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Former Anorexic Says 'Eat Less' T-Shirt Is Shameless

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Maggie Baumann: What comes to mind when you read the words "Eat Less" on the front of this T-shirt?

Anorexic Tee

Well, judging by the appearance of the slight-looking model wearing the tee, you would certainly not want to encourage her to eat less.

This one T-shirt has caused a viral response over the Internet recently, especially on the website REVOLUTION OF REAL WOMEN(RRW) -- a global movement that advocates "the empowerment of females in reclaiming their freedom of individuality, self-esteem and unique beauty."

RRW stated that the "Eat Less" shirt sold by Urban Outfitters is crossing the line and promoting a "Pro-Ana" (pro-anorexia) viewpoint. The uproar over the tee's message has presumably led Urban Outfitters to remove the photo of the shirt from its website.

On Sunday, June 6, I checked Urban Outfitters' site to see if there was an explanation regarding the T-shirt; I found no information about the controversy on the company's blog or Twitter page. The T-shirt has simply disappeared off the website -- yet it hasn't disappeared from Urban Outfitters stores nationwide (according to a Saturday, June 5, post on RRW's Facebook wall).

Crowd Reaction

Response about the T-shirt has varied. Many are insulted by the words; they say "Eat Less" sends a dangerous message to girls and women and could promote eating disorders such as anorexia. Others have a "so what" outlook and say people are overreacting.

A big concern for those trying to prevent the spread of eating disorders is that the words "Eat Less" condone actions expressed on "Pro-Ana" and "Pro-Mia" (pro-bulimia) websites. These sitesprovide tips, support and advice on how to lose weight; they encourage people to accept thateating disorders are a lifestyle choiceand say that "thin is in" -- no matter how thin.

When I saw the T-shirt, I was shocked that any reputable clothing company would promote the words "Eat Less." To me, it implies, "Your body size is too big, so you better eat less in order to be acceptable within our culture's thinness standards." Having struggled with anorexia myself, I also fear that the words "Eat Less" make starving yourself OK. Anyway I look at it, I see the message as dangerous. I am in full support of the idea that Urban Outfitters should donate the T-shirts (in ripped pieces) to car washes nationwide to help wash and dry cars!

Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT, a San Diego therapist who specializes in treating eating disorders, says,"I love Urban Outfitters and have enjoyed their products over the years. Yet this T-shirt is another reminder that we still have a long way to go in educating our community -- individual and corporate -- on the serious nature of food and body issues. With the increased focus on obesity issues these days, many think that people just need to 'eat less' -- which perpetuates the misconceptions around these matters and minimizes how destructive and even deadly eating disorders [can be]. [Eating less] is not about the food; it is about the emotions, genetics, coping mechanisms, personality temperaments and much, much more. I hope Urban Outfitters reconsiders keeping this T-shirt on the market, so they are not glamorizing -- and therefore colluding with -- the life-robbing ability of these illnesses."

Exercise physiologist and body-image/eating-disorder expert Terri Graham, MS, of Orange County, has another take."Aside from being stupid and pointless, the shirt is rude, arrogant and presumptuous," she says. "I am less concerned about it causing, encouraging or promoting eating disorders [than about it] inflicting hurtful self-blame and loathing on people who struggle with their weight. The shirt implies far more than its simple statement of 'Eat Less.' I doubt very highly that people who struggle with needing to lose a few pounds will wear this shirt. Instead, it will be worn by people who are normal-to-underweight already, which will imply that they are somehow better and more in control of themselves -- or, even worse, that weight management is something as simple as 'eating less.' I feel it pokes fun at people who are overweight, encourages bullying or picking on people who need to lose weight, and will perpetuate body dysmorphic disorder and low self-esteem in young girls and teenagers who might need to drop a few pounds. I can definitely see the shirt being used by 'mean girls' to taunt, bully and pick on their overweight peers in an almost passive-aggressive manner. Even if it isn't intentional, overweight girls may perceive that the shirt and its message is aimed directly at them."

One recovered-anorexic and mother of three girls, Patty DesLauriers of North Carolina, said,"Instead of promoting a negative body image with the words 'Eat Less,' why not change the words on the shirt to encourage girls and women of every size? How about the message, 'I am me. I am not my size'?"

Approaching this message from a different angle were two responders who posted messages on RRW's website."Gadgetman" wrote,"Who gives a crap? The fact that this is even news is symptomatic of just how superficial our culture has become."

And someone called "Phredralf" added,"America is the fattest country in the world; suggesting to 'eat less' isn't out of line. In fact, I second that emotion."

So what are your thoughts on this T-shirt's message? Is it tasteful ... or tasteless?


next: Why I'm Not Inviting Your Kid Back on a Playdate
94 comments so far | Post a comment now
Kendra (Voice in Recovery) June 8, 2010, 7:10 AM

I wrote a letter to Urban Outfitters before it was taken down from their website. I am an Eating Disorder and Body Image advocate on Twitter, Facebook and Founder of Voice in Recovery.

www.voiceinrecovery.com

Anonymous June 8, 2010, 7:33 AM

There are far more overweight people than underweight. I honestly think this “eat less” message is one we should be on board with.

Keen June 8, 2010, 8:18 AM

as someone who previously had an eating disorder, I can understand why people want to promote healthy body images in the media, BUT and this is a HUGE but, we live in the most obese nation in the world!! While I don’t really “get” the t shirt, I think the issue is moderation, on both ends of the spectrum.

Being obese is just as unhealthy as being unhealthily skinny, regardless of your body image.

Amy June 8, 2010, 9:48 AM

I think this Tee is a digrace, alongside it’s responses. No one is supporting obesitiy but it seems anna supporters love to twist it back around that way. I wouldn’t support a top that says ‘eat more’ any more then I would ‘eat less’. It is just sad there are girls (and boys) out there who will see that as something to aspire to, and it isn’t

Lauren June 8, 2010, 10:01 AM

Eat Better. Be Healthier. My Body Is My Sanctuary.

Any of these are helpful values for a young girl to have and to express, ones that address America’s weight problem head-on. But since they don’t have the controversial and downright mean undertones of the existing message, they are unlikely to get onto a T-shirt at a hip store like this. And that’s sad.

CW June 8, 2010, 2:25 PM

This tee is tasteless no matter which way you look at it. Yes, there are mostly obese people in the U.S. But poor body image is often one of the causes for eating disorders (whether you’re overeating or undereating). This tee does NOT promote healthy nutrition. They should have just made Michael Pollan’s saying into a t-shirt: Eat Food. Mostly Plants. Not Too Much.

Leana  June 8, 2010, