To The Bone: Should You Watch That New Eating Disorder Movie?



The release of To The Bone, an original feature film on Netflix about a young woman with anorexia nervosa, has generated a lot of attention. Is it triggering? Is it thinspiration? Should you even watch it?

As a mental health provider who works with people with eating disorders, I watched the movie with a critical, but not dismissive, eye. I cannot recommend the movie to anyone who is actively in treatment for an eating disorder, or who is not 110% secure in his or her recovery. Parents and family members who are very close to the treatment process might also choose to skip viewing this movie, if only to avoid the pain of seeing your own battles reflected on screen.

If you choose to watch To The Bone, please keep the following caveats in mind:

This is not a film about eating disorder treatment. If you seek treatment for an eating disorder at a residential facility, please don’t expect it to look like the cozy bungalow in the movie. Your doctor will not drop the f-bomb. You will not be unsupervised at meals or allowed to make out in the backyard. In order to bring the viewer inside the minds of people with eating disorders, writer and director Marti Noxon has her characters share their thoughts with each other. Out loud. At the dinner table. While this dialogue elevates To the Bone, please know that if people speak to each other that way while in a treatment facility, those conversations happen on the sly, or are expressed privately in a journal or a therapy session.

This is not a film about how people recover from anorexia nervosa. It highlights reasons why eating disorder recovery can be elusive. It shows why support from people who understand what you’re going through really matters. But support can take many forms, and a romance between the lead character and the only eligible young man is one of the film’s limits. I have seen intense, meaningful bonds form between eating disorder clients. Romance needn’t enter the picture for an encounter to be transformative. Often these treatment-born friendships are volatile, fragile, and fraught with strong emotions. Yet these same relationships can provide a type of support unlike any other. Often they are the first way that a person in treatment recognizes that he or she is no longer truly alone.

This is not a documentary about what it’s like to have an eating disorder. It’s a fictional depiction of one (young, white, upper-middle class, educated, intelligent, artistic, angry) woman’s struggle to choose recovery over starvation. The narrow focus, informed by Noxon’s own experience with anorexia as a young woman, is at the heart of why the film feels authentic. Sure, the film gives a nod to other genders, ethnicities, and diagnoses, but telling those stories too would result in a very different movie.

Whether or not you choose to watch To the Bone is entirely up to you. The good news is the film is stimulating more open discussion about eating disorders, which may explain part of the reason that organizations including NEDA [National Eating Disorders Association]  and Project Heal have partnered with the film’s creators to promote it. But watching this film is not the only way to keep the dialog going. Read some of the 1200+ responses that readers of the New York Times Well blog generated in response to its coverage of the film or pick up a copy of Life Without Ed by Jenni Shaefer.

Did you watch the film? Did you choose not to watch it? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

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Emily Becker, LMSW, is an EWN therapist who believes that it’s the strength of the relationship you create together that generates meaningful change. Emily strives to greet each session with a curious mind, an open heart, and a wish to hear your story. This Fall, Emily will be leading Reach For Recover, a support group for anyone committed to eating disorder recovery. Contact her directly at 716.400.1605 | ekbeckerlmsw@gmail.com

 

My Baby Driver



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My son was granted a driving permit three days after his sixteenth birthday. My attempt to teach him to drive began the following weekend. We set out to practice in an empty parking lot on a quiet Sunday afternoon. We both would have preferred to be elsewhere.

Those first few trips in the car were as anxiety-provoking as riding on a rickety wooden roller coaster.  The first time he tried to drive around the block it seemed as if he might jump the curb and head straight into our yard. The second time he swerved to avoid an oncoming car, and nearly missed hitting a mailbox.

I sat in the passenger seat with clammy hands and a pounding heartbeat. I wondered in silence how the tiny child I had once held in my arms was now legally capable of handling a thousand pound death machine. Surely, I was not the first parent to feel this way. It would have been so easy to back away, give up, put it off, or simply pump up the tires on his bike and say, “see ya!”

I didn’t give into my desire to avoid driving with him. Instead, I told him that he wasn’t quite ready to drive around the block until he’d had more practice. I reassured him that it was normal to be uncomfortable behind the wheel because he hadn’t really had a chance to learn yet. I said it seemed like we were both a little nervous but let him know I was pretty sure it would get easier.

