Lily Collins on anorexia: It’s a part of who I am but doesn’t define me


Lily Collins has been in Sundance promoting her new film, a dark comedy about anorexia called To The Bone. As CB reported, Lily surprised many people during a press conference by admitting that she struggled with eating disorders as a teen. However, she was poised to talk about it because she had addressed this in a chapter in her autobiography, Unfiltered, No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me, right before she received the script for To The Bone. The film’s director, Marti Noxon, said her hope for the film was to start a discussion. It sounds like that is Lily’s desire too, which is good because it’s a discussion many people need to hear and have. The reason, as Lily points out, is because although the thoughts never really left her, they don’t define her.

“It’s a topic that is taboo, I think, with young girls, and it’s really important to tell a story with this subject matter in the way that we tell it,” Collins recently told ET at an EE British Academy Film Awards nominations party in January.  

For Collins, who recently opened up about her own battle with eating disorders as a teenager, To the Bone has been a cathartic experience. “It was terrifying as well. You’re facing something head on that you’ve come out of and now you’re willingly putting yourself back into,” she reveals at Sundance.

In fact, Collins, 27, had just finished writing a book detailing her teenage struggles when she got the script for Noxon’s film. “It was like the universe putting these things in my sphere to help me face, kind of dead on, a fear that I used to have,” she said in a

Given Collins’ own history with eating disorders, the actress surrounded herself with medical experts and a nutritionist to lose the weight for the role, but also to gain it back. “This was not something I’d done when I was younger,” she tells ET. “It was a new way of looking at the disease, but coming from someone 10 years on and looking back at it. I got to insert my own experiences, but at the same time, this was for Ellen; this was research for a character that I could relate to but who is very different from me. It was like therapy — I got to surround myself with very strong women and Marti, who went through it as well.” 

While her journey for the film was handled in a professional (and healthy) manner, Collins does admit “it never fully goes away.”

“It’s a part of who you are,” she says, adding that while the battle is constant, it’s a matter of control and self-preservation. “You don’t have to participate in those thoughts. It doesn’t define who I am as a person, but it’s something I think we should all talk about.”

[From ET]

This is going to sound incredibly shallow but I first got turned on to this movie because Keanu Reeves is in it. However, the fact that it’s a dark comedy and deals with eating disorders intrigues me. Netflix has purchased the film and will release it later this year. Like CB, I was unable to find a trailer for it yet but I do think I will check it out when it streams. If I like the approach, I will have both my kids watch it. Eating disorders are scary and confusing. Since you can never give up food, they are a particularly tricky addiction. I remember the shocking death of Karen Carpenter in 1983 and the hushed tones about what actually killed her (Anorexia Nervosa). After that, we had a one-day ‘these are the different eating disorders’ lesson in health class and that was it. My mom finally found a documentary for us to watch because none of us had ever heard anything like it before.

Given the subject and Lily’s admission, much attention has been paid to her skinny frame in the film. Lily et al assured everyone that it was done healthy and with constant medical supervision. Was it necessary, though? I get it’s a small film and didn’t have the budget for massive CGI but surely there are some tricks in today’s industry that would allow the filmmakers to make Lily look thinner than she is. Fortunately, Lily sounds like she is in a healthy place and that losing a lot of weight did not prey on her. It’s possible that maybe she needed to do this for herself as much as anyone else.




Photo credit: WENN Photos

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22 Responses to “Lily Collins on anorexia: It’s a part of who I am but doesn’t define me”

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  1. Slowsnow says:

    “Unfiltered, no Regrets, no Shame, Just Me”.
    There are at least three titles in there and for such a short life.
    And, by the way, autobiography?! Won’t anybody think of the trees?

    • Heat says:

      Meh, I give her a pass.
      I don’t think that an autobiography has to necessarily be written at or towards the end of one’s life.
      As Phil Collins’ daughter, she’s probably experienced more than a lot of young ladies in her age-group. Also, if she can provide some insight on eating disorders TO the younger generation, FROM a young generation point-of-view, I applaud the effort.

      • Slowsnow says:

        @Heat Anorexia is such a serious condition than sometimes I feel that celebrities are very damaging on the subject even if they are trying to be good. Also, my cynical self wonders a lot about the truth and the capacity to convey a strong and pertinent message.

      • Erinn says:

        I don’t know. As Phil Collin’s daughter I’m willing to bet she had a much more insular upbringing than most women her age. The eating disorder stuff – sure. It can be inspiring to other young people.

        But the rest of it? Her career is based on her last name. She has never really struggled to make ends meet. She’s never had to go to University in order to become something. She’s never really had to go without anything. She’s coming from a place of extreme privilege, so it is going to always be kind of cloying.

        If the book was a focus on being healthy/overcoming eating disorders – sure. But that’s just a topic in a book about her life as a whole – I really don’t see it being needed/wanted.

        Does she HAVE a large fan base? Everything I’ve seen her in (which is limited) she’s been bad – mediocre.

      • Ramona says:

        I agree with Heat. Being raised in the world of celebrity, surrounded by a certain type of female body and a culture that explicitly equates worth with beauty and beauty with skinny. She definitely faced and continues to face a set of challenges that we can never understand.

        And just moving on to the other stresses in her life, she may not have had to worry about a job or money but many sufferers dont either. In fact it used to be disparagingly referred to as a disease of privilege because it was more common among children of the middle class than of the working class. The fact that whatever she does, theres always somebody muttering something about nepotism is probably a layer of stress we will bever understand. I just think its appalling for people to pop up and dismiss other peoples life challenges as inconsequential when they have clearly had an extremely damaging effect on their health and could still one day return to kill them. Its just not your place to do that.

      • menega says:

        @Ramona very well said!

  2. Mimi says:

    Honestly, I like her, but she may not be true to herself about why she is doing this movie. At least partly.

  3. Aang says:

    When my daughter was in inpatient for anorexia we were in a group session with other parents and the therapist said 25% of our patients will die from this disease. 50% will stay ill for the rest of there lives, in and out of treatment, and 25% will be symptom free, not cured, but symptom free. I had never been so terrified in my life. And I remeber looking at the other parents and thinking I hope it’s your daughter instead of mine, and knowing they were thinking the same thing. Thank god my daughter was very young, 13, when we got her into treatment and that increases the chances of success because I could control mealtimes when she was released. Older teens and women have it much harder. We refed her using something called the Maudsly method and it was incredibly difficult. But coupled with a good therapist her weight has been stable for several years. And she enjoys eating again. She chose a local school for college because she knew she needed support eating. Learning how to manage the compulsion to restrict when you are stressed is huge. She is symptom free now for many years and we couldn’t have done it without a a ton of support. I wish every women struggling with this horrible condition all the best. They need to know we are here for them.

    • Slowsnow says:

      @Ang 25%! That’s huge. A friend of my daughter’s has been struggling with anorexia for a year now and it seems such a hard thing to fight. But my (outsider) perspective is that parents seem to play a very important role in the healing process and you seem to be hands on.
      And I have at least 2 adult friends who managed to bypass this terrible condition and are accomplished human beings, mothers and partners.
      So hang in there! Lots of internet hugs.

      • aang says:

        I think the 25% is of those that are serious enough to need inpatient care. Some with the condition never get that serious and it is managed out patient.

    • lannisterforever says:

      As someone who had eating disorders when I was younger I can see how this would be true, especially the part about 50% still struggling. I eat and look normal and healthy nowadays but when my boyfriend jokingly said I’d get fat if I didn’t come with him to the gym (as a joke to motivate me) I looked at my body with repulsion and anxiety for the first time in years. It’s so, so easy for old habits to flare up so please try to be sensitive around people who have struggled with EDs.

    • Chaucer says:

      The worst part about this is that it comes in waves. I suffered from 12-20, then was symptom free for two years, and as soo. As I got pregnant it again. I hope your daughter remains symptom free, but please be aware it’s very easy to relapse into that thinking.

      • zxc says:

        I thought I’d be watching my weight all my life even though I mostly beat eating disorders in my late teens but then I went vegan and naturally am at a weight that I always felt best at (it’s low but not underweight mind you), it’s just that I don’t have to limit my food intake to keep it, I eat till I’m full at every meal. Completely free of all the ed thoughts and have been for a couple of years now.

  4. Lucy says:

    Good for her. I hope she’s doing okay now, it seems like she is. I always get so mad when people treat illnesses like eating disorders and addictions as if they were choices, or as if they were the patient’s fault.

    • alternative fact says:


      Or assume that EDs are purely about wanting to fit into a certain size jeans/wanting to look like a model. They are not that simple.

  5. Nanea says:

    @ Hecate: I think having Keanu appear in the movie is a clever way of getting people to see this, shallow or not.
    And he’s in it as a favor to his sister Karina, who’s one of the producers.

  6. Tanakasan says:

    i have had an ED for 25 years, and i know the only reason she did this film was the joy of having a reason to get skinny again.

  7. alternative fact says:

    I’ll preface this by saying I have had an eating disorder for over 10 years, and just got of a stint in treatment 2 months ago, so my view is absolutely colored by my own experiences.

    I have mixed feelings about this film. I LOVE Marti Noxon (UnReal is one of my favorite shows…if you haven’t seen it DO YOURSELVES A FAVOR AND TURN IT ON) and I like the idea of a film about eating disorders that isn’t a typical Lifetime sap-fest. I hope the “dark comedy” aspect is not used to make eating disorders seem like jokes, and I REALLY hope the movie doesn’t make treatment seem like camp. Intensive treatment is not a vacation. I’ll admit I have unrealistic expectations because Noxon had an eating disorder, I love Keanu Reeves, and I am desperate for mainstream media portrayals of EDs that have some nuance.

    I don’t like commenting on women’s bodies or speculating on whether or not someone is still sick based on how they look, but to me Collins still looks sick, at least in the photos from the Globes. Considering how much tabloids love to speculate on who in Hollywood has an ED, I’m surprised the picture of her posing to show off the back of her dress did not garner any attention. To me, she looks skeletal. And I’m suspicious of anyone with a history of an eating disorder taking on the role of someone with an ED (see also: Zoe Kravitz). I side eye any medical professional/dietitian who would not find an ethical dilemma in helping someone with an ED lose weight for this part. I also know the sick part of my brain would be jumping for joy about significant and sanctioned weight loss. She’s right: it doesn’t go away completely. And, as it is with any addiction, EDs are unpredictable. I can’t imagine losing that weight, having to gain it back, and then being just fine after. I guess I just wouldn’t want to tempt the beast like that. But, again, that’s just me and my knowledge of eating disorders. IDK what it would be like to take on this role many years into recovery, as Lily claims to be.

    Rant over. tl;dr: something about this whole thing just rubs me the wrong way and IDK why. Thanks for being welcoming, celebitchies!

    • Msun says:

      I completely agree with you. I’ve been recovered for 4 years with no relapses (after 12 years with my ed), but I know my ed will always be there somewhere in a dark corner of my brain waiting for a chance to take over again. Losing a significant amount of weight (for any reason) would throw me right back into the disease. I just cannot see how anyone who have suffered from an ed can take on a role like that in a healthy way, and frankly I have no respect for any dietician who would be part of that.

      Also, it breaks my heart when commenters links her disorder to her famous last name or infer that we shouldn’t feel sorry for ‘the poor little rich anorexic girl who can afford all the best treatment in the world’ (this was really a theme in comments for the previous article). The two are completely unrelated and she deserves just as much sympathy as anyone else suffering from a mental illness.

      • alternative fact says:

        Completely agree. Yes, she comes from a famous family and has access to resources many people do not, but no matter your status eating disorders are a miserable experience.

        Congratulations on 4 years of recovery!

  8. Shiba says:

    KC died of bulimia, actually. She had been using a drug to make herself sick after eating, post-rehab. It built up in her body and finally proved toxic to her heart. Her doctor at the time thinks she may have thought her behavior was safe – he never asked her if she was purging, because she didn’t have a history.