I thought I’d tell you about 5 films and documentaries I’ve watched in recent weeks (some of them having watched many times before). Whether you may / do have an eating disorder, whether you know someone with an eating disorder or just want to gain some insight, these are definitely worth a watch.
1. Kate’s Secret (1986) – available on YouTube
This film depicts a 30-something year old mum and wife struggling with bulimia and, in my experience as someone who ended up in hospital due to bulimia, really shows this eating disorder in its true sense. Also, I find that most films focus on teenagers so seeing adults affected is really welcomed. The film stars Meredith Baxter (from Family Ties fame), Ben Masters and Ed Asner (who’s just an iconic actor!).
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2. The Karen Carpenter Story (1989) – available on YouTube
I was SO excited to meet Cynthia Gibb who plays Karen in this film a couple of years ago. In fact, she told us about the challenges of making the film and the extraordinarily tight control that the Carpenter family had over its production. But it tells the true story about the singer who found fame with her brother but died in 1983 due to complications linked to anorexia. One day, I’d love to go to a Carpenters convention in the US because I know the lyrics of virtually every song and I’d love to visit Downey, California where she lived.
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3. Thin (2006) – available on YouTube
This documentary follows the lives of 4 teenagers and women receiving treatment at the Renfrew Centre, Florida. Really complex individual stories (well, I guess eating disorders are complicated in themselves) and it’s rather sad when you google what happened to some of the participants but it’s an interesting watch.
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4. Dying to be Perfect : The Ellen Hart Pena Story (1996) – available on YouTube
This depicts the true story of US athlete Ellen Hart Pena who became anorexic and bulimic, sparked by a suggestion that her sporting performance might improve if she lost some weight but there also appeared to be other contributory factors. Why do I like this one? I guess I have this long held belief that I’m never good enough, that I’m never perfect enough (yes, I know there’s no such thing as perfect) so I can relate to Ellen. But accepting that I may be ‘okay’ is work in progress. In fact, my therapist said recently that he sees university students placing immense pressure on themselves to be perfect, failure not being an option, desperately to achieve 100%. But, in the UK, you can get a first class degree if you achieve around 70% overall. You don’t have to be 100% to be successful.
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5. Louis Theroux: Talking to Anorexia (2017)
I like Louis! He’s this quiet almost unassuming British documentary maker who doesn’t shy away from asking the difficult questions but I love his observations (he did a brilliant one about death based in the US). But in this documentary, he’s on the ward of a couple of eating disorder wards in London and he also visits a lady who’s struggled with anorexia for decades. Just a quiet watch but helpful at least for me.
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But other films and documentaries include Perfect Body, Sharing the Secret, Dying to Dance, Hunger Point, To Be Fat Like Me, Emma Wants to Live (this is tragically sad), Feed, My Skinny Sister, When Friendship Kills, For the Love of Nancy, Starving in Suburbia and The Best Little Girl in the World. All these films have girls and women as their central characters and, of course, we know that boys and men struggle too and I think it would be helpful to see a guy as a central character. Saying that, the BBC recently showed a documentary by English cricket Freddie Flintoff about his battle with bulimia and he also featured other men. And in fact, reflecting on the characters in these films, nearly every person is white. Let’s have more diversity please!
But on a different serious note, something has just jumped out at me and you may say “duh” when I tell you what it is. Several of these film titles contain the words perfect and dying. Thing is, I know that eating disorders are dangerous (whilst feeling so good and control at the same time) but seeing the above words in black and white has just hit me a bit today. Can only be a good thing?
So, I’ll be back on Monday with my next weigh-in. In fact, on Monday afternoon just after when I usually blog, I’ve an online meeting scheduled with an eating disorder clinic about potentially accessing support so I’ll update you about how it goes later on in the week.
Well, hope you all have a good weekend and if you know of any other eating disorder films or documentaries, please do let me know
Love Erika xx