Dear Netflix, Eating Disorders Are Not Just For Skinny White Girls

Dear Netflix, Eating Disorders Are Not Just For Skinny White Girls

"To The Bone" is the kind of movie I would have loved when I was in the midst of my eating disorder.
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When I was 13, a friend gave me a blue woven bracelet from a trip to Guatemala. She was a thin and lanky teen, and didn’t realize that the bracelets wouldn't fit me, since my wrists were larger than hers. But I still kept the bracelet, to show my appreciation for the gesture.

And then I let it sit and gather dust on a shelf for the next year or so.

I began to develop an eating disorder the following year. My initial goal was to be thin enough to wear the bracelet. After a few months I could, and I needed a new goal. This time, I set out to measure my wrist by wrapping my fingers around them, and seeing if all four could reach all the way around.

I still do this from time to time, though I now consider myself to be in recovery.

Not as a goal anymore, but to check to make sure I’m not tricking myself into covering up any sort of relapse. This is not at all a unique habit. In fact, the protagonist of Netflix’s new film "To The Bone" does exactly this in the film, commenting on the desired arm width "no bigger than a silver dollar."

Eli/Ellen, played by Lily Collins, is a 20-year-old suffering from anorexia nervosa. The film follows her struggle through inpatient treatment lead by the charmingly outlandish physician, played by none other than Keanu Reeves.

Admittedly, I was dumbfounded when I first saw the trailer.

Another f*cking movie about a rich white girl with an eating disorder.

Yes, it follows all the same tropes. And yes, elements of it matched up with my own life pretty well. Just like the protagonist, I’m from Los Angeles, I have a messy family life, and I have a constant reference guide of calorie count playing in the back of my head.

The problem is that this is not what all eating disorders look like.

The film makes it seem like you have to be drastically underweight for your illness to be considered a "real problem." Personally, when I was at my worst I actually looked my best. My muscles were lean and toned from late nights exercising off calories, and my skin lit up from afternoon jogs around my neighborhood. I wasn't eating, but I wasn't losing any weight either.

This is the kind of movie I would have loved when I was in the midst of my eating disorder.

Just triggering enough to make me feel like my value will always be in my appearance, this film honestly left me in a state where I had a hard time eating any dinner that night. While I appreciate the brief trigger warning at the beginning of the film, I do not think it accurately portrays the dangers of what this film is about to portray.

Recovery is not simple or easy.

It is not the good-humored drama portrayed in this film. It's not flirting on dates by spitting out food and it’s not as easy as tough love and a desire to live. Talking about recovery, and eating disorders in general, is not simple or easy. You don't want to tell someone too much for fear of giving them tricks of their own. I know when I was at my worst, I looked to books and documentaries about eating disorders for tips and tricks, not as a way to understand what was happening to me.

One of my favorite poets is Blythe Baird, who openly discusses her own experience with an eating disorder in her poetry. This is taken from her poem entitled Relapse:

"Last night, I painted my nails when I was hungry. I can't eat until the polish is dry. I don’t want to go into more detail because what if you mistake this poem for an instruction manual? I don't know how to talk about the rabbit hole without accidentally inviting you to follow me down it, When recovery is not all yoga mats and tea and avocados it is work. It is reminding myself that sucking on ice cubes does not count as dinner… every time you asked if I was full I heard you say fat, but I am trying so hard not to do that."

That being said, I would not recommend this movie to anyone recovering from an eating disorder. I’m not even sure I would recommend it to someone who considered themselves to be "recovered." I would advise that teens steer clear of it and its potentially triggering imagery. I know when I first developed an eating disorder, it was films like this one that convinced me to continue my "fight to be thin."

And on top of everything, the heteronormative love subplot was entirely unnecessary, and simply a distraction from any sort of message that the film was trying to convey. You do not recover from an eating disorder just because you fall in love - you recover because you want to fight to stay around for the ones you love. And to top it all off, the film still managed to perpetuate the trope of this manic pixie dream girl who is saved by the only two men in her life that she can trust - the doctor and the love interest.

While in the middle of watching the movie a friend who also struggles with disordered eating texted me and asked if I’d ever heard of it. Coincidentally, we both happened to be watching it at the same time, just one day after it’s Netflix release date.

We were both eager to view it, if not to critique it than to compare our own disorders to that of the main character. It’s a toxic want, this desire to consume media that you know will only hurt you in the end. There is nothing we could gain from watching this film - it’s not like we didn’t already know the story. We’ve lived the story. And now it seems we’re just taking notes for the next chapter.

And it should say something that here we both were, 24 hours after its release date, completely engrossed.

We do not need another movie about a white girl who doesn’t want to eat. While I appreciate the film mentioned that it's "not actually about the food," they did not continue to explain this in a way that advocated for the mental health of the character or the viewers. And while I admittedly fit many of the tropes in this film, that does not justify this perpetuated image as the "only type of person" that could develop an eating disorder.

Eating disorders are deadly illnesses that do not discriminate.

Gay, straight, poly, young, old, black, white, Native, Chicano, Chinese, trans, male, non binary… - the illness doesn’t give a shit. And it’s time we start recognizing that and showing these types of examples in our modern media. Because by now, we’ve all seen or heard some terrible story about a young white girl whose illness killed her. We all know that particular narrative. And that's not to discredit it, for this particular narrative is just as real as any other. But it’s time we start to show the other realities of the situation as well - the intersectionality of illness.

A friend by the name of Molly posted a video shortly after the film was released. Hearing others speak out against this film's portrayal of eating disorders has only strengthened my belief that it could be a problematic and dangerous film for many of its viewers. As she explains it in the video:

"Sometimes you get rose tinted glasses looking back. I could’ve done it this way. Obviously I didn’t have to be that stupid. I could still lose the weight. This diet is different. I would be happier, right? And this is what it can be like when you don’t fit the depiction given… The questions come to mind: If my spine had been more noticeable, if I was underweight or even a normal weight, if I did more sit-ups, if my arms were smaller… This movie leaves me sitting there going If I was living the same battle internally and her body made hers be taken more seriously, maybe I would've gotten help sooner [if I looked more like that]."

Because you can still have an eating disorder and look healthy. You can still be starving yourself and have thick thighs and belly rolls.

A tube up your nose is not the only proof of a disorder. The disorder exists in your mind, in your thought process when someone puts a plate of food in front of you. Not in your physicality.

One of my biggest heroes, both in her writing career and her work in the mental health field, is Marya Hornbacher. When I found her book Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia I was mid-disorder at 15-years old.

She explains it simply:

"It is not a sudden leap from sick to well. It is a slow, strange meander from sick to mostly well. The misconception that eating disorders are a medical disease in the traditional sense is not helpful here. There is no 'cure.' A pill will not fix it, though it may help. Ditto therapy, ditto food, ditto endless support from family and friends. You fix it yourself. It is the hardest thing that I have ever done, and I found myself stronger for doing it. Much stronger."

To end an article that discusses such triggering content, here’s the number for the NEDA (Eating Disorder) Helpline (800-931-2237) and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255).

Cover Image Credit: S. Makai Andrews

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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Tanya Gold, Your Fatphobic Article Is Uneducated And Arrogant

BREAKING NEWS: Women come in all different shapes and sizes!

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Just recently, Nike released a plus-size mannequin at one of their stores in London that showed off their plus-size leggings and sports bra. And, because we live in a world where being fat or overweight or obese is somehow the worst thing in the world to some people, this has sparked a lot of discussion.

Tanya Gold wrote an article for The Telegraph saying that this mannequin “cannot run" and is “likely pre-diabetic" and “on her way to a hip-replacement." Not only is Tanya's article uneducated and poorly written, it's completely fatphobic and embarrassing.

What I would like to know is this: why can't plus-size women work out in Nike clothes just like a size 2 woman? People want to scream from the rooftops that plus-size women are fat because they don't exercise and when companies FINALLY start catering to plus-size women with clothes they can EXERCISE IN, people lose their minds and think that they're promoting obesity.

What are plus sized women supposed to work out in if they can't even wear Nike leggings without being fat-shamed?

Would you rather them wear jeans? Overalls? A parka, maybe? What about a garbage bag?

Let's also discuss the fact that being overweight doesn't equal being unhealthy, just like being at a “normal" weight doesn't make you healthy. Did you ever stop to think that some women have diseases that make them gain weight that they, in return, can't lose? Some women can eat salad for every single meal, seven days a week and they still can't lose weight.

Let's all say this together: SIZE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH FITNESS. Being thin doesn't equal being healthy and being overweight doesn't equal being unhealthy.

Everyone (and yes, I mean EVERYONE) should be able to be comfortable in their own skin AND in their clothes.

You can't sit and pout saying that fat people don't care about their health and then when they want comfortable clothes to wear while they're EXERCISING, hell has frozen over and how dare Nike cater to people who aren't a size 2.

Tanya, be honest with yourself. You aren't anywhere near a size 2, either, so where is all of this coming from? Are you self-loathing? Do you have some kind of internal fatphobia?

Pick a side, Tanya. You can't hate people who are overweight because you think that they aren't exercising and then when they do exercise and they get clothes that cater to them, it's all of the sudden wrong and horrible.

We are damned if we do, damned if we don't. As if women (and men) weren't already being shamed enough for being plus size, we're now being made to feel bad because a brand caters to our size so we can wear the same clothes all of the other sizes can wear.

Thank you, Nike, for making your brand more inclusive for all shapes and sizes so we can ALL feel confident in our clothes.

I think it's worth mentioning that Nike released their plus-size line in 2017 AKA 2 years ago... Why weren't you mad then?

Oh, and, Tanya Gold, you might want to stop smoking since you're all about being healthy, right? You don't want to get lung cancer or anything, do you?

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