To the Bone


I used to be very skinny as a kid, I used to consider food something that was forced on me by adults. Food was disgusting. It screamed dreadfully before dying. The smell was bad, the taste was depressing. It had fat and bones and tendons in it. Well, I grew up in a rural place where girls were told all the time they needed to drink milk at breakfast and always eat meat at both lunch and dinner (especially horse meat), otherwise they would go barren.

Because the rural place only featured an elementary school, I started taking a bus to town for middle school, which allowed me some access to unsupervised junk food, like crisps and processed pizza. Food could taste good, that was a weird discovery, and with tasty food I also started experiencing hunger, something I had never really felt before. I slowly slowly gained some weight in high school, when I became involved in social eating, meaning mostly takeaway pizza and ice cream. At uni I discovered grocery shopping. I ate my first cabbage at 20 and never looked back. I’ve been in a normal weight range for more than 20 years now.

I suspect the reason why I never actually developed an eating disorder might be that I simply don’t have a genetic disposition to it. I do prefer deferred gratifications to instant ones, which is a trait that is linked to anorexia, but apparently in my brain that’s more linked to things like university education, figure skating, show jumping and ballet.

I was considered an anorexic by my family and teachers for a long time though. Well-meaning teacher would approach me very discreetly, very kindly, with pitiful eyes, to ask me how I was feeling. Relatives would cast side glances and bluntly ask me if I was menstruating at all. I would have been and excellent anorexic, really, only I wasn’t one. I had a completely different agenda instead: growing up, being free, especially from all the meat-eating and reproductive obsession.

People are total nuts. Jean Paul Sartre had a point.

Anyway, having been considered and anorexic for a long time, I feel kind of entitled to an opinion about To the Bone, the recent Netflix film everyone is so worried about.

Well, it’s full of old stereotypes and dangerously reassuring ideas. Allow me to make a quick list:

anorexic girls are skinny (what’s bulimia anyway)
skinny girls are anorexic (obviously)
anorexic boys are ballet dancers (what other reason could they possibly have)
ballet dancers are anorexic (especially boys)
if you don’t eat, you’ll go barren (and you say it’s not an obsession?)
anorexic girls are witty and kind of glamorous (this is tragically untrue)
anorexic girls have natural smoky eyes
horse therapy works magic
glamping is good for you
real runaways ride Greyhounds
Keanu Reeves understands you
Keanu Reeves cares about you
Keanu Reeves is going to save you

Still, this movie is also brave and unapologetic in forcing a narrative where there is a social taboo. It’s been accused of normalizing anorexia, but I think it’s the complete opposite. Eating disorders and depression are epidemics that have crept into the status quo and nobody can really talk about them freely and frankly right now.

This needs to change. People are starving themselves and hanging themselves every day. Pretending there’s nothing to say about it, this is normalizing anorexia and depression.

Please tell you story, no matter how silly and unimportant you think it is.