Warning: This post contains images that some recovery warriors may find triggering.
((To watch this post: click here, or watch below…))
I’ve got to be honest, the topic of tonight’s post makes me incredibly uncomfortable.
No, tonight’s I’m going to be talking about the recent documentary video by Shane Dawson about YouTuber, Eugenia Cooney.
The only reason I’m tackling this topic is because so many of you emailed me directly asking me to write about it.
So…here we go.
I want to start out by saying that, the reason I’m uncomfortable is because Shane’s video is about Eugenia’s recovery from an eating disorder. And I feel super gross about making comments or being critical about anyone else’s recovery. I equate it to like, feeding scrambled eggs to a chicken, just for the sick enjoyment of it.
So — I will not be commenting directly about her recovery per se, but rather, the documentary video itself.
Because…spoiler alert — as someone who is in their 12th year of recovery from anorexia, I definitely have some big thoughts on it.
A few months ago, I published a post called, “Watching Anorexia on YouTube” — and although I did not name outright the YouTuber I was referring to in the post, I was, in fact, talking about Eugenia Cooney.
To catch anyone up who may not know, she is a 25-year-old YouTube personality that has been causing waves for the last several years because she is so severely — visibly — anorexic. There was outrage in the online community, begging YouTube to take down her channel, because her image was so harmful and triggering, and a bad influence for young girls. I, for one, was one of those in favor of pulling her channel.
But recently in the last few months, she has — truly, praise God — begun her recovery journey. And I say “begun” — because that’s exactly where she’s at — she’s at the beginning of a life long journey. And for that, I am truly elated for her that she’s reclaiming her life, and I pray for strength and perseverance for her, as she begins this trying road.
She went to inpatient for 30 days. And in the 3 month-interim since then, YouTube mega-star, Shane Dawson, created an in-depth documentary about her, complete with a post-inpatient interview with Eugenia herself, titled, “The Return of Eugenia Cooney.” It was released last week, and since then, has garnered over 25 MILLION VIEWS.
Yes, you read that correctly – 25 million views.
I have contributed 2 of those 25,000,000 views.
Why did I watch it twice?
Well, because after the first watch, I left the viewing experience feeling so unsettled. Feeling so just…icky. There was something about the whole experience that didn’t sit right in my heart.
So I watched it again.
And this time, I could put my finger on why.
It was because it glamorized anorexia. It put a “pretty filter” on it, and completely trivialized the living hell that it actually entails.
I’m sorry, but doing a house tour and a make up tutorial with Eugenia, and then Shane making light of wanting to go to an inpatient treatment facility so he could unplug from his cell phone and eat pancakes and fries every day — it just left me shaking my head going, “What the literal fudge?”
Yes, I applaud Shane for wanting to bring light to this important and difficult topic — which, with 25M views, he certainly succeeded in that. But if he was truly trying to educate people on how to help, or how to talk to loved ones about it, or just frankly inform people about ED — he completely missed the mark. He failed. Utterly.
His approach, in my opinion, was ALL WRONG. The way in which he interacted with Eugenia — someone who is only in their 4th month of recovery and still has probably 25 pounds to gain, if I’m guessing, based on where I was 4 months in — was completely detrimental. Asking her about what she was eating, asking her about if she recognizes her changing body in the mirror, asking her about a day in the life of her eating disorder — I just can’t begin to express how those questions cause immeasurable anxiety for someone in such a fragile state.
Eugenia, God bless her, she answered with a smile, and gosh, I just saw so much of myself in her.
When I was four months in, I was hanging onto that smile for dear life. I was petrified of the new life that I had been forced to adopt, and – no shocker here – I relapsed hard at college.
But the biggest thing that I felt sick about after watching the documentary was how nonchalant, and – dare I say, romantically – they presented such a dangerous and potentially fatal mental illness.
First of all, throughout the entire documentary, Shane gratuitously included clips from her YouTube videos, that fetishized her gaunt, emaciated and truly skeletal body. After the 15th video insert, I was like, “Enough already with the skeleton “thinspo” porn!” Add to that, that the first five minutes were videos from her subscribers begging her not to die, and to get better — they were crying, and so dramatic — which sends the message to anyone struggling that, “Oh look at all the attention you’ll get when you get this dangerously sick…” Not to mention the triggering images of a glamorous — and deathly ill — young woman.
Anorexia is not glamorous. It is not at all how it was presented in the documentary. “I was still like, eating every day. But I guess it just wasn’t really that much, which for me, I guess I just kind of wasn’t really realizing that I should have been eating more.” That’s her actual quote about it.
I’m sorry, but that is not an accurate depiction of anorexia. Because you know damn well every. single. morsel of food that passes your lips. In fact, I can still tell you exactly what and exactly when I ate every day back in 2007, because those rigid food rules were strangling my life so much.
Anorexia is not just “not realizing you’re not eating enough.” It is a strangulation of mind, body and spirit by a force that you cannot overcome.
Adding to the inaccurate glamorization of the documentary, was the way her story of inpatient treatment was told.
It was presented in a way that led us to believe that one day, she finally realized that “it would be a good idea to get some help.”
Which, this is such a diminishment of that incredibly difficult and painful decision to seek treatment for an eating disorder.
Plus, this is not actually what happened with Eugenia. It is reported that her friends were so worried about her dying, that they staged an intervention. Eugenia, being a legal adult, was refusing treatment, and her mother was allegedly not interested in her getting help ((which, her mother is a completely separate topic of grave concern)). So her three friends, ended up staging an intervention with psychiatric professionals, who 5150’d her — meaning that she was involuntarily committed to psychiatric treatment as a danger to herself.
She went involuntarily. Which — sounds a lot like my own story. My family had to stage an intervention, as I too was 18 and legally an adult — and refusing to go to treatment. I didn’t have to be 5150’d, but to say there was a struggle would be the understatement of the century.
And on top of that, the documentary literally offered zero information on the harmful effects of anorexia on the body, other than, hair loss, which Eugenia claims she didn’t have. Where were the talks of early osteoporosis? The intense cardiac stress that can often lead to heart attack or death? Where was the information about infertility and loss of menstruation? Or the digestive issues, or bone loss, or diminished brain function, or growth of fine body hair on the face? Where were those, Shane? No – we were made to believe that *poof!* After just 30 days at a Four-Seasons resort-like inpatient facility, you can be completely healed and recovered from a severe eating disorder you’ve had for over a decade! All smiles here!
Next – she is not “recovered.” This is not meant to be mean. This is fact — she is beginning recovery. Recovery is a life-long journey. LIFE LONG. I am in the 12th year of my recovery, and every day, you still have to wake up and choose life. So all the comments on the video praising her that she’s recovered and so healthy and etc — it is so incredibly damaging for Eugenia to read.
Because here’s the thing…people who have never suffered from an eating disorder just cannot understand how a person in recovery or with an ED thinks. I remember my first night back from inpatient, I saw a bunch of my friends and loved ones, and they all were saying how healthy I looked, and how they were so proud of me, and how happy they were that I was better.
And this is problematic because Two-Fold: a) I would hear “you look healthy” and my mind would translate that to “you look fat.” b) Secondly, and most detrimentally, coming home from inpatient, yes — I had gained weight, but I still had about 15-20 more pounds to go. I entered inpatient at 78 pounds, so yeah, coming home, even though I was still underweight, I looked so much healthier that the emaciated skeleton that left, three months prior. And let me tell you – I was terrified of those last 15 pounds. So when I heard people say how great I looked, or how healthy I looked, in my still ED-possessed mind, I was rationalizing in my head, “Oh hey – you don’t need to gain those last 20 pounds, you’re fine now. The inpatient doctors were wrong. This underweight existence is far enough.”
And Eugenia is in that same boat. She’s still dangerously underweight. And I can only imagine what those hundreds of thousands of comments must be doing to her psyche.
Other things that just gave me the gooks about the video were how her lawyer was lurking in every scene. How she was still wearing baggy clothes, which was my biggest “tell” that I was actively in my disease. Also – the talk about her mother, who — I really hate to say things like this, but I just don’t feel settled about their relationship. The mother was helping film her videos. And she’d even be IN some of them! And this is petty, but it was just so shocking to see her mother, who’s significantly overweight, next to Eugenia who, if I had to guess was around 75 lbs, tops. And I am sad to raise the question but — was her mother was profiting from her visibly dying daughter’s eating disorder? Millions of people were watching her videos for the shock value. To fetishize her anorexia. Millions of views equates to millions of dollars. And I mean, this is all just gross speculation, but there’s just something unsettling about the whole dang thing.
