who has battled anorexia for five years, I was obviously very intrigued. Not to mention, excited—everything I felt and everything I’d gone through was actually going to be talked about. Would a Netflix movie finally help the world understand?

Nervously I clicked play. And for the 2 minutes and 24 seconds that followed, I was horrified. Triggered. Upset. Angry. Sad. Disgusted. Oh, and did I mention horrified?!

This isn’t a film exposing the ugly truth of anorexia. This isn’t a film that’s going to erase stigma, change the conversation around eating disorders or help those who are suffering. It won’t open anyone’s eyes or make the girl who think she’s just “being healthy” realize she has an actual illness.

No, this is a film that perpetuates the myth that eating disorders are glamorous. That you have to be a bony, white girl to qualify as anorexic. That if you just eat less and do a few more sit-ups, you too can look like Lily Collins.

It’s a film that puts the “beautifully broken” girl on a pedestal as something to strive for. As something young girls want to be. As something that will get them attention and love and worth.

And let me tell you from personal experience...anorexia is *nothing* like that. It won’t make you pretty or mysterious or perfectly damaged so that you can be saved and live happily ever after.

Instead it will strip the life away from you in the ugliest ways possible. You’ll lose hair, weight, the ability to feel and, most importantly, the people you love. You will flirt with death every single day, trapped inside your own mind, desperately wanting to be free but overwhelmingly afraid of letting go. Of giving up the facade of control you think you have when you count every calorie in the toothpaste you brush your decaying teeth with or dizzily run an extra minute on the treadmill in hopes of burning off the piece of gum you chewed for lunch.

And if you are one of the few that fully recover, you’ll never really be free. You’ll always be haunted by anorexia, always be aware of what you were and what your disordered mind secretly still wants to be. You’ll never completely get rid of the fears or the calorie counts or the way you compare your fleshy body to what you see on Instagram, no matter how much you squash those thoughts down.

Because real life isn’t a movie. And anorexia doesn’t look like Lily Collins crying perfect tears as she looks perfectly beautiful and perfectly hurting.

Yes, we need to talk about eating disorders. Yes, we need to bring them into the public eye and start meaningful conversations, conversations that lead to change and new understanding. But this is not the way to do it. This is the way to more stigma, to more body image issues, to more people believing that anorexia is a “pretty thin white girl’s” problem.

Let’s start seeing eating disorders for what they are: painful, life-threatening illnesses. Illnesses that are hurting women and men of all different backgrounds. Illnesses that need to be understood and treated, instead of romanticized and whispered about in secret.

Take it from the girl who has been fighting anorexia for five years and is *still* struggling every single day. It’s not easy, it’s not pretty and it’s certainly not what “To The Bone” describes. It’s real life. And it’s my life. And the lives of millions of others. So making light of that in a misunderstood movie? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

How to love the real you

In a world full of Snapchat filters and photo editing apps, it's easy to lose sight of the real you. You know, the you without puppy ears, the you with a pesky zit on your forehead, the you with crow's feet by your eyes. The you that hasn't been retouched or filtered or changed. The you that looks back when you look in the mirror.

No matter who you are, it can be super tough some days to like your reflection. And when we get bombarded by perfectly airbrushed selfies on Insta, it gets even harder. Even when those selfies are our own, just edited to the nth degree.

Because you start looking at what, in your mind, you could be and comparing it to what you are. And suddenly what you are is not nearly enough. 

Take the pictures above, for example. The one on the left is me with zero makeup and bedhead. I was actually feeling okay about it until I put it side by side with the one on the right (aka me with the "pretty filter"). Suddenly, the one on the left was awful. I started picking apart *every* little thing. It was like a magnifying glass on all of my flaws.

Talk about a major pity party over here. So I (figuratively) slapped myself on the face and woke up! We don't live our lives in filters. Or on social media. Or to be perfect.

We live our lives to laugh with our friends, to hug our families, to enjoy a big cone of ice cream on a summer day. We live our lives to wake up to the smell of coffee, to feel the cold ocean on our toes, to sing along to Selena in the car with the windows down.

We live our lives for *so* many amazing memories and experiences. And guess what they all have in common?

They have nothing to do with how we look or what we weigh.

That truth is such a big part of why I recover, why I want to be free of any stupid food rules and why I try to help the people around me do the same. Learning to love the real you as you are (aka without a filter, without Photoshop and without restriction or diets) is super tough...but if you keep in mind how insignificant your outer appearance is, it helps. At least it does for me.

Remember that no amount of perfect selfies can ever make you smile the way a slice of birthday cake celebrating your mama can. And that's more important and more valuable than the number of likes on your Instagram.