To the Bone (2017): One Year Later

When I first heard To the Bone would premier at Sundance Film Festival, I hoped for a theatrical release. Instead Netflix purchased the rights to it, and it became available to a wide audience. The film’s initial release at Sundancetook place in January of 2017. It began streaming on Netflix one year ago today.  I watched the To the Bone twice the week of it’s Netflix release. And while I did enjoy film, I have a lot of problems with it. Many of which I’m hoping to address in multiple blog posts during the next few weeks.

To my knowledge, “To the Bone”, while an independent film, is the first feature film about eating disorders in the United States (proceeded by “Feed”, released July 18th by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment). Of course we’ve had documentaries (Dying to be Thin, Thin,  Perfect Illusions) and numerous made for TV movies (Sharing the Secret, Starving in Suburbia,  A Secret Between Friends, Hunger Point). We’ve had a stop-motion biopic about the life and death of Karen Carpenter, reenacted by Barbie Dolls and a short-lived sitcom I discussed in a previous blog posts. (Here and here.)

Thinking about my previous viewings of “To the Bone”, I most clearly remembered the areas in which the film shocked or offended me, as well as when it fell short of my expectations. Rewatching it a year later, I am reminded of it’s softer moments. Since my first two viewings, I’ve seen Marti Noxon’s work on the new tv show, “Dietland”. I have watched and read multiple interviews with her and Lily Collins. During this most recent viewing of the film, I have a better grasp on how much of Ellen/Eli’s journey mirrors Marti’s. This makes the film far more personal. And it makes it difficult for me to be as critical as I once was.

Over the course of the last year, I have judged “To the Bone” harshly. And this is also personal. Yes, I am a white cis-gendered woman. I am in my 20s. I developed my eating disorder in my teens, and I was raised in a middle class family. But I am fat. I am a recovering Bulimic. I have had health care practitioners dismiss or minimize my Bulimia because I am fat. I am queer. I am autistic. I have multiple chronic health conditions unrelated to my eating disorder and mental illnesses that make my life difficult. While I saw myself in parts of Marti and Eli’s story, I wish the first U.S. feature film about eating disorders could have been something new. It is sadly, very similar to the dozens of times in the made for TV movies churned out since the 1980s.


Life Update

I’ve been out of eating disorder treatment since May, and I wish I had more time and energy to contribute to this blog. But most of my spoons go trying to manage the myriad of chronic health issues I’ve unearthed during and since treatment. Most of my spoons are spent ensuring I work as much as I am able, make it to all my appointments, get my prescriptions refilled, and then if there’s anything left, dishes, laundry, and general upkeep of my living space. The latter bit isn’t  going too well.

My thryoid levels are normal now, and have been managed by medication. But I still have some swelling of the gland and my doctor recommends an ultrasound.

I’ve come to terms with the fact I probably have sleep apnea. I met with a pulmonologist for the first time yesterday, and I am waiting for insurance clearance to get sleep labs.

I’ve been treated for Bulimia four times now, but this is the first time I’ve worked with a dietitian on an individual, outpatient basis. I can’t say that I’m completely abstinent from behaviors, or fully comply with my meal plan, but I do feel this was the missing component to previous recovery attempts in the time after hospitalization.

And I do worry a lot that this will always be my life and I won’t ever catch up or step out and “”make something of myself.”

There are obviously things I’m trying to make things better. Medications. Waking. Nutrition. Vitamins. Therapy.

But this isn’t something that “sheer will power” is going to help me overcome.

And I guess it’s important to remember. I’ve only been out of school 8 months. That feels like an eternity to me, but it hasn’t even been a year. I’ve been out of treatment only 2 months. I am finally able to do the kind of self care I had negelected for 4 years, maybe longer. And for the most part, people in my life have been supportive of this process. But I also worry that I am in a rut.

If possible, I want to keep up with this blog. I I have a lot to say. I want to talk about the new TV show, Dietland, my challenges and barriers in both recovery and in our broken health care system, the weight bias I experience from medical professionals, the Eating Recover Center’s current PR nightmare, and Jim Gaffigan’s food jokes.

50 Days

My insurance company saw its shadow, so that means two more weeks of intensive outpatient.It’s been 50 days since I went to intake, signed myself into treatment, and recommitted to recovery.That also means it’s been 50 days since I last purged.

Insurance Review

So today happens to be both my insurance review and the last day my insurance company approved initially for Eating Disorder Intensive Outpatient.

So today, *might* be my last day. But I won’t know until I get there.

I am hoping for at least one more week. (Three more sessions.)

From Treatment is the New Black.

Help Jessica Access Residential Eating Disorder Treatment

In Jessica’s own words:
“As most people who know me know, I have struggled severely with bulimia and anorexia for nearly two decades. I have wasted too much of my life worrying about my weight and how I am going to pay for my next binge. Because of insurance issues, I am not able to be treated at the level of care that my history with these disorders demands. There is a residential treatment center in Milwaukee,  Wisconsin that I can receive treatment through.  To be admitted there though, I first need to raise $12,500. This seems almost like an impossible goal, but if anyone can spare even a few dollars, I may–somehow–be able to receive the treatment that I desperately need.”
You can donate to her fundraiser here: 

“Begging” and Fundraising

*sharp sigh*

I admin an eating disorder awareness Facebook page that I made in high school and have updated on and off for 8 years or more. I don’t usually create original content. It’s a lot of sharing articles and posts from larger organizations. It gets some traffic. A modest 1,000 some likes. I’ve been more active over the course of the last year because I’ve been in treatment.

I shared a fundraiser for someone in my city who is trying to raise money to get into a residential program. And one of my page followers likened the GoFundMe campaign to “begging” and stated “you shouldn’t post this, none of us can afford what we need”. While I understand those remarks likely came from her own place of pain and hopelessness, I deleted the comment in a blind rage and made a post, addressed to my followers in general, stating I’m going to post fundraisers if I see fit and anyone who takes issue with this can unfollow the page.

No one should be ashamed to ask for what they need. And nobody is obligated to give if they can’t afford to.

I hate when the term “begging” is attributed to people asking for their basic needs to be met, whether it’s people asking strangers for money on the street or people who are trying to raise money for medical treatment. You make people who are asking for basic necessities sound like whiny children. (Maybe some of my linguist friends will have different thoughts about this.) And I know I have to examine my privilege more. I know I haven’t always responded well to people I’ve met on the street that asked me for things, and this is something I need to work on. I’m not claiming that I do the right thing even half of the time. But this really, rubbed me the wrong way.

Binge Eating Disorder IS A Restrictive Eating Disorder

I was lying in bed between my doses of thyroid and blood pressure medication, scrolling through Tumblr on my mobile device. This post got me out of bed fast:

This isn’t an internet troll we’re dealing with here, in which case it would be best to ignore it completely. Upon careful examination of her blog, it appears this woman is both someone who has struggled with Anorexia, and has taken a strong stance against Pro Ana/Mia websites. That being said, people can call Pro Ana/Mia users out on their bullshit without spreading misinformation about eating disorders.

My response was as follows:

“Looking at your blog, I don’t think it was your intention to invalidate people with eating disorders other than Anorexia. But I also don’t understand why people in general  focus so intensely on why these eating disorders are different from each other rather than their many similarities.

And I do want to argue that Binge Eating Disorder and Bulimia ARE restrictive eating disorders, even if they manifest differently than Anorexia.

Few people wake up one day and start eating out of control. And while I am aware binge eating can be a way people try to cope with depression, anxiety, and other negative emotions, there is usually more to the story. Especially in people with a drive for thinness or a desire to lose weight (regardless of their body size), there is a dimension of calorie restriction. (This includes the Pro Anas you are talking about.)

Binge eating in people with Binge Eating Disorder, (as well as Bulimia and EDNOS/OSFED) is often fueled by a cycle that includes restriction. Binges are often caused by fasting or dieting.

People with Anorexia and other eating disorders restrict for the same reasons. But eating disorders present differently in different people.

This article is a little old, older than the most recent publication of the DSM. So when the article talks about EDNOS, it is for the most part, talking about what is referred to today as Binge Eating Disorder. Again, this article is excellent because it explains why people with restrictive eating disorders binge and how it’s often the body’s response to being starved.

“Often diagnosed as ED-NOS by psychiatrists and psychologists alike, the patient is encouraged to focus on lessening binge episodes. Sadly, almost all patients enter into this cycle from a period of self-administered starvation and the binge is the body reacting to too-severe calorie restriction relative to its energy requirements. Recovery from all facets of an eating disorder requires focus on lessening restrictive behaviors. “

While people who are weight restoring have different needs than patients with “normal”, “healthy”, “overweight/obese” BMIs, the treatment for Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating, and disorders in the EDNOS/OSFED and ARFID categories are the same. And as I’m sure you are aware, people of all sizes may be experiencing negative consequences of their eating disorders such as low blood pressure, dehydration, anemia and other vitamin deficiencies, menstrual irregularities, heart palpitations, etc, etc. But the point I’m trying to drive home is, people who binge also restrict. It is a core feature of their disorder.

And failure to recognize this is why a lot of people trying to recover from Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder, OSFED/EDNOS get stuck. They get stuck in the cycle because they think their binge eating comes from a lack of will power. Binging is often the body’s self-preservation instinct. It doesn’t know the difference between a famine and an eating disorder behavior, and it’s protecting itself against starvation

I don’t really have time to dig up additional sources, but there are a lot of articles on the  website  about Binge Eating Disorder that touch on this, as well.”