Why I Retired from Pageants

As many of you know, pageantry has been a major part of both my high school and college careers, opening up doors and helping me recover from my eating disorder. It’s 42given me a voice and a platform to share my passion for helping young women recognize their true beauty. It’s even the reason I’m pursuing a career in broadcast journalism and aspiring to be on Good Morning America. I truly could go on and on and on about how pageantry has changed my life for the better, but it’s been more than a year since my last on-stage competition. Many of you are starting to wonder if I applied for the National American Miss Ohio title this year or if I have plans to compete in any upcoming pageants. The answer is no, and here’s why.

1.) The Size Issue

Earlier this year, The Pageant Planet released an article entitled “What Pageant Should You Compete in Based on Your Dress Size?,” and it really made me question the current state of pageantry. (You can check out my entire response to the article here.) While organizations like National American Miss don’t judge girls on their appearance and strive to teach women and young girls valuable life skills, The Pageant Planet clearly illustrated how a majority of the pageant industry is still based on size and looks. As an advocate for body positivity and eating disorder awareness, it is unfair and unjust for me to be involved in an industry that does not represent all women – an industry with values that are contrary to those of Girl in the Mirror. I believe National American Miss is a great program for young women looking to build confidence and find a voice, but programs like Miss USA and Miss America are 73looking for women who embody their cookie-cutter, one-size image that excludes 99% of women in America. How am I supposed to continue my journey in this industry if these programs do not represent all women? Until women of all shapes and sizes can walk onto a pageant stage for any pageant system and have an equal chance at being successful, I’m hanging up my heels.

2.) Fitness and Swimsuit Competitions

I do not believe in fitness and/or swimsuit competitions simply because they’re not an accurate indicator of someone’s health or confidence, and as I’m about to turn 21, almost all pageants require this phase of competition. I refuse to be reduced to the size and shape of my body because there’s so much more I have to offer than my outward appearance, and I want to help other girls realize the same. All bodies are beautiful, and I wish all pageants represented and celebrated body diversity and included all women like National American Miss.DSC_4490

3.) Increasing Entry Fees

As a college kid, it’s not easy to fork over thousands of dollars for a pageant, even if it is for the opportunity of a lifetime. Stepping away from the stage this year and looking into what my next competition could be has made me realize pageantry is no longer financially attainable, especially since entry fees are on the rise. Not only are these fees going up, the price tag and caliber of the gowns is at an all time high, and I know there’s no way I can afford it. I miss the days when it didn’t matter if your gown was couture or if your hair and make up was professionally done: I only did well when I invested in expensive gowns, fancy hair and makeup and pageant coaching. While I felt like a princess and while I wouldn’t change these experiences for anything, I am still feeling the financial hit of my 2016 pageant adventures.

4.) My Career

Participating in pageants inspired me to have a career as a broadcast journalist because I realized how much of an impact people’s stories can have on the lives of others. Now that I’m preparing to graduate from college early and to move to Wisconsin for my dream internship, my eyes are set on the prize of my first multimedia journalist and news producer position. DSC_6482My days consist of reporting, anchoring and producing, and pageants don’t belong in the mix anymore, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Pageants have given me this absolutely beautiful life I adore, and I will be forever grateful for it! Lord knows I wouldn’t be where I am today without it!

5.) I Got Everything I Could From It

Confidence. A voice. A platform. Scholarships. Poise. Communication skills. A purpose. My career path. Connections. Sisterhood. I mean, if you want me to list everything, it’d be impossible because I gained absolutely everything I could from pageantry. Above all, I learned the most important crown and banner is the one you find within your soul. From the quiet, shy girl who stepped on the National American Miss stage to the confident young woman I am today, I am retiring knowing I accomplished my goals and am making a difference in the lives of young women. I now know I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to and change the world, and no crown or banner can represent that.

There you have it: my reasons behind retiring from pageantry. I wouldn’t trade this part of my life for anything in the world, simply because I credit National American Miss for saving my life, but it’s time for me to spread my wings and go after my biggest dreams. National American Miss, thank you for everything! I will forever be indebted to your organization<3

I love you all,

XOXO

Madison

 

 

 

 

There’s Hope for Health Care: An Update

Earlier last week, I came to you all to discuss a horrible experience I had with a nurse at my primary care physician’s office in a blog post entitled, Health Care NEEDS to Change: More Sensitivity, Less Judgement. While I still feel strongly about there needing to be mandatory sensitivity training for all medical professionals about treating eating disorders, I want to share with you the reason I feel there is hope for health care.

I had a follow-up appointment yesterday at the same practice to discuss some test results, and I was very politely greeted by a new nurse who actually took my needs into consideration. Again, I asserted my needs, and she kindly allowed me to not be weighed, and unlike last week’s nurse, she didn’t judge me for my decision. I was very impressed by how thorough she was in taking down my health history and how well she treated me. Additionally, my doctor spent more than 25 minutes just discussing my test results, drawing diagrams along the way to help me understand what is actually going on with my body. She took my needs as an eating disorder patient into consideration and treated me accordingly.

The difference between last week’s visit and this week’s visit is night-and-day. Maybe I hit the health care lottery yesterday by having an understanding nurse and a phenomenal doctor, but it truly illustrates how much better our health care system will be when we implement mandatory training for medical professionals that will help them understand and better treat eating disorder patients. I walked away from this appointment with a smile on my face because I felt I was truly taken care of, and I want to do what I can to make sure all eating disorder patients can go to their doctors and feel the same.

I am putting the finishing touches on the letters I will be sending out to the practice regarding last week’s incident, and I will do everything in my power to start a conversation about eating disorder patient sensitivity in the health care community. Will you join the movement and write to your health care provider about the importance of eating disorder education? Girl, if we all come together, there’s no telling how much of an impact we’ll be able to make in the lives of eating disorder patients across the country.

What do you think? Leave me some comments down below, and let’s talk about it!

I love you all,

XOXO

Madison

 

 

 

Life Lessons from “I Feel Pretty”

There’s a lot to be said about the powerful messages found in Amy Schumer’s latest film, I Feel Pretty, and whether you had the opportunity to see it or not, I wanted to share the positives and the negatives of what this movie has to offer. A little bit of background: the film features Schumer as Renee Bennett: a young woman who struggles with extreme body image, confidence and self-esteem issues. Her one wish is to look and feel beautiful. (Sound familiar?) After she wakes up from falling and hitting her head during a Soulcycle class, she starts to view herself as the most beautiful girl in the world and starts living her life without fear, gaining a boyfriend and landing her dream job along the way. (You can view the official trailer here.)

Here are the five life lessons I pulled away from the film:

  1. Even the most beautiful women struggle with body image

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I appreciate how the film included extremely thin, beautiful women in the body image struggle because we tend to get wrapped up in the mindset of, “if I were thin, my life would be so much better.” Seeing incredibly thin women express how insecure they were about their bodies made me aware of how beauty standards impact all women, regardless of their shape or size, and it helped me grasp the concept of how being a different size will not make us more confident or feel better about ourselves! At the end of the day, positive self-talk, lots of self-care and a positive attitude about who we are will help us feel better about what we see when we look in the mirror!

     2. It’s okay to struggle with body image, but it’s not okay to let it define you

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At the very beginning of the movie, we see Renee allowing her thoughts about her body control her life, and because these thoughts are negative, she misses out on a lot of opportunities, including applying for her dream job and having a boyfriend. (Again, sound familiar?) When she woke up from her nasty fall at Soulcycle with a brand new attitude about herself and her body, a whole world of possibilities presented itself. Because she felt like the most beautiful woman on the planet, she applied for and landed  her dream job, picked up a man at the dry cleaners and started walking down the street with her head held high. While it is completely normal to struggle with body image in our society, it is not okay to let it define you or stop you from chasing after your dreams. Just like Renee changed her attitude about her body and found happiness, you can start to define yourself by all of the amazing things you bring to the world rather than by your dress size.

