Restricting eating, or cycling through periods of bingeing and purging, may be signs of an eating disorder. If left untreated, eating disorders can have devastating effects on someone’s mental and physical health. These films, whether about someone witnessing the painful effects of a loved one’s eating disorder or focused on one character’s personal battle with one, illustrate just how dangerous eating disorders are.
Some films included on this list are heavily criticized: It can be difficult to make films about eating disorders without running the risk of glorifying them or triggering those with eating disorders even further. As with all mental health concerns, if you struggle with an eating disorder, carefully consider whether these films are for you.
1. Starving in Suburbia (2014)
This Lifetime made-for-TV film follows 17-year-old Hannah as she joins a dangerous ”thinspiration” online community where users treat anorexia as a lifestyle rather than a disorder. She loses a substantial amount of weight only to continue obsessing on losing more, ignoring concerned loved ones, including her own brother who struggles with his weight.
The film culminates in a tragedy, forcing Hannah to finally realize how dangerous her eating disorder really is.
2. Feed (2017)
Teenager Olivia is haunted by her twin brother’s death and begins seeing visions of him when she’s distressed. Matt tells her what to do and when to eat, and Olive begins thinking that she’s saving food for her brother so he can live again.
This film not only touches on eating disorders, and the chaos they can wreak on someone’s life, but how profound grief can make us think it was our fault to begin with.
3. To The Bone (2017)
Most critics recommend taking this one carefully: A handful of them have claimed the film glorifies anorexia and continues the same tired trope of the typical anorexia sufferer being a privileged white woman who just wants to look like the models she sees in magazines.
While that may be true for many, this film sparked a lot of debate about responsible filmmaking when it comes to eating disorders, and comes with a health warning in the UK.
4. Thin (2006)
This documentary follows four women receiving eating disorder treatment at The Renfrew Center in Coconut Creek, Florida. While each woman has their own “final straw” that brought them to Renfrew, they all suffer from eating disorders that profoundly affect their lives to the point of near-death, in some cases.
5. I Am Maris (2018)
I Am Maris follows a young woman, Maris, who struggles with an eating disorder and finds new healthy habits through yoga and mindfulness. This documentary follows teenage Maris as she receives inpatient care at a children’s hospital and eventually finds a yoga studio, falling in love with the practice and becoming a yoga teacher.
I Am Maris illustrates how recovery is ongoing: While Maris finds acceptance and control of her symptoms through her yoga practice, she also routinely recognizes when eating disorder behaviors pop up again in college. This prompts her to seek help and recognize that recovery is a journey, not a destination.
6. Behind the Before and After (2021)
Created by the Body Love Society, this short documentary dives not only into eating disorders but diet culture, body image, and self-love. It illustrates how the fitness industry makes so much money because it doesn’t work: Most people gain whatever weight they lost back once finishing whatever diet they were on.
Featuring personal anecdotes, interviews, and more, this documentary also promotes intuitive eating and a more.
7. Anorexia: A Boy in a Girl’s World (2016)
Men make up 25% of anorexia cases.1 They also have a higher chance of dying due to later diagnoses and the common belief that men don’t get eating disorders.
This BBC documentary follows 17-year-old Charles, a young man with anorexia that he’s been battling for a few years. It highlights the social stigma men face when seeking treatment and acceptance from peers, and why it is so important to understand eating disorders across all genders and identities.
8. Hunger Point (2003)
Eating disorders can be learned behaviors, too. Hunger Point shows what happens when parents place unfair expectations of weight and body image on their children and how devastating the ensuing tragedy can be.
In the Hunter family, dysfunction runs rampant, as two daughters face their mother’s extreme dieting while trying to live lives of their own.
9. Dumplin’ (2018)
While not directly about eating disorders, Dumplin’ is about body acceptance. Teenager Willowdean (“Will”) grew up under the shadow of her pageant-winning mother, who keeps a carefully-maintained physique in order to keep competing. Conversely, Will, affectionately called “Dumplin’” by her mother, struggles with accepting her larger body.
Will decides to compete in a local pageant in defiance of her mother, who thinks Will is trying to mock the pageant process. The result is ultimately a feel-good tale in which Will and her mother both learn to accept themselves for who they are and rekindle their relationship.
10.Sharing the Secret (2000)
This well-received TV movie features one of the more compassionate takes on eating disorders as it follows teenager, Beth, struggling to cope in the wake of her parent’s divorce and the mounting pressure of succeeding in school. She turns to bingeing and purging as a way to control one aspect of her life, but her habits quickly spiral out of control and force her to seek treatment.
When to Seek Help for Eating Disorders
Eating disorders, if left untreated, can wreak havoc on the physical body and leave lasting damage. When combined with a treatment plan, a therapist can help you navigate the difficult emotions surrounding your eating disorder, including identifying triggers and how to manage your symptoms. Don’t hesitate—use our therapist directory to find a therapist in your area today.
If your friend has an unhealthy relationship with food, there are positive actions you can take to help them. Read more about helping people with eating disorders here.