On the heels of the controversial Netflix series 13 Reasons Why comes a film about anorexia, To the Bone. Originally screened at Sundance this year, Netflix will release it on streaming video on 14 July 2017. The film is receiving mixed reviews, with some lauding it in hopes it will spark conversation on an important topic, while others deride it because of fear it can glamorize eating disorders. Since it has yet to be released, I cannot share an opinion either way; however, I do want to make a three important points about eating disorders.
Anorexia is not the only eating disorder.
The DSM-5 categorizes a number of disorders related to eating and feeding. Anorexia is only one of them. A recent blog over on the site This Is Where I Stand makes this point well, noting, “Binge-eating disorder is actually three times more common than anorexia and bulimia combined, but many people may not know this if the only knowledge they have concerning eating disorders is from pictures on social media.” To only truly discuss one eating disorder leaves out a whole host of others who suffer, and could leave some feeling hopeless they can ever recover. Eating disorder treatment is available for any type of eating disorder and recovery is possible!
Being underweight is not the only indicator an eating disorder is present.
As the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) states, “Atypical anorexia includes those individuals who meet the criteria for anorexia but who are not underweight despite significant weight loss.” As a counselor, I have seen this in clients. Every criteria is met except being underweight. The client is deep within the throes of an eating disorder, suffering terribly, and it may have largely gone unnoticed because the client is not underweight. I have had many a consultation with primary care physicians to provide education on how atypical anorexia and other eating disorders may present and the myriad of other symptoms they involve. If we are going to talk about eating disorders (and we should!) we need to do so in a way that includes all of them.
Eating disorders are not just about trying to be thin.
There are many factors that can trigger an eating disorder and the desire to be thin is only a small part of it. Often there has been significant trauma in the life of the person who suffers and the eating disorder is part of the aftermath. For example, sexual abuse or assault can trigger hatred toward the body and an eating disorder can be a way to either provide protection against further assault or punishment against oneself for what the victim perceives is his/her part in the abuse or assault. A good therapist can help the client unpack all the factors and influences as the client walks down the road to recovery.
As mentioned initially, eating disorders are complex issues and should not be distilled down to one representation where the sufferer is skin and bones. Conversations should include all eating disorders and information on treatment and should not be limited to one gender or social class (as NEDA points out, coverage often features only middle class caucasian females). Regardless of how an eating disorder manifests itself, treatment and recovery are possible!
If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder I may be able to help! Schedule a free, 15-minute consultation today and let’s talk about getting you on the road to recovery!