For as much focus as we put on women (and to some extent, men) being thin in society, not much discussion is given to eating disorders. Sure, we might joke about it and so, “Oh my God, so and so is so anorexic.” Or maybe we see a thin, gangly armed girl and think to ourselves that she might have bulimia, but there’s rarely a discussion about eating disorders. This, and many other reasons are why Lauren Greenfield’s film “Thin” is so important.
“Thin” follows a group of women who are in a treatment center for eating disorders. The fact that Greenfield was given such access is amazing. What she captures is heartwarming and heartbreaking, often at the same time. We meet Brittany, a 15 year old who’s self image is so destroyed that at one point, she starts pulling at skin on her chin convinced it’s a double-chin. We meet Alisa, a gorgeous mother of two who relays a story of purging that’s so disturbing, you might think you’re hearing a twisted short story. Shelly, 25, has a feeding tube surgically attached to her stomach to get food in and, more importantly, get it out easier. Then there’s Polly, a 29 year old “bad seed” who is so strong willed and so charismatic, you simply cannot believe she would let herself fall into the world of eating disorders. However we learn through “Thin” that eating disorders are not a choice, they’re a sickness.
As we get to know these women it’s nearly impossible to wrap your head around the fact that their image of themselves isn’t what’s really there. In one scene an art therapist has Alisa draw a life size portrait of how she sees herself. After she does, the therapist has Alisa stand with her back to the drawing and she traces her body superimposed on the one Alisa made. The results are clear as day. Alisa is a beautiful, fit woman, several sizes smaller than how she sees herself. But she simply cannot see it.
This film is fascinating and sad. It”s also groundbreaking as Greenfield is given total access to these women’s lives. Eating disorders are a secretive, ritualistic thing and Greenfield manages to gain the trust of these women so completely that we see it all and much of it isn’t pretty. However it’s powerful films like this that open peoples eyes and lead to discussion which is something we truly need in order to combat this illness.