The trailer for the highly anticipated Netflix film, To The Bone, was released on 20 June and has left Netflix watchers with no chill. Emmy-nominated writer Marti Noxon makes her feature directional debut with the drama starring Lily Collins on 14 July 2017.

The trailer shows a sneak-peak into the dark humoured, cerebral film about Ellen, a 20 year old young women with anorexia nervosa. Through spending her teenage years in and out of recovery programs, only to come out a few pounds lighter, her dysfunctional family agrees to send her to a group home for youths led by a non-traditional doctor.

The release of the trailer has brought a lot of attention to the issue of anorexia nervosa, especially in young women, and how easy it is to miss the signs of early stages.

When a film related to mental illness and self-harm is released, it can become a tricky topic to discuss, as these illnesses are complex within themselves. The controversial ’13 Reasons Why’, also released on Netflix, left many viewers feeling as though the topic of suicide was mishandled, while others felt the show was right in being graphic in terms of the suicide scene, as it started a conversation about an otherwise hush-hush subject.

With film and media becoming more and more involved with these sensitive issues, it’s important to try our best to understand the complexities of these issues, and how to avoid being ignorant in another important conversation that is likely to arise with the release of To The Bone.

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa is a psychological disorder characterised by self-starvation, excessive exercise and weight loss. The illness may be triggered by an event such as the end of a relationship or the death of someone close, but usually begins with a desire to diet and lose weight. It may include the need to exert control over feelings the person feels unable to control, by controlling food intake instead.

Those suffering from the disorder are obsessed with food and are terrified by the idea of gaining weight. Eventually, they do not eat enough to sustain a healthy body weight. Additionally, they suffer from a distorted body image, seeing themselves as overweight, when in reality, they are emaciated or underweight.

What are the characteristics of a person suffering from Anorexia Nervosa?

People suffering from this eating disorder may behave strangely about food, for example, refusing to eat in front of other people or hiding food around the house. They may also engage in excessive exercise patterns, binge eating, induced vomiting or use of laxatives.

Sufferers of anorexia nervosa will usually not acknowledge that there is something wrong with their eating patterns. This is specifically typical in the early phase, when the sufferer is still in denial. What many non-sufferers don’t usually understand is that anorexia is like an addictive state. It assists the sufferer in blunting their uncomfortable emotional feelings, just as alcohol and drugs do, and once they have started dieting, it’s very difficult for them to stop.

What causes Anorexia Nervosa?

The factors that lead to anorexia nervosa are complex are not clearly understood. It’s widely acknowledged that psychological, social, biological, cultural and familial factors all play a role in the development of the disorder. It’s also widely believed that the media plays a central role in promoting reinforcing the development of anorexia nervosa.

Young women are faced with a landslide of media propaganda suggesting what the ideal body is. Models are always thin and boney – these images reinforce social stereotypes about what is beautiful.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of anorexia nervosa, starvation and when it’s time to see a doctor can often be noticed if you know what to look for.

Associated medical complications related to starvation may include:

  • Dry, sallow skin
  • Excessive energy
  • Cold intolerance
  • Low blood pressure and light-headedness

It’s time to call a doctor if someone you know:

  • Loses a substantial amount of weight or shows rapid weight loss
  • Refuses to eat regularly
  • Diets excessively
  • Constantly feels fat when she or he is actually thin
  • Exercises excessively to lose weight
  • Is preoccupied with food and obsessive about calorie intake
  • Uses laxatives, diuretics or diet pills, or vomits after eating
  • Is dizzy, faints or is very listless
  • Has an irregular heartbeat
  • Has trouble sleeping and is hyperactive
  • Denies that there is a problem
  • Psychiatric complications such as depression are present

Can Anorexia Nervosa be prevented?

There is no known method or practice that is proven to prevent anorexia, but the risk of developing the disorder may be reduced in the following ways:

  • Parents and caregivers can help kids focus on their strengths and reinforce a positive self-image in their child
  • Parents can take care that a child’s sense of self worth does not become too closely related to feelings about body image and weight
  • Parents should not criticise children for being overweight or place undue emphasis on weight
  • Parents should discourage their children from dieting and rather focus on healthy eating patterns
  • People should try to spot suspicious behaviour or rigorous dieting as quickly as possible

If you or someone close to you is or you suspect is suffering from an eating disorder, contact a treatment clinic now.

Western Cape Eating Disorder Clinics and Rehabilitation Centres

Akeso Montrose Manor

Imani Addiction Services

Cape Recovery

We Do Recover

Twin Rivers Addiction Recovery Centre

Crescent Clinic Private Psychiatric Clinic

EDSA 

The Palm Tree Clinic

Renée Shearing Occupational Therapist

Riverview Manor Specialist Clinic

Oasis Addictions Treatment Centre

National Centre for Eating Disorders

Photography ‘To The Bone’ trailer

Article written by

Nikki Louw

Nikki Louw is an avid food eater and wine drinker with a passion for writing about it too. She's a creative by heart, with a love for visual arts and feature writing, which she applies everyday in covering culture, art and food and drink pieces. She also enjoys writing trending news pieces and exploring topics such as gender issues and social consciousness. Outside of the Journalism realm, Nikki tries her hand at painting and drawing. She has a collection of unfinished canvases and completed oil paintings alike, stacking up in the corner of her bedroom.