I don’t care what Lily Collins or anyone else says, there is no “safe” way to lose weight if you have Anorexia.

I don’t care what Lily Collins or anyone else says, there is no “safe” way to lose weight if you have the genetic predisposition for Anorexia.

I’m so over the whole saga about the NetFlix film “To The Bone,” but very much understand that some of you are still incredibly upset about it. I mean, I guess I am pissed off with the whole thing still; but I am also bored of it all. Thankfully, it is by all means a bad film. I’ve even had non-ED people tell me that. It’s just bad. Not worth watching. Amen.

There are millions of reasons why I could argue that To The Bone is a problem in terms of misrepresenting Anorexia but I’m not going to bother as hundreds of other blogs have already done this very adequately. My main beef is somewhat different and it isn’t to do with me thinking that millions of people are suddenly going to be lured into dieting by watching this film. It’s not much worse than half of what is already on TV.

If you are interested in an actual film review with some good insight, check out Lauren Mulhlien’s blog, Jennifer Rollin, and also Laura Collins Lyster Mensh. These people have all reviewed the actual film. I am not reviewing the film in this blog, I’m reviewing the message that the actor, someone who has the genetics for Anorexia, “safely” lost weight.

Of course I am pissed that the film reinforces all the old Anorexia stereotypes, but in a sense that doesn’t change much either. The people in the know are still in the know, the people who were not in the know are still not in the know after having watched it. Nobody is going to be changed as a result of having seen this film. It has no real impact. It highlights and reinforces stereotypes and educates nobody. I don’t know that I ever expected anything more but it would have been nice. I don’t feel robbed by the promise of the good, informative, educational eating disorder film that NetFlix could have made because I’m too cynical to have ever expected anything other than what we got: a pile of outdated crap.

So I’m not going to go on about the film.  I am more pissed at Lily Collins, the “team” of people around her, and the people within the eating disorder community who have been telling the general public (and the eating disorder community) that she lost weight in a “safe” way.

Excuse me? How does a person with a genetically embedded reaction to energy deficit lose weight in a safe way?

Anorexia is activated by energy deficit. Energy deficit is when you eat less than you expend on a daily basis. Chronic energy deficit is when you do that long enough to become underweight (and that doesn’t mean thin, that means under the weight that your body should naturally be.) Collins has the genetic predisposition for Anorexia. Genetics folks! That means it doesn’t go away, it goes into remission. Therefore, there is no “safe” way for a person with Anorexia genetics to lose weight and it kills me that message is being broadcasted loud and clear all over the media right now. And the argument that it was safe because she has since gained some weight again is beside the point — it is not safe to give out the message that weight loss is safe!

I have even seen eating disorder professionals get sucked into the “Lily lost weight in a safe way” line. I’ve seen them reassuring people that “Lily is fine” and she was working with professionals to help her with the weight loss so that makes it safe. What the hell are you talking about? That’s like a skin cancer specialist saying that there is a “safe” way to get sunburn for people who are in remission from skin cancer. Do you think that a person’s Anorexia genetics care about how energy deficit is achieved? Do you think that if weight loss is done with a professional team, the genes all look at one another and say “lets not activate this time, as she’s working with professionals“?

It is not Collins’ health I give a shit about. I don’t care if she is fine or not. It is the message “you can lose weight safely” that I care about. It is people who have reached a point in recovery or remission who are still vulnerable and are reading interviews with the cast of the film or reading Facebook posts from eating disorder experts with the message: “Lily Collins had Anorexia but it was safe for her to lose weight.” Because that can translate to “you have Anorexia, but there is a safe way for you to lose weight.”

I made the mistake of listening to Lily Collins talk about her weight loss for To The Bone on BBC Woman’s Hour yesterday. To hear her blast out to the world that yes, there is a totally safe way for a person who has suffered Anorexia in the past to lose weight. To hear her saying that so long as she was taking the right supplements that she could lose weight and be able to function and be able to not miss a day’s work.  To hear her say that she was working with a dietician who was happy to help her do this. That is practically pro-ana porn. Why not just market a “safe weight loss for Anorexics” diet?

