Troian Bellisario, star of hit television series Pretty Little Liars, is using her voice to speak up about one subject no one wants to talk about: eating disorders.
In July 2017, Bellisario branched out of her role as Spencer Hastings from PLL by writing and directing her first full-length feature film, FEED. The film stars Bellisario as Olivia, twin sister to Matt, played by Tom Felton.
The story begins by painting a picture of the teens’ close sibling relationship, but tragedy strikes, and Olivia is sent into a downward spiral in which she begins to struggle with an eating disorder.
The film is important not just because it addresses eating disorders, but because it creates a realistic depiction of what the struggle truly looks like. Recently, a new Netflix original movie, To the Bone, sought to do the same, but only seemed to glorify the effects of an eating disorder.
In an interview with Darling Magazine, Bellisario said her primary motivation to create the film came from her own personal battle with an eating disorder. Bellisario said wrestling with an eating disorder is not always an issue with weight or body image, but for many others like herself, the trigger lies in the desire for control.
Eating disorders can be triggered in several different ways: stress, anxiety, a divorce, the end of a relationship, the death of a loved one or any situation in which one feels out-of-control.
According to the Institute of the Psychology of Eating, the No. 1 cause of an eating disorder is stress in a complex world or the feelings of being overwhelmed with circumstances and challenges — not body-image dissatisfaction.
For me, the subject of eating disorders in my friend groups is taboo in conversation. No one wants to think about or address the reality and popularity of eating disorders in our culture.
A friend says she is cutting out carbs for three weeks, and we congratulate her. We compliment our friends with ‘discipline’ when it comes to eating right and we feel proud of ourselves if we keep our calorie count low or stick to an intense exercise regimen.
Do not get me wrong, bettering oneself should be a goal for us all. We should want to take care of our bodies by giving ourselves the nutrients and exercise we need. For some individuals, it is healthy to take a break from certain food groups such as grains or meat. Everyone’s body is different.
The issue is the motivation behind the seemingly ‘healthy’ actions.
FEED accurately portrays the ugly truth of misplaced motivation. On the outside, it appears Olivia is innocently cutting calories here and there, but on the inside, she is wrestling with a voice telling her not to eat, and she quickly ends up in a rehabilitation center.
What shakes Olivia awake is when the doctors tell her she will die if things do not change. Death from not eating does not seem like a possible outcome for most of us, but the motivations behind eating disorders have the potential to push one to such a point.
When stress or anxiety overwhelms us in life, it can be easy to succumb to the desire to reach for the things we can control and grip them tight until our knuckles turn white. But control is just an illusion. We are never truly in control.
I am grateful for Bellisario’s vulnerability in FEED for showing the horrors of eating disorders because there is no beauty or glory in such circumstances. More than her vulnerability, I am grateful Bellisario showed recovery and hope.
If you or someone you know is battling an eating disorder, reach out. You are enough, and although you will never truly be in control, you can have faith in the One who is.