The new eating disorders movie “To The Bone”

On Friday July 14th Netflix released a documentary about eating disorders and anorexia called “To The Bone”. The movie stars Lily Colins as Ellen who has been though treatment for anorexia many times and her family decides to try an “unconventional” approach with Dr. William Beckham, played by Keanu Reeves. The movie features characters from Ellen’s treatment center struggling with various eating disorders, as well as a focus on Ellen’s family life. The trailer for the film was already controversial and many eating disorders experts had commented that the movie could be triggering for many to watch. I have loved reading everyone’s thoughts on the film over the past month but wanted to wait until I saw the documentary before officially commenting.

I respect the fact that you cannot easily make a movie about a controversial topic and that many are going to disagree with details and have strong opinions about the outcome. However I really do appreciate that the project was made in the first place and know that it was made with the best intentions. Both the movie’s director, Marti Noxon, and star, Lily Colins, admit they have struggled with disordered eating and wanted to bring awareness to the public about this topic. This specific documentary has raised so much awareness about anorexia and eating disorders in a way that no “safe” educational documentary would have done. I believe the movie showed the pain and obsession that people go through when it comes to struggling with disordered eating. It presented a picture of anguish around food and showed all characters struggling with anxiety and depression, which is very true of clients with eating disorders.

With appreciation for the creation of the movie, I do have many concerns as others have expressed. My main concern is not really about triggering details, but rather about the overall concept that the movie showed “eating disorder treatment”. This “unconventional treatment” was NOT eating disorder treatment. In the movie this character was actually told “she needs to hit rock bottom before getting better”. Umm WHAT? Would you ever tell someone “Well you need to get to stage 4 cancer before getting chemotherapy?” The movie didn’t show the realistic amount of food someone actually needs in a day of ED recovery. The movie didn’t show therapy needed to process thoughts, feelings, and emotions of recovering from an eating disorder. And unfortunately it didn’t mention all the negative side effects of anorexia, including that anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.  Some clients in the movie were given a TON of freedom, allowing for the “dramatic effect” to play out. Clients were allowed to skip meals if they choose to do so, and one client was allowed to eat peanut butter as a meal, not realistic in eating disorder treatment. As a side note, of course that “peanut butter client” had to be overweight and struggle with binge eating disorder, presenting a dangerous stereotype.

It’s a passion on mine to educate others about weight inclusive wellness but also weight-inclusive struggles. I liked the fact that the movie did not give specific weight numbers when characters stepped on the scale or talked about their body image (although the movie did reference calorie amounts), but I feel they could have done a better job at educating others that people in all different body shapes and sizes can struggle with disordered eating. There was a lot of controversy surrounding the main lead Lily Colins having to “lose weight in a healthy way” to play the role of Ellen. I understand that she worked with a nutritionist and had a lot of medical supervision, and was fine throughout the process. However, my jaw still dropped when I heard that considering she admitted she struggled with disordered eating. Trying to lose weight or “diet” when you’ve come from disordered eating is a recipe for disaster and can be a major trigger for stepping back into disordered eating.

Recovery is possible and unfortunately this movie missed the opportunity to educate others about that. I truly wish they showed what the other side of ED recovery is like instead of ending at unknown points with so many of the clients that were struggling. Even just a brief 10 minute closing about recovery would have made such a difference in this movie because it would have shown that life is worth living. I also would have loved to see resources about getting help, but there was no mention of valuable resources like NEDA (https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/) or ED referral (www.edreferral.com) to reach out to get help. But yet, to all the people involved with “To the Bone”, THANK YOU for getting people talking. If this movie was “safe”, it wouldn’t be receiving the attention it is. My husband sat with me as I watched the movie and actually had thoughtful questions about eating disorders and mental illness. I talk about this topic all the time but it took this movie for him to think about it in a different way. Remember if you are struggling, reach out for help because recovery is worth it.