The level of bullshit reek about this whole film release and the aftermath of eating disorder professionals backing it is unbearable. It seems that all you have to do to get a person of influence to help you sell a film is to offer them a free seat at a screening and allow them meet the stars afterwards. Do that and they’ll sit in your pocket. (I’ll have to remember this one, turns out flattery really does work.)

I’m being overly cynical again. There are plenty of eating disorder professionals who have been realistic about the film (see the links above to reviews) but even to see a couple of people run with the “Collins’ weight loss was safe” line rubs me totally up the wrong way. I know how Anorexia works. I know how my own AN brain works. Ten years ago my AN brain would have taken that line and run with it as a reason as to why it was safe for me to lose weight too. Ten years ago my AN brain would have thrown that line at my mother and screamed “you don’t know what you are talking about Mum, these people do, see, and they are professionals, and they say that there is a safe way for me to lose weight, so there!”

Just in case you are reading this and still wondering: I don’t care how often Lily Collins or anyone else says it, if you have the genetic predisposition for Anorexia, energy deficit is not “safe” for you. It is not safe for you to lose weight, even if you are working with a nutritionist, and even if you are taking supplements. It is not safe for you to lose weight.

In case you are interested, there is a petition about the film here: https://www.change.org/p/netflix-withdraw-film-to-the-bone-from-the-public-domain-prevent-doing-damage-and-stigmatising

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What do you think?

  1. Thank you for all you do, i admire and respect you so much… you are so honest and true.

  2. Would any professional in counselling tell someone who struggles with alchohol,drugs, eating disorder ,etc. that they can practice(engage with) what they struggle with(addiction) safely?
    Lilly Collins and film producers are putting out the WRONG HARMFUL MESSAGE because people who struggle with a demon should resist it and flee, not open a door and submit to it (as Lilly did) because it will start controlling you.
    Thanks for writing this article Tabitha.

  3. Hi Tabitha, I don’t how else to communicate to you beside using the comment section. I’ve suffered from Anorexia for 3 years and now in terms of weight, I am recovered and way above the minimum yet still standard. However, I why do I still have cravings to eat high caloric foods like bread, peanut butter and so on. I’ve read some of your articles saying I should just listen to what the body wants. I have for 2 almost 3 months yet still the I want to eat more and never feel full. Is this normal? Thank you

    • Hi,

      You can contact me via the “contact” page on this site or on Twitter or Facebook. Think about the length of time that you restricted for – it will take your body longer than a couple of months to recover. I would say this is very normal. Hope you are okay

  4. Well said Tabitha! I saw this film and thought it was not only poorly executed, but that it completely diminished the seriousness of Eating Disorders. And the fact that Lily Collins would place herself in such danger for the sake of a mediocre film, and that ED professionals would support her efforts and simply is outrageous! Thank you once again for writing what needs to be acknowledged!

  5. As a dietitian who works with people with eating disorders, I had he EXACT same reaction. I was expecting a rush of requests or comments that others in recovery or working toward recovery believed in the “safe way”. Maybe people know me well enough, or maybe I have done my job educating those I work with that I don’t believe in a “safe way” to have an energy deficit and not trigger your eating disorder. I have seen people thrown into full relapse when they have had illnesses, dental surgery, or loss of appetite when grieving. If someone has been through an unintentional weight loss without relapse it’s more likely a testament to their skills for recovery not that it’s “ok”.

  6. My daughter is slowly recovering from anorexia, it has been hell for 3 months (and I know we are in some ways lucky as most sufferers struggle longer) her journey is not over yet but she is showing positives signs all round
    I watched the film and was completely discusted at it, it completely makes a joke of what we and others have been through and the part at the end where she is fed with a bottle is beyond belief
    Ansolute Crap is what I would rate it as
    The little love story was kind of cute but in the seriousness of the illness when you have just been through this nightmare yourself with a loved one I found this movie offensive
    To me it just shows how much money can effect what some people will do I would NEVER agree for my daughter to participate in a movie like that (and not would she) no matter how much money they paid her
    Rant over