I found the scene very powerful and meaningful. I interpreted it as a portrayal between two separate very problematic issues (lack of mother's presence growing up and her eating disorder) which Eli's life gravitate around, but which in the end intertwine and are in a cause-effect relationship. As a child/teenager, Eli was "deprived" of a much needed motherly affection, care and nurture- all essential to raising an individual with a healthy mind. Then a whirlwind of self-doubt, self-loathing and probably the feeling that her family life is shattered and out of her control overwhelmed her and might have contributed to her ED, which I think is deeply rooted in something else. So now she deprives herself of much needed life fuel.
Notice how she lacks validation, approval and appreciation from her family (her natural mother, her father and Susan) and she seeks it elsewhere. The counting calories scene with her step-sister displayed pretty predominantly how much pride she took in her abilities to be in complete control of how many calories she ingests. Her entire life revolves around those numbers and they are now internalized in her. Also the scene where she is weighed and the lady tells her that soon enough her body will starting eating its own muscle-2 things worth mentioning here: 1)she saw the number on the scale, she knew it was mortifyingly and worryingly low, but she cracked a subtle, tenuous smirk there. She was clearly proud of her achievement. And 2) when the lady told her the aforementioned thing about muscle loss, I think she was, under the facade of apathy which she veiled herself with in front of people, again very content with the fact that she has managed to go through with something like this. For the first time ever she took control of something, saw the results and now she gets the confirmation of the control she exerted when the lady tells her about the repercussions which are bound to come.
I personally didn't cringe at all. I was actually pleasantly surprised about the lack of censorship and by how they digged into more "disturbing" things. Before the release of the movie, a lot of people thought about how it will glamourize anorexia. I think these scenes are pretty much the proof that the purpose is not that. It was an unusual scene, yes, but how can I cringe at that scene when I know how fucked up and twisted mental illnesses are as a whole? I mean, jesus, people with mental illnesses resort to all sorts of very unconvential, non-generic and dire ways to deal with stuff. Mental ilnesses are not meant to be not "cringy" because the individual alienates himself/herself from the norm through the mental ilness and its thought process, so I think an ED is intrinsically disturbing and perhaps sprinkled with cringy occurences.
I know when I was at my lowest and I passed out due to prolonged starvation and I found myself in the hospital..idk what happened, but it was like all the shame, the privacy, the need for loneliness I had until that moment vanished. I just wanted to be taken care of because I acknowledged how weak and powerless I was. I didn't care about being fed with a spoon or about being accompanied to the bathroom by a nurse to hold me because I was incapable of sitting on the toilet on my own. It is a harsh reality, but it is what it is.