     3. An instant cure for negative body image doesn’t exist

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As awesome as it would be, an instant fix for negative body image is non-existent. One of the things the movie did not portray well is how much time and effort actually goes into retraining one’s mind to think positively about his/her body: it was all instantaneous for Renee. We only get to see what life is like when we do accomplish a healthy body image, and I think the film could have done a much better job of demonstrating what it’s like to develop a healthy body image in our society.

     4. Every(body) is beautiful

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This one goes without saying! Regardless of size, shape or weight, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL! One of my favorite parts of this film is that it does not encourage women and girls to lose weight to conform to societal beauty norms, but rather to embrace the skin they’re in because they’re worth it<3

     5. Hollywood has a long way to go

While I think Amy Schumer is an incredible actress and played the role of Renee very well, I did a little digging to find Schumer is only a size 6, sometimes an 8. While I understand in Hollywood those sizes are considered plus, I believe Renee’s role could have been even more powerful had someone who’s a 14 or a 16 played the part. A majority of American women are a size 16, and if a film truly wants to accomplish helping young women achieve a healthy body image, they should appeal to the average size 16 rather than to a size 6 or 8 to illustrate beauty at all sizes. Hollywood is certainly trying to move in the right direction, but it must consider representing and speaking to all women in order to send the right message!

'I Feel Pretty' film premiere, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA - 17 Apr 2018

Well, there you have it! My complete and unbiased thoughts and opinions on I Feel Pretty! Have you seen the film yet? What do you think? Do you think Hollywood is moving in the right direction?

Leave me some comments down below, and let’s talk about it!

I love you all,

XOXO

Madison

Health Care NEEDS to Change: More Sensitivity, Less Judgement

I had a doctors appointment this morning at a new practice to get my medications refilled, and as someone in recovery, I always dread getting weighed because most of the time, practices have no sensitivity towards patients with eating disorders and either say the weight out loud or show it to you against your wishes.

As soon as I went back, I said, “I must warn you I am in recovery from anorexia, so I cannot see or know anything about my weight, or it will cause a relapse.” The nurse looked me up and down, slyly said, “mmhmm,” and rolled her eyes at me. She continued to make no effort to conceal my weight from me, and eventually, she put it right in front of me, and almost instantly, my world shattered. I haven’t been aware of my weight for the past three years, and seeing the number killed me. It took everything I had in me to not break down in the office.

First of all, this is no way to treat anyone’s preferences about knowing or not knowing their weights, let alone the wishes of someone who’s in recovery from an eating disorder. I cannot express how invalidated I feel or the impact this has made on my body image and self-esteem, and all of this could have been avoided if they took the needs of an eating disorder patient into consideration. While this situation pains me, I refuse to sink, and I want something good to come of it!

From my experiences today, I am led to believe our health care system lacks sensitivity training for treating patients with mental health conditions, especially eating disorders. We’re supposed to be able to turn to our doctors and nurses in our darkest times to get answers and understand what is going on in our bodies, not to be judged and belittled, and unless our health care professionals are knowledgeable about these conditions, they will not be able to properly help us.

What can we do to make this better? How can we try to make sure no other ED patient has to go through this? For starters, I am going to write a letter from Girl in the Mirror to this particular health care system explaining what I went through today and pushing for sensitivity training and eating disorder education for all employees. I will offer to help organize an eating disorder education seminar for employees and provide resources for anyone needing to know more. While it’s such a small step, I hope it will start the long process of ensuring no one has to go through anything like this ever again.

Have you ever been through something like this? Will you join me in demanding eating disorder education for all health care professionals by writing a letter to your health care provider? Please share your stories and comments down below, and let’s talk about it.

I love you all,

XOXO

Madison

Thoughts on “What Pageant Should You Compete in Based on Your Dress Size”

On January 2, The Pageant Planet posted the article, “What Pageant Should You Compete in Based on Your Dress Size“. I encourage you to read the original, but for my fellow recovery warriors, I am putting a trigger warning on it because I definitely did not feel good about my body after reading it. In sum, it breaks different pageant systems into the size brackets 00-2, 00-6, 00-12 and 12-24+ and encourages girls of the noted sizes to compete in particular systems if they want to be successful.

Before I go any further, I want to make the disclaimer that I respect The Pageant Planet and ALL pageant systems mentioned in the article, and my intention is not to bash the organizations mentioned or the writer(s); however, I will be questioning this controversial article to a great extent and will be unapologetically sharing my thoughts and feelings.

Firstly, I’m aware now more than ever about the size discrimination going on within the pageant industry, and it saddens me as much as it enrages me. I believe a girl of any size should be able to walk onto a pageant stage for any pageant system without her size or shape determining the outcome. From watching USA and America, it’s clear they brand themselves as pageants for real women; however, according to the article, women primarily between the sizes of 00 and 6 are successful in these systems. Now, that’s not to say women between the sizes of 00-6 are not real women; however that is me saying real women come in ALL SIZES!!! Imagine a world where our Miss USA’s and our Miss America’s represent all women’s bodies! With that being said, I cannot be mad at The Pageant Planet for the current state of body exclusivity in pageantry; however, I am mad because I believe the organization is perpetuating the current state of pageantry by posting this article.

I think by separating these pageant systems into narrow size categories, The Pageant Planet is continuing, and almost encouraging, body exclusivity in pageantry. In its response, Pageant Planet says, “We do apologize to anyone who may have felt discouraged by the article that was posted and we want to assure you that was not our intent. We hope instead that this article will serve as a starting point for a conversation surrounding inclusivity and body positivity in pageantry. The climate currently in place will continue to stand as is unless we, as a community, demand change from pageant systems and pageant directors who do not value diversity.” I understand what The Pageant Planet was looking to accomplish, but in my opinion, it completely missed the mark with this article. To me, it’s reinforcing the body exclusivity already in place. How are we supposed to focus on body inclusion when they’re encouraging us to compete in systems based on our dress size? If The Pageant Planet wants to start a conversation about body inclusion in pageantry, why wouldn’t they write articles about how to change the pageant climate and start a progressive social movement to change the current climate? As I’ve mentioned over and over, an article separating girls by size and sending them in the direction of specific systems is not going to change body inclusion; in fact, it’s only going to keep things the exact same.

I know some people will come back and say the article emphasizes it’s not meant to discourage girls from competing; however, I don’t think the commentary at the end is enough to compensate for an entire article separating girls into size brackets: “When it comes to pageantry, size really isn’t an issue. There is a place for everyone! Do your research and find the system that you feel is right for you. Just because you didn’t succeed in one system, doesn’t mean you won’t succeed in another. Maybe it just wasn’t the right one for you.” Size really isn’t an issue? Wasn’t this entire article breaking down where certain dress sizes will succeed? While there may be a pageant out there for every size, why can’t every pageant be for every size? To me, size will no longer be an issue in pageantry when a girl of any size can walk on stage for any pageant system and succeed, and by saying size isn’t an issue, what is The Pageant Planet really saying about the current state of body exclusivity in pageantry?

Another point of concern I have is in the pictures they used throughout the original article and whether or not they asked for consent before using them. I cannot even imagine how it would feel to have my picture used in an article of this nature, whether I’m a size 00 or a size 20. Emily Ramsey, a NAM contestant, shared her thoughts on Instagram: “I’m actually in this picture, and I don’t appreciate the content of this article at all. The point of pageantry does not and should not depend on the dress size of a girl competing. I’ve competed in NAM since I was a young girl because of what the system represents, which is intelligence, respect and enhancing skills that will be used later in life, not because the system is accepting of a certain dress size. NO ONE should ever feel like they shouldn’t compete because a system may not support their size. This is just absurd.” {Emily, you are so beautiful and a shining example of positive pageantry. I’m so sorry this happened to you, and I’m proud of you for standing up for the true meaning of pageantry. Congrats on top five at NAM Tennessee Teen <3}

Final thoughts and feelings… This article genuinely broke my heart. It’s not easy when an article says you probably won’t be successful in a given pageant system because of what the tag says in your dress despite every thing else that would make you a great titleholder. For that, I am grateful to be a part of National American Miss. I will forever be indebted to this organization for continuing to celebrate who I am, what I stand for and everything I’ve accomplished, both on-stage and off, regardless of my dress size. If you’ve known me for any length of time, you’ll know I credit this organization for saving my life from anorexia because of the confidence its given me.

