It was Spring, 2017 when we got the results from the UMass show. Around that same time, the movie To the Bone came out on Netflix.
The eating disorder community was aghast. First, the show broke every rule suggested by the National Eating Disorders Association in covering eating disorders: they used numbers and weights; they showed graphic images of a gaunt body; they glamorized the eating disorder. Body image bloggers and mental health professionals discouraged the young and vulnerable from watching the movie, yet millions did.
The other big fail was the way To The Bone depicted treatment. Many aspects of the treatment process were unrealistic, creepy, unethical and potentially dangerous. The age-old question surfing the internet was:
Is there a responsible way to both entertain and educate about eating disorders without making the problem worse?
Anyone involved with What’s Eating Katie? would have answered that query with a resounding, “YES”! We were doing just that.
But it was clear that an important part of Katie’s story was missing. The show needed a new final Act capturing crucial aspects of the recovery journey.
Now, how to accomplish this through song and dance...
Before I approached my composer, I needed to raise some money. I thought about a Kickstarter campaign but decided to seek out a treatment center sponsor.
A well-respected center from North Carolina specializing in treating kids and teens called Veritas had just announced they were building a new inpatient eating disorder center in Atlanta! Their Outreach representative, Carlus Houston, not only worked in the eating disorder field, but he was an actor. Whenever we’d get together to talk shop, we’d drift into talking about our latest creative projects, eager to support the others’ efforts. I reached out to Carlus, hoping he could advocate for this project with Veritas. Sure enough, Veritas gave us the green light, agreeing to fund Bryan's composing skills.
So I’ve been working on the new scenes. I have a rough final Act and I’m pretty excited about it. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but here are some of the key concepts that we are attempting to capture.
Diversity of sufferers: a group therapy scene (where each member has an “ED”) includes at least one male, someone from a different ethnic group, people of all sizes. EDs are not just for skinny white girls.
It takes a Team: recovery is multi-faceted. Scenes include individual therapy, group therapy, nutrition therapy and body-work through a yoga class.
Mindfulness: Katie’s task is to develop a mindful relationship with food by slowing down and tuning in to her hunger and fullness signals
Body work: Katie learns a new way of talking to and about her body through the yoga class
Connection: Katie is re-connecting with her feelings, with her body, with food, and ultimately with her support network. Each scene ends with Katie connecting physically with others (through hugs, moving chairs in circle, etc.) leaving ED out in the cold
Triggers & Relapse: breakfast with the family almost triggers a relapse
The Value of Anger: Katie takes back her power by asserting her anger with ED
Telling the Secret: reducing shame and stigma are crucial. Katie tells ED she will no longer keep the secret and in the final scene, she shares her recovery story at a Love Your Body panel event.
There is a fascinating shift taking place in our culture at this very moment: the #MeToo movement. Women are refusing to just “take it” and stay silent regarding sexual harassment and abuse.
This cultural shift is a perfect parallel to the recovery journey.
Listen to Your Body! Speak Up! Shatter the Silence!
These are the Core Messages of #MeToo, the key to eating disorder recovery and the basis for the new ending to What’s Eating Katie? The only difference with eating disorder sufferers (many of whom have experienced sexual trauma) is “The Abuser” lives within.
Twenty-one years ago, ED appeared as a seductive, abusive force that sucked Katie into a web of lies and destruction. But Katie’s Day of Reckoning has come.
My hope and dream is that future audiences will find the new ending not only Therapeutic but Empowering.
Stay tuned….music and dance coming...