Are there eating disorder tv shows? (11 tv shows)

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In this article, we will have a look at available eating disorder tv shows that you can watch in the comfort of your home for the purpose of education, inspiration and motivation concerning eating disorders.

We will also cover topics such as feeding and eating disorders according to the DSM V, eating disorder causes and essential coping skills to help you manage eating disorders.

The most popular eating disorder tv shows are:

  • Insatiable
  • Perfect body
  • Degrassi
  • Flesh and bone
  • Supersize vs superskinny
  • Skins
  • Addicted to food
  • Overshadowed
  • Intervention
  • Don’t call me crazy

What is the importance of eating disorders tv shows?

Helps to connect with people going through the same

While eating disorders thrive in isolation, recovery thrives in a community. Tv shows that show people opening up and talking about their struggles and experience with eating disorders can help you connect with other people who relate to their stories. Being in a community/ group where people understand what you are feeling and going through cannot be compared to the support given by family and friends.

Creates awareness

Many people still have no idea how serious eating disorders are and instead judge and stigmatize those afflicted. Many families have no knowledge of how to help an afflicted member and end up making the situation worse. Tv stories with personal stories on eating disorders help in awareness of risk factors, symptoms, coping strategies and prevention methods.

It also demystifies the myths and misconceptions surrounding eating disorders. The stories help people to understand that eating disorders can affect people of all ages, gender, races, professions and socioeconomic backgrounds. The successful tv shows depict the real struggles of those with eating disorders.

It strengthens your recovery

Seeing other people’s stories helps you reclaim your power. The stories can help you come out of shame and secrecy and gives you the power to face the eating disorder. You have been given the power to tell the story of how, when and why you want to tell your story.

Watching the shows also helps to amplify your values and goals for your recovery. It helps you commit yourself to your own words as you encourage others.

They spread hope

The eating disorder tv shows act as an encouragement and proof that recovery is possible. Some people feel desperate and hopeless about treatment. Recovery can be a gruesome and difficult journey and a story of success acts as motivation that if others can do it, they can too.

They normalize talks about eating disorder

Talking about eating disorders and any other mental illness for that matter can be challenging due to the stigma surrounding mental illnesses. Creating shows that speak about struggles of eating disorders helps others come out with no shame and fear of being judged. The tv shows have the power to reduce stigmatization and instead, raise more awareness of the conditions.

It is important to also use this platform to educate you on what eating disorders are and the most common types.

Eating disorders

Eating disorders are mental illnesses characterized by abnormal eating habits, and complex and damaging relationships between food, exercise and body image that impairs physical and mental health.

Eating disorders are also known to cause death. In fact, about one person dies every hour as a direct result of an eating disorder. (Eating Disorders Coalition, 2016)

Types of eating disorders

According to the Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders fifth edition (DSM-5), there are six types of eating disorders. Obesity is no longer included as an eating disorder since it results from long-term excess of energy intake relative to energy expenditure. 

A range of genetics, physiological, behavioural, and environmental factors that vary across individuals contribute to the development of obesity; thus, obesity is not a mental disorder. (Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders fifth edition 2013).

The six eating disorders are;

  • Pica
  • Rumination disorder
  • Avoidant/ restrictive food intake disorder
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Binge eating

Causes and risk factors of eating disorders

  • Genetic factors. If an immediate member of a family has an eating disorder, chances are that others are predisposed to suffering from the same or another type of eating disorder.
  • Psychological factors. Factors such as demanding personality types that seek perfection can trigger eating disorders later in life. Factors such as low self-esteem, depression, and self-respect can also cause eating disorders.
  • Social factors. Social factors such as poor relationships, bullying, societal demands and views on body image, size, weight and shape are often attributed as one of the major causes of eating disorders.

11 Eating disorders tv-shows

Flesh and bone

“Flesh and Bone”, first produced in 2015, is a tv show set in the world of professional ballet. The protagonist, a talented but emotionally challenged dancer, named Claire Robbins, brings to light the dark side of professional ballet. In order to maintain the required weight and her weight expectations, she often engages in behaviour and symptoms similar to those of eating disorders. The show has a positive viewer rating of at least 70% and is a thrilling and educative family tv show. 

Supersize vs Superskinny

First aired in 2008 on Channel 4, a British television channel that features eating and dieting lifestyles, “Supersize vs Superskinny” is a show that brings together one overweight person and one underweight person at a diet clinic where they will stay together for 5 days sharing diet plans under the guidance of Dr Christian Jessen. 

The show shed more light on how dieting and eating disorders can negatively affect lives as well as provide timely solutions for people living with eating disorders.

Starved

While the show only lasted for a season before it was canceled, it is still one of the most educative eating disorder tv shows to date. The show is based on four friends who suffer from eating disorders. 

They met at a support group meeting called Belt tighteners. The characters portrayed symptoms of anorexia, bulimia, as well as binge eating.

Other shows include;

 Overshadowed

First aired on BBC in 2017, “overshadowed” is based on an anorexic girl who becomes obsessed with exercises, withdrawn and gaunt because of direct and indirect influence from her friend Anna.

Addicted to food 

Addicted to food is a reality tv show that features eight people with eating disorders in a 42 days treatment program at shades of hope. As part of the treatment program, the therapists help them ‌confront the painful aspects of their lives that made them use food as a coping method. 

Don’t call me crazy

Is a tv show that features teens in treatment as they work through eating disorders, and suicidal depression among other mental problems.

Insatiable

The show gives a new twist to the norm when talking about eating disorders. Most of the shows talk about anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa and for a change, this tv series talks about a girl suffering from a binge eating disorder. The main character, Patty (played by Debby Ryan), starts as a very chubby girl who is mocked and bullied in school for her body weight. Her disordered eating is described in the show as ‘out of control’ and ‘compulsive eater.’ 

This forces her into a liquid diet for three months, loses a significant amount of weight and comes back with vengeance for those who fat-shamed her. Although the show has been criticized for unrealistically portraying that one can lose that amount of weight in 3 months healthily, it has done a great job of portraying the stigma associated with body weight. Patty also gets flashbacks to when she was being bullied even after her transformation and this shows that physical changes only cannot do away with the trauma experienced from bullying.

Perfect body

The show portrays the dangers of eating disorders. The main character, Amy Jo Johnson, is a passionate gymnast. She is, however, scrutinized by her couch about her body size which compels her to lose weight. She starts with a simple diet but later develops calorie restricting diet that takes a toll on her health.

One of her tea members tells her about purging through inducing vomiting. Jo tries to continue restricting calories but is unable to stay hungry for long and hence, results in vomiting after eating. Her mother and close friends notice her drastic weight. She opens up to her best friend about not being able to stop the behaviour and even faints twice during competition.

The doctor advises her mother to find help and they decide to go back to Portland. She joins a support group and therapy and at the show, we are shown Jo going back to the gymnasium.

Overshadowed

This is one of the tv shows that has received praise for its representation of eating disorders. The show has personified anorexia into a girl, Ana, who creeps into her life, is always with her and feeds off the negative thoughts of Imo. Ana starts to ruin her life, relationships and even simple activities.

The show portrays an eating disorder as an illness that creeps in to ruin someone’s life. It has also been sensitive in not talking about weight loss methods, counting calories or talking about bones and being thin.

Intervention

Intervention is a tv show that follows stories of people with different disorders ranging from substance use disorders to eating disorders. Close family members and friends take action and look for interventions to save their loved ones from dying. Annie is anorexic and bulimic. Her fiance Kevin is worried that if something is not done, she will die. 

Annie had also been sexually molested at 16 which made her turn to drugs. Annie’s mother turns to intervention as her last hope. There are also episodes about eating disorders.

Degrassi

The series has aired episodes on eating disorders and although some people, including the actresses, feel eating disorders were not well represented, the show has done a good job in showing the stigmatisation of people who are considered obese. Emma, the main character, has an eating disorder and we are shown the struggles she went through.

Conclusion

In this article, we looked at various types of eating disorders, their causes, and coping strategies as well as provide you with a list of educational tv shows that you can watch to learn more about the experiences of people living with eating disorders.

 It is our hope that this article has been useful to you and your family. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to let us know.

Frequently asked questions: Eating disorder tv shows.

Why was “starved” cancelled? 

The production company did not have sufficient resources to continue the show alongside the fan favourite “sunny”.

What’s the show with an anorexic girl?

“To the bone” is a tv show that features the story of a 20-year-old girl Ellen and her struggles with anorexia nervosa.

What are some good movies or shows about eating disorders?

Excellent shows about eating disorders include Starved, To the bone and Overshadowed

Citations 

American Psychiatric Association.(2013) Diagnostic and statistical manual for mental disorders (5th edition). American Psychiatric Association.

Anad. Eating disorder statistics. Anad. Retrieved from: https://anad.org/eating-disorders-statistics/

TMDB. Eating disorder shows. TMDB. retrieved from https://www.themoviedb.org/keyword/172383-eating-disorder/tv

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