Troian Bellisario's New Film Gives Eating Disorders A Necessary Narrative

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Pretty Little Liars may be ending soon (*ugly cries*), but actress, Troian Bellisario (who plays Spencer Hastings), already has a new project in the works that may be her most impactful yet.

Bellisario shot the film Feedwhich she directed and wrote based on her personal experience with the anorexia, reports People magazine. The movie's plot will follow twins (played by Bellisario and Tom Felton, of Harry Potter fame) who experience a tragedy in their last year of high school that pushes them apart.

Bellisario discussed the film and mental illness in detail with Interview magazine.

She shared,

One of the things I really wanted the film to explore was that once you have this relationship, once you have this mental illness or this disease, it never really goes away. Your synapses are wired in a way that you will always feel this compulsion, but as you grow older and create a healthier life and go through lots of therapy, you tend to feel more empowered when it comes to making these choices.

The actress has long been open about her battle with anorexia, and first talked about it in an interview with Seventeen magazine.

She described her experience, saying,

I started self-harming when I was a junior. I would withhold food or withhold going out with my friends, based on how well I did that day in school. ... I would create this bizarre system of checks and balances to create order in my world.

Bellisario later filmed an awareness PSA during the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign.

The Feed film is necessary for the culture simply because we don't talk about eating disorders as often as we should.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), 20 million women and 10 million men experience an eating disorder in their lifetimes. Half a million teens are also affected by them.

While there have been movies about eating disorders in the past, the topic has not been part of national conversation in this way.

Growing up, I specifically remember learning everything there was to know about eating disorders from Lifetime movies, like For The Love Of Nancy (1994), and A Secret Between Friends (1996).

Since the '90s, yes, there have been other films that grapple with the subject, like the 2013 film, Likeness, starring Elle Fanning. Still, a check on Google search trends shows public interest in looking up terms like "eating disorders," "anorexia," and "bulimia" has decreased since 2004.

There is still little understanding about eating disorders.

We hear most often about anorexia and bulimia, yet there are other types of disorders that go under the mainstream radar, like binge-eating disorder, purging disorder, and night-eating syndrome. Other conditions are classified as "eating disorder not otherwise specified" or EDNOS. An example is Pica, the behavior of constantly eating things not meant for consumption, like plastic or dirt. Rumination is another, which happens when people bring back up food they already digested to eat again.

Chewing and spitting (c/s) is another condition not classified as an eating disorder, but involves a person chewing food and spitting it out instead of swallowing it.

It's important to talk about and understand these disorders, so we can identify them easier, and erase the stigmas associated with them.

We don't thoroughly understand the people who suffer from these disorders.

Merriam-Webster defines anorexia as,

 A serious physical and emotional illness in which an abnormal fear of being fat leads to very poor eating habits and dangerous weight loss.

However, this definition is incomplete, according to experts and survivors.

Psychology Today debunked the myth about eating disorders being all about wanting to be thin, in an article that discusses how the desire for control is the fueling factor.

Troian Bellisario also shared in Interview magazine that many people misunderstood this about her mental illness.

She said,

I found there were so many people who thought that it was about losing weight or being skinny, and I couldn't quite get them to understand that it was about control on a very, very literal level.

A film like Feed, created by one of the biggest television stars in the digital age, who is a survivor, will hopefully push eating disorders back into trending conversation and empower more people to form a full understanding.

Feed hits all digital platforms and Video on Demand on July 18.