Lily Collins’ upcoming film ‘To The Bone’ has already been accused of “glamourising” eating disorders, but the 28-year-old says the most shocking reaction she’s had to her weight loss is a compliment.
In the Netflix film, due to be released next month, Collins plays a 20-year-old who suffers from anorexia.
Collins, who has spoken about her own personal struggle with an eating disorder in the past, lost weight under medical supervision for the film.
“I was leaving my apartment one day and someone I’ve known for a long time, my mum’s age, said to me, ‘Oh, wow, look at you!’ I tried to explain [I had lost weight for a role] and she goes, ‘No! I want to know what you’re doing, you look great!’,” Collins said in a recent interview with Net-A-Porter.
“I got into the car with my mum and said, ‘That is why the problem exists’.”
The UK’s leading eating disorders charity Beat has warned that such “off the cuff” comments about someone’s weight can trigger eating disorders.
In light of Collins’ interview, Beat said “eating disorders are serious mental illnesses with complex causes” that can affect anyone, but sometimes insensitive remarks can be triggers.
“Over 725,000 men and women in the UK are affected by eating disorders which can be triggered by a variety of factors such as genetic, psychological, environmental, social and biological influences,” a spokesperson told HuffPost UK.
“Sometimes comments, either positive or negative, about someone’s weight can act as a trigger too. People who conform to society’s picture of an ‘ideal’ body by losing weight or are seen to be able to control their appetites, are sometimes praised and rewarded.
“These, often ‘off the cuff’ remarks, can have a negative effect on individuals with an eating disorder, or those vulnerable to developing one, giving power to the eating disorder ‘voice’ we often hear our service users describing.”
They added that “competitiveness, perfectionism, control and low self-esteem” form some of the key personality traits that raise the risk for eating disorders.
“People with eating disorders judge themselves very harshly and are constantly comparing themselves negatively with others,” they said.
“If you are worried somebody you know might suffer from an eating disorder, we would invite you to take some steps by talking to your relative, partner or friend and invite them to seek support from their GP.”
‘To The Bone’ has been the subject of controversy since Netflix released the film’s advert last week.
Dasha Nicholl, chair of the eating disorders faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, told The Guardian: “It is potentially risky to two groups of people, including those who have not yet developed an eating disorder. There is always a risk of glamourising it [anorexia] and also slightly trivialising it.
“My anxiety is that because [the movie looks like] it has a happy ending and looks like such an enriching experience that it may seem to be an appealing way to address internal conflict. I am just providing a warning about that. We have a responsibility to protect young people and people who are vulnerable.”
Meanwhile HuffPost UK blogger Molly Long raised concerns it could aid pro-anorexia websites.
“Pro-anorexia websites relish in having new content. GIFs of Lily Collins’ emaciated and bruised spine will soon sit alongside black and white screenshots of Cassie from ‘Skins’ telling the world she didn’t eat for three days so she could be lovely,” she said.
“Against the backdrop of an attractive middle-class home, soundbites like, ‘it’s like you have calorie Asperger’s’ are all too appealing.
“This trailer makes dealing with an eating disorder look like a cool, fun thing you can do in your spare time over the summer.”
Commenting on the criticism, ‘To The Bones’ writer and director Marti Noxon said in a statement: “Having struggled with anorexia and bulimia well into my 20s, I know firsthand the struggle, isolation and shame a person feels when they are in the grips of this illness.
“In an effort to tell this story as responsibly as we could, we spoke with other survivors and worked with Project Heal throughout production in the hopes of being truthful in a way that wasn’t exploitive.”
She added that it’s important to remember each person’s battle with eating disorders is unique and ”‘To The Bone’ is just one of the millions of ED stories that could be told in the US at this very moment.’”
“My goal with the film was not to glamorise EDs, but to serve as a conversation starter about an issue that is too often clouded by secrecy and misconceptions,” she said.
“I hope that by casting a little light into the darkness of this disease we can achieve greater understanding and guide people to help if they need it.”
If you’re concerned about eating disorders, you can find information and support on Beat’s website.
Beat also runs a helpline service available to anyone worried about someone with an eating disorder. Beat’s helpline can be contacted via phone on 0808 801 0677 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The spokesperson said: “Our Helpline is open 4-10pm and from 1 July we will be extending hours from 3-10pm.”
More useful websites and helplines: