Few stories are as affecting and inspirational as the true ones that take place across the world.
Eating disorders are a serious illness that can have a profound impact on the person affected, their family, and their friends. In fact, eating disorders are a cause of many other mental health problems, with 97% of affected individuals also exhibiting a comorbid psychiatric disorder.
This is significant given estimates of more than 2M people in the United States living with an eating disorder.
There is still a stigma when it comes to talking about eating disorders, primarily as people are confused or too embarrassed to talk about their struggles.
That’s why these 7 amazing eating disorder documentaries are truly required viewing.
And while there are still many hurdles to open and honest dialogue, these documentaries help shine a light on various eating disorder problems, first hand.
Covering fields including binge-eating disorder, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, these documentaries are a great way to open up a dialogue with your friends and family members.
Trigger Warning: These documentaries may include themes and scenes around topics such as purging, mental health, anorexia and diet. I acknowledge that this content may be difficult for some and I encourage you to care for your safety and well-being.
1. Perfect illusions (2003)
This documentary follows the stories of four families who have been impacted by an eating disorder. What I particularly like about this documentary is the emphasis it places on the family system; in other words, it goes into a lot detail on a child’s eating disorder can impact the entire family structure, and how the family plays one of the most vital roles in treatment and recovery. This documentary will be of use to families of youth affected by an eating disorder, as it not only provides insight into the complexity of the illness but may also give families a sense of connection with others who have gone through a similar experience.
2. Thin (2006)
“Thin” is arguably the most talked about eating disorder documentary. It follows the journeys of four young women with anorexia nervosa in a residential treatment facility. “Thin” provides a raw look into the experiences of these girls, highlighting the harsh and complex realities of living with an eating disorder and how gruelling the treatment process can be. This documentary can, however, be quite confronting given the details provided throughout the treatment experience. “Thin” is a documentary worth taking the time to watch if you are interested in understanding the seriousness of eating disorders, including how resistant they can be towards treatment.
3. Living with Anorexia
This documentary is part of the ‘In My Mind’ series created by Attitude. It presents the story of Dominique, a 22-year-old women who has suffered from anorexia nervosa since the age of 9. I like how this documentary focuses on telling the story of one specific individual; it enables an in-depth insight into her unique experiences, granting an exploration of specific thought processes and perspectives held by Dominique. This documentary is great for catching a glimpse inside the mind of someone suffering from anorexia nervosa, while also highlighting the devastating impact it can have on the sufferer’s life.
4. Embrace- the documentary (2016)
Embrace is a documentary directed by Body Image Activist Taryn Brumfitt. It explores issues related to body image and body loathing. Described as inspiring and engaging, this documentary encourages viewers to challenge the way they feel about themselves and their bodies, while also highlighting the harmful role the media can play in depicting what is perceived as an ‘ideal’ and ‘healthy’ body. It is essential viewing for anyone struggling with negative body image and is looking for some positive encouragement.
5. Behind the before and after: Intuitive eating and body image documentary
This documentary was created by the Body Love Society, an organisation focused on promoting intuitive eating and positive body image. The documentary features personal stories from a diverse range of women who have struggled with body image and food. What I enjoyed about this documentary is how it highlights the hidden dangers of ‘diet culture’, challenging the idea of what ‘health’ looks like, and encouraging viewers to judge their level of health by how they feel on the inside, rather than what they look like on the outside.
6. Anorexia: A Boy in a Girl’s World
Men get left behind when it comes to eating disorders. Fortunately, this documentary provides a detailed analysis and the personal experience of what it looks like for a young man to be struggling with an eating disorder. This BBC documentary follows the experience of a teenaged boy with anorexia nervosa, reflecting on the challenges he faced as a male experiencing what is often recognised as a ‘girls illness’. If you’re wanting to better understand how men present with eating disorders and the different obstacles they face on a day-to-day basis, then this will definitely capture your attention.
7. In My Mind: Anorexia
“In My Mind” follows the story of Arley, a teenaged girl diagnosed with a long-standing history of anorexia nervosa. This documentary provides a slightly different perspective of what it is like for some people to battle anorexia nervosa; it reflects on personal journal entries, goes into a great deal of deal on Arley’s though patterns during her darkest times, and how these thoughts can change gradually during the course of treatment. Highlighting the impact of Arley’s eating disorder on the family was also a nice addition that resonates with viewers.
What’s Your Favorite Eating Disorder Documentary?
Did I miss any of your favourite eating disorder documentaries in 2021?
If so, comment below telling me:
Your choice for the #1 best eating disorder documentary you think we should check out
Why you loved it.
All is ok, thanks for your work…but what about binge and take kilos and leave kilos for all your life….all the world tolk only of anorexia but how many dead about binge…..
Dr Jake Linardon
Agreed. Binge eating is a big problem, which is why this website focuses a lot on binge eating problems. Hope the information is useful.
“Living with Anorexia” was very similar to my daughters fight with anorexia. It gave my husband and I more of an insight to how this disease plays in the mind of a restrictive anorexic person.
My daughter has been suffering with anorexia for 7 years, she is now 25 years old and is the thinnest she has ever been. Our family’s life has been turned upside down. We keep trying to help her but we know it is something she has to do herself to improve and we have to encourage and support her on her travel.