My Thoughts on “Detox”

I recently talked a dietitian, Robin Fouroutan, who will be presenting on “detox diets” at the Westchester Rockland Dietetic Association Clinical Update in December.  I found her by reading her article “Defining Detox” in the Food & Nutrition Magazine by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  I HIGHLY suggest reading the entire article if you have access to the magazine.

 

Once I read the article, I started thinking about how common the word “detox” is used in our society.  “Detox” is a relatively new concept in the nutrition world.  However chances are you have heard of someone doing a “detox diet” or saying that they are going on a “cleanse” after a weekend of junk food eating.  But do people really know what they are talking about??

 

Taken from the article, “Detoxification is the biochemical process that transforms non-water-soluble toxins and metabolites into water-soluble compounds that can be excreted in urine, sweat, bile or stool. Because these processes rely on specific nutrients such as flavonoids, minerals, certain amino acids and B-vitamins, there are therapeutic detoxification protocols to support the organ systems through which the body detoxifies.”  I do agree that many people need detoxification in their life- we are stressed out in so many ways.  However, what we think of as “detox” is usually a scam- there are so many supplements, products, and claims out there pretending to support detoxification, when all they are is a WASTE OF MONEY.  Supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration therefore what’s on the label is often NOT what’s actually in the bottle.  Scary right??

 

I think too often people psychologically “psych” themselves up to go on a “detox” after they feel like they have overdone it.  Thoughts of “This is a jumpstart” or “This time I’m going to have willpower” is all a way to repeat the diet, fail, resent, and repeat cycle that so many people are in.  In order to change your lifestyle toward healthier habits, you have to change your relationship with food.  Nothing else will work!!

 

Bottom line: Bad news is there is not one product out there that is magically going to change your life.  Good news is that you can eat foods everyday to “detox” your system and gain health. You do not need a special product or “cleanse” in order to do so. In fact, that is just a diet in disguise!

 

Takeaway points: Include a lot of colorful fruits and vegetables, fiber foods like whole grains, brown rice, various spices, probiotics, eggs, green tea, and lots of water in your overall intake. These foods have a lot of “detox” properties and are really great for your liver and entire body to do it’s (natural) thing. Also try to breathe deeply, stretch and do yoga, and sweat!  Simple, realistic suggestions that you can do everyday–> no “detox diet” needed.

 

 

Tips for Grocery Shopping

Many clients ask me how to grocery shop after they start the process of moving away from “dieting” and into intuitive eating. Since they are now trying to rely on body signals instead of their head, it’s hard to know what to get at the grocery store! A shopping trip can sometimes feel like a big binge or really overwhelming to clients.

Here are my top 7 tips for “starting over at the grocery store”:

1.  Plan a few meals for the week- this is not dieting!! Planning meals just means have a loose plan, that is flexible, for the week. I tell clients that you don’t even need to know what you’re eating on what day! It could range from just 1-2 or even as high as 4-5 meals per week.  Look at your schedule and see what you have going on.  Never plan 7 meals/week- things are sure to get in the way and I bet you’ll go out to eat at least once.

2.  Make a list.  Using the above tentative “meal plan”, create a list with ingredients you need to purchase as well as staples like fruit, milk, cereal, snacks, etc.  If you a budget, use coupons as a way to create meals with expensive items that may be on sale.

3.  Have a white board or list somewhere in the kitchen so family members can put “requests” on the grocery shopping list.  This will save time and energy asking everyone what they want.

4.  Grocery shop with a full stomach, meaning after a meal or snack.  You are much more likely to make impulse purchases when you are hungry! You are also more likely to listen to your body when you are nourished. Even the most mindful people end up spending more money at the grocery store when they are hungry.

5.  Shop the perimeter of the store the most- this is where nutritious food is located and will give you lasting energy for the day. The middle of the store is also fine though.

6. Use the frozen food section if you don’t get the opportunity to shop often.  Getting frozen vegetables or frozen meals can be a quick easy way to add nutrition in a fast, realistic way.  Best of all, they don’t go bad.

7.  Know that it’s okay to get a few impulse purchases!! You may see something that looks really good or something on sale that you just need to buy.  That’s listening to your body in a way that works for you.