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9 Ways To Help Teen Girls Find Their Voice



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Whoever said being a 14 year old girl is easy probably hasn’t been a 14 year old girl!  The struggle she has to go through to find her True Self and still be accepted can cause many a teen girl to lose her voice.

The article How Can We Help Young Girls Stay Assertive, describes research on adolescent girls “losing their voice” resulting in low self-esteem and lack of assertiveness. This phenomenon can cause teen girls to feel like they don’t belong, leading to isolation, even self-harming thoughts and/or behaviors.

Anyone who is a parent of a teen girl, a counselor or teacher accepts the job to help them feel more secure and to speak up for themselves! Here are some suggestions to help. The first five are from the article. The last four are from my work with teen girls:

1. Encourage her interests. Support her in her pursuits, whatever they are.  Linda Hoke-Sinex, Indiana University Bloomington, says, “When she [the teen] has an area in which she feels confident, it can act as a touchstone to build confidence in other areas of her life.”

2. Point out pressure from social media. Unrealistic media images and the pressure on women to look and act in certain ways is constantly in young people’s faces. Girls may be subject to brutal criticism or bullying on social media because of how they look or act. Unless parents monitor interactions on social media they might miss communication that contributes to corrosive self-doubt.

3. Watch your own talk. Dr. Mendez-Baldwin of Manhattan College says, “Sometimes, women inadvertently send messages to their daughters by focusing on their weight and their appearance. [They say] ‘Oh I need to lose weight’ or ‘I don’t look good’ or ‘I need to get Botox to remove these wrinkles,’ and then that sends a message to the girls that they need to focus on their appearance and that their self-worth is connected to their appearance.”

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What Can I Do To Stop Cutting?



4469573193_b4b4d04691Editor’s Note: The self-injurious nature of cutting is so alarming that people, even professionals, shy away from it. And yet there is a real need to address the reality of cutting head on, illuminate the whys of cutting and get everyone involved expert help. Explore What’s Next has tried to do just that in this series of articles about cutting. In this article, Kate Maleski, LCSW, Explore What’s Next therapist, offers eight helpful ideas if you are cutting and want to stop.

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Why do I feel so much pain? Why am I like this? Why can’t I be more like them?

These are some of the questions that have lead people to think: I deserve pain and I want to physically feel pain. You may find yourself hurting yourself because you feel like nothing else works. Cutting doesn’t heal your pain…

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What To Do If Your Teen Is Cutting? Part ll



96776343_4efe3075ff_zEditor’s Note: In this post Dylan Broggio, LCSW, responds to questions many readers had about what to do if they know someone they love is cutting or if they are struggling with cutting themselves. 

Dylan Broggio, LCSW is a psychotherapist with Explore What’s Next. She specializes in work with adolescents, adults and families. If you would like to schedule a free consultation with Dylan call her at 734.474.6987 or email at dylan.broggio@gmail.com.

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Firstly, thank you all so much for the great comments, questions and support you have offered on my post “What To Do If Your Teen Is Cutting”. This article really struck a chord with our readers, so I thought I would answer some of the questions that have come up in this important conversation.

Question: “I just found out my child is cutting, how can I talk to them about their cutting without upsetting them and causing more cutting?”

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Social Anxiety: When It’s ME against the world…



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Editor’s Note: This post was contributed by EWN psychotherapist Kate Maleski, LCSW-R

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Picture this… A high school freshman trying out for the softball team. She is anxious, surrounded by new faces, new school and longing to be accepted. If only she could make the team maybe starting a new school wouldn’t be so scary. She would already be “a part” of something.

At the end of tryouts names are posted and this girl’s name was not on the list.

That girl was me.

Teens can often feel alone in a very BIG world which can be the cause of social anxiety. In grade school and high school I remember feeling like I was fighting to survive.

Hoping I don’t blush. Sweating, feeling nauseous, worried that I would have to carry on a conversation and no words would come out or even worse, the wrong words! Sometimes I thought: How am I ever going to live through this day, let alone the rest of the year!

EVERYONE HAS SOCIAL ANXIETY! OK not everyone, but a LOT of people have social anxiety! Different people just show it differently.

Here are some tips to help decrease your anxiety:

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