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NAM Nationals 2016

To all of my pageant family and fellow recovery warriors, please don’t let this article define who you are or where you’ll find success in pageantry or in life. I know it’s hard… believe me, this article has been on my mind A LOT, but it is possible to put it aside and go back to defining who you are without even considering your dress size. You are capable of achieving absolutely anything you put your mind to, and don’t ever let anything or anyone tell you otherwise. I’ll always believe in you<3

XOXO,

Madison

Life is Too Short to be Anything but Happy

“Life is too short to be anything but happy”

My mom whispered this into my ear back in the fall of 2015 when I was miserable at my “dream school”, and to be quite honest, I think it is the most truthful thing I’ve ever heard.

Think about it; how much are we living our lives and contributing to our community if we’re miserable, angry, hurting, etc? How are we able to take care of ourselves if we keep subjecting ourselves to environments that instigate negative self-esteem and neglect the idea of self-care? How are we to be happy if our body and mind’s needs are not fulfilled?From my experience, we can’t be happy unless we are in situations and environments that allow us to take care of ourselves: mind, body and spirit.

Last year, I was a waitress at a sports bar. Now, I didn’t realize how much my work situation negatively affected me until I started having panic attacks every day before work, crying my eyes out after every shift and eventually having full-blown breakdowns on the clock when I was tired of putting up with the unfairness of it all. Between not getting breaks, getting treated unfairly and never seeing my family, I was the shell of the girl I used to be. My depression became deeper, my anxiety got worse and I turned to using ED behaviors to cope with the stress. I couldn’t enjoy school or my second job anymore because I was always worried about what would happen while waiting tables

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that night. One day all of the anger, sadness and pain hit me like a train, and without thinking about anything other than my mom’s advice, I spontaneously put in my two weeks. No words can describe the weight that was lifted off of my chest at that moment: I was FREE. 

I was free from what I once thought I deserved. Having a background of being bullied, harassed and belittled, it’s not uncommon for me to accept verbal/emotional bullying and/or abuse, internalize it and think that everything these people say or do to me is something I deserve because I’m “bad” or “flawed”. By standing up for myself and saying enough is enough, I broke the vicious cycle. I started to think, “maybe I am worthy of better”.5822e1320c78f21fed1adebc2163afe1--new-quotes-quotes-inspirational

In the days and weeks to follow, I recognized my worth more and more. I realized that I deserve to go to work and be respected, valued and treated fairly. I deserve to take breaks, eat a snack or take a minute to go to the bathroom. I deserve a workplace where I am not belittled or “screwed over”. I deserve to have a job that allows me to take care of myself. I deserve to feel worthy and important. I deserve to be happy!

That’s the thing about happiness: we have to recognize that we deserve it and surround ourselves with people and things that make us feel valued and loved. It’s not easy to shift your mindset to always feel deserving. Believe me, I still have to remind myself at least five times a day that I deserve happiness, and some days, I just can’t do it. But do believe me when I say that it is possible. For instance, I recently channeled the same courage to quit another serving job because I was treated like I was unimportant and unworthy. As my depression’s worsened over the summer, I realized it was finally time to make a move, and now that I’m done serving, I’ve never been happier.

Am I terrified to cut off my major source of income: I’m absolutely scared to death!b374b3e9985a61818d432ee33f6af33f--quitting-your-job-quotes-quitting-job-humor But they didn’t lie when they said money can’t buy happiness. I am now the anchor and paid student producer for my university’s news station, something that not only brings me pure bliss but also gets me one step closer to my dream of being an anchor on Good Morning America. I’ve also secured an unpaid internship at a top news station to continue following my dreams. Combined with running Girl in the Mirror and having more time to expand my platform, my heart has never, ever been this full. Life is way too short to be anything but happy: happy in what you do, happy in what you are and happy in who you’re with. Thank you God for giving me the courage to change the things I can and giving me the guidance to create a happier, more fulfilling life for myself!