This entire post has left me feeling quite sad. Sure, because of what I just watched, but mainly because, I really don’t like to be critical.
Because the fact is, Eugenia is a brave, strong, and resilient young woman who is in the fight of her life. Those first months of recovery are terrifying and she’s navigating those tumultuous waters, not only in what appears to be a non-supportive environment at home, but in front of millions of people on YouTube. So Eugenia, you go girl. Keep at it, brave warrior.
She is reclaiming her life, and recovery – no matter who you are – is a bumpy ride. And there are some good days, but there are also a lot of bad days, and a lot of days where you’re ready to throw in the towel and revert back to your disease.
People with anorexia are all really good at acting. We’re all really good at presenting a smile to the world, while the inside is absolutely combusting. And I just couldn’t help but think about that, as I watched Shane Dawson tell the world that this bubbly, beautiful girl is “all better” and “recovered.”
I want the world for Eugenia. Ever since I wrote that piece those months ago, I have continued to pray for her and her recovery every day. And praise God, it appears that she’s making progress. Truly, I am so proud of her for that hard, life changing work she’s put in. I wanted to hug her throughout the entire video, and tell her that it’s okay be a bit of a mess right now. Recovery is messy. And the sooner you realize and embrace that, the more grace you’ll be able to give yourself, and the more free you’ll be.
At the end of the day, all we can do is be there for one another. And love and support each other to the best of our abilities.
My feelings about this documentary are coming from a place of love, and admittedly: trepidation. Because – though well-meaning – I’m afraid this video did more harm than good. And in fact, is not the best way to support this brave warrior on her early journey of recovery.
“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5
Sign up below for my free newsletter!
Get my daily videos, recipes and posts delivered straight to your inbox!
Here was yesterday’s video! https://youtu.be/8pmp4ZI968A
A big thank you to my foundational sponsor, BetterHelp Online Therapy. I cannot begin to express how beneficial therapy was for my recovery from anorexia. Speak with an online therapist. Or check out content about eating disorders from BetterHelp.
MAGIC TOOTHPASTE? Yes! I am in love with this superior whitening toothpaste. It keeps my smile sparkling, without sensitivity or bleach! I made a website where you can directly order this miracle product! So if you want to give it a try, you can go ahead and grab a tube for yourself. I promise, your smile will thank you!
THE FABFITFUN SUMMER BOX IS HERE! And I made an UNBOXING video! I was — flipping out — over the contents of this box. It is far and away the best, FabFitFun box I’ve received yet. (Hello, Brazilian Bum Bum Cream!?!?!) I had an absolute blast filming it, so I would love it if you gave it a watch! And to order a box for yourself, you can get $10 off by using my code BEACHBABE.
Be sure to check out my affiliate, Audible. Listening to audiobooks while I cook is literally my new favorite thing. And just for you, they’re offering a Free 30-Day Trial Membership. And with this free membership, you’re going to get 2 free audiobooks! Literally. Free. It is the best deal ever. And if for some reason, you decide it’s not for you, you can cancel within those 30 days and it’s zero money out of your pocket, plus, you get to keep the 2 audiobooks. Soooo…it’s pretty much a no brainer. Plus, it’s a free and easy way to support this blog! So thank you!!
@beauty.beyond.bones – Instagram
For Podcast versions of my posts, please check out Patreon! It’s only $2 a month!! You make this blog possible 🙂
And really quickly, I’ve had several questions concerning my Amazon link (amazon.com/shop/beautybeyondbones) — You do not need to buy one of my specific highlighted products on my page, in order for it to “credit” my account. Any purchases that you search or make from anywhere on Amazon, after first visiting my Amazon page, will credit this blog and help support this blog ministry. I am truly so grateful and appreciative to those of you wanting to do so! So thank you! Again, it is an absolutely free, and easy way for you to help keep this blog going!