Girl, if your job is killing your mental health, if you are unhappy with your college decision, if you are in a relationship that’s bringing you down: YOU DESERVE BETTER!  You do not have to keep living a life that doesn’t bring you pure happiness, and I hope you realize that you are deserving of all of the happiness in this world. Making big life changes is scary, especially when you’re so familiar and comfortable with the way things are or think you deserve the negativity, but I can PROMISE you that you will not regret removing the negative pieces of your life and replacing them with people and things that will serve you, help you grow and make you feel loved. Take the leap of faith. Trust the process. Take care of yourself, chase your dreams and do what will make you happy ❤message-you-are-worth-it-052216-2-638

What’s one thing that’s holding you back? What’s the first step you’ll take towards making a change?

I’m here to support you on our journey, girly! I believe in you and am excited for you to realize just how amazing, deserving and beautiful you are ❤

XOXO

“To the Bone” – An Honest Review from the Recovery Perspective

From the moment the official trailer was released, discussions of Netflix’s new feature film, “To the Bone,” have been plentiful in the eating disorder community. Should we be flattered that these illnesses are finally being brought to the forefront, or should we be scared that the film is going to glamorize the issue and be filled with triggering content? Will it enlighten our society to the devastation of these illnesses, or will it serve as thinspo for those teetering on the edge of an eating disorder? As someone in recovery from anorexia, I wanted to share with you my honest, raw review of “To the Bone”.

First of all, the movie features Ellen, a 20 year old girl struggling with anorexia who is portrayed by actress Lily Collins. A huge red flag popped up for me when I learned that Collins lost a significant amount of weight under medical supervision to realistically play the part (Read the article here). For one, as Collins shared in her book last year, she formerly struggled with anorexia herself. In my opinion, regardless of how strong or stable one’s recovery is, no one should be subjected to extreme weight loss because there is no guarantee that it will not spark a relapse. If I was in her shoes, I can 110% promise I would end up in a very dark place and would need help getting out, especially with my recovery background. Additionally, eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, and by having Lily lose weight to resemble the stereotypical, emaciated anorexic, the film lost out on the fantastic opportunity to debunk the misconception that all of those who struggle with anorexia are emaciated. Not only does this perpetuate the myth among society, it also gives the idea to those who struggle with the disorder that they have to be “sick enough” to be anorexic and to deserve the treatments necessary to recover.

Moving into the actual film itself, the portrayal of how it’s like to live with anorexia is highly accurate. Most of Ellen’s actions were things I used to partake in while in my sickness: excessive diet coke consumption, knowing the calories in everything, overexercising and cutting my food up into tiny pieces. The movie captured how anorexia enslaves its victim and has ultimate control over their every thought and action and how it is not possible for those in the depths of their illness to “just eat”. Because “To the Bone,” is truly the first movie of this nature, I believe this is a good first step to starting a conversation about disordered eating and the relationship young girls have with their bodies in our society; however, due to how accurate these behaviors were portrayed, there is the potential for those in recovery to become triggered and for young girls to adopt these behaviors in hopes of becoming thinner or achieving the status of “sick enough”. Despite being in a pretty solid recovery since my last admission in 2014-15, I found myself highly triggered by this and had to split my viewing session into two segments.

The hardest parts for me to watch occurred mainly during the first half hour of the film, especially when Susan, Ellen’s step mother, weighs Ellen for the first time since returning home from a failed inpatient treatment stay. Ellen removed her over-sized, fuzzy sweater to reveal her emaciated body while just wearing a sports bra. The image took my breath away. I can’t even picture what I looked like when I was considered emaciated, and to see an emaciated body brought a rush of emotions and a very vague image of what my life was like when I was at my lowest. People remind me time and time again of how horrible my illness was, and seeing this body was a reminder of that, despite my inability to truly remember what it was like. Additionally, when Ellen first met with Dr. Beckham, an eating disorder specialist, he examined her spine to find several bruises from doing too many sit-ups, and it was very triggering to see. I don’t remember what I looked like, but I do know how much pain I was in from the bruises on my spine and hips. Did all of these scenes trigger me? ABSOLUTELY! Even though I’m triggered and experiencing some negative thoughts, I’ve decided to look at this in a positive light: it served as a reminder of how far I’ve come. So despite how triggered I may be to resort back to that lifestyle, I am reminded that I am strong enough to keep fighting.

Let’s talk about Threshold, the treatment center Ellen was admitted to by Dr.Beckham after her initial assessment. All I can say is this was, by far, the worst and most inaccurate depiction of a treatment facility I have ever seen! I know quite a bit about how these places work, considering I’ve collectively spent over eight months in one, so let’s break this down. The patients at Threshold were highly unsupervised and got away with just about every trick in the book. One of the patients hid her purges in a bag under her bed and exercised every spare minute she had. Ellen was able to run up and down the stairs all night and do sit ups in her bed. The patients were not required to eat anything, but they were required to sit at the table. Ellen continuously lost weight throughout her stay, and absolutely no medical intervention was being done. This place literally enabled her to remain in her illness and made no effort to help her! My personal experience in inpatient treatment was 24/7 supervision. The bathroom doors remained open during bathroom breaks and showers to prevent purging and exercising. At night, we were checked on every 15 minutes by a staff member to make sure we were not exercising and to ensure we were getting good amounts of sleep. Our meals were 100% supervised, and the supervisor watched our every move to make sure we didn’t use table rituals or hide food. If we refused to eat a meal or were caught having any other sort of symptom, we were typically threatened to be admitted to an even higher level of care with a feeding tube. While I know not every treatment center is the same, I do know that all programs are hard, strict and demanding. Recovery is not an easy process, and this treatment center doesn’t even come close to showing the pain and challenges that are inevitable when in an inpatient facility. It slightly angers me to see the process depicted in this way because I had to fight like crazy in inpatient to make progress, and the world needs to see that struggle for recovery to truly understand the complexity of both the eating disorder and the recovery process.

I enjoyed seeing the vast differences between the patients at Threshold because I used to be in treatment with the most amazing, unique girls, but I think the different eating disorder diagnoses among the patients could have been presented much more tastefully. By having one patient struggle with Binge Eating Disorder (BED) who constantly ate an entire jar of peanut butter and one struggle with Bulimia who shared purging techniques with the group, it seemed to me that the producer decided at the last minute that she should probably include other eating disorders within the film to emphasize that eating disorders, again, come in all shapes, sizes and varieties. In my opinion, if we are going to educate our society about these disorders, we need to provide a fair and accurate depiction of all eating disorders rather than focus solely on anorexia, especially since the most common eating disorder is Eating Disorder Not-Otherwise-Specified (EDNOS). I know this is only one film, but here again there was a missed opportunity to bring light to all eating disorders.

Another thing that concerned me about the treatment facility was the relationship that developed between Luke and Ellen. While it’s quite common to be in treatment with patients of the opposite sex, most, if not all, treatment centers have a strict policy that restricts romantic relationships between patients. This is because a relationship between two people suffering with an eating disorder can be highly toxic and detrimental to the recovery process. Personally, I think the facility was highly unaware of their relationship because there was absolutely no supervision, especially when they were outdoors on their own, and Luke decided he wanted to go down on Ellen. Watching this made me extra grateful for the supervision I had while in treatment because without it I would not be where I am today, and it really kept anything super crazy from happening! Additionally, their relationship referred back to the misogynistic idea that a woman can only be saved by a man, and I definitely wanted Ellen to find the strength and motivation within herself to give recovery a try. From my own experience, the only person who can save you is yourself, and I wish they would have emphasized this reality.

When Ellen left Threshold due to hitting rock bottom with her weight, the scene where she passed out in the bus station to head back to be with her mother was extremely triggering. She was so frail with sunken eyes and bright blue lips. Again, it’s hard for me to remember how things were when I hit rock bottom, but I wonder if that’s how I looked. If that’s how it was, then wow! They weren’t kidding when they said I looked lifeless. It brought back a lot of negative thoughts and images in my head, so I would consider skipping this scene if these images would trigger you.

The scene where Ellen’s mother finally sits her down to discuss her concerns really got to me. Notably, when her mother said, “I don’t have much more of you to lose,” “you’re dying in front of me,” and “you are almost dead,” is when I saw a huge parallel between Ellen and my struggle with anorexia, although with my head in a better place, I understand it more. My mom said these exact same things and then some to try to get her point across as to how sick I was and how I was going to die without eating or changing my ways, and it felt like it would never happen to me. This scene made me relive several of my darkest hours, tearful nights at the dinner table and fights with my mom over food: something that hasn’t been the easiest thing to think about. It hurts my heart knowing that I caused that much pain and struggle within my family, and I am glad that this movie depicts just how much these disorders can truly pull a family apart. This conversation between Ellen and her mom made a very quick turn for the worse when her mother suggests feeding Ellen with a baby bottle while rocking her. This was just down right uncomfortable and disturbing to watch, and to be quite honest, it made no sense at all.

Following this scene, Ellen wakes up in the middle of the night to climb the mountains near her house and ends up passing due to the complications of anorexia. She goes into the “light” and has a revelation about how she is about to die from her eating disorder. While sitting in a tree, she looks down to see her naked, emaciated body lying lifeless on the ground and realizes how bad it truly is, and she sees Luke coming to comfort her. This is another one of the most triggering scenes in the movie because it gives you a thorough look at an emaciated body, and for me, it brought back some negative thoughts surrounding recovery. Definitely skip this scene if you’re not wanting to deal with intense triggers. What angers me about this is that Ellen instantaneously changed her mindset on recovery to a more positive one, but the reality is that this transformation takes time. Trust me, if I could change in a moment, I probably wouldn’t have hit rock bottom in the first place or spent over eight months in a treatment facility. I wish they showed a very gradual transformation of Ellen throughout the film rather than the two minute, unrealistic journey at the end. The ending of the film seriously leaves something to be desired.

In my opinion, the overall plot of the film unfortunately shed light on how to remain in an eating disorder rather than how to take steps towards recovery. While it is important to shed light on the darkness that these illnesses bring, I think it is of higher importance to show that it is possible to overcome an eating disorder. As I stated previously, a gradual transformation of Ellen’s progression through treatment during the film would have left the viewers with a much greater message than this particular plot provided. Maybe if Collins hadn’t lost the weight for the film and the producers instead used special effects to obtain the realistic portrayal of an anorexic, they could have achieved Ellen’s progression in recovery and documented all of the triumphs and hardships of recovery. The entire tone of the movie was dark and in a way glamorized the eating disorder lifestyle. Again, I believe there was far too much emphasis on Ellen getting sicker and thinner throughout the movie, and it definitely triggered me a great deal. In the future, I hope movies like this really consider the message that they’re sending to viewers. Do I think that the hearts of the producers of, “To the Bone,” are in the right place? Most definitely! I just think their message is hidden in a depressing, trigger-filled movie that honestly has the potential to be a playbook for anyone who is struggling with an eating disorder.

Overall, I give this film 2 out of 5 stars. One star for attempting to tackle this complex issue and another star for Lily Collins’ outstanding acting skills. To all of my recovery warriors, PLEASE TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF AND TAKE CAUTION WHILE VIEWING THIS FILM! You have all come so far, and I would hate to see you face any setbacks by exposing yourself to the intense triggers found throughout the film. Please see this guide to the most triggering moments so you can skip through those scenes:

  • 3:58 – Calorie Counting
  • 6:04 – Emaciated Body
  • 14:00 – Doctor’s Office and Medical Talk
  • 24:25 – Feeding Tube Talk/Calories
  • 33:15 – Weight Talk
  • 49:53 – Weigh In/Emaciated Body
  • 1:37:40 – Emaciated Body

What did you think of this movie? Leave a comment down below, and let’s talk about it!

I love you all<3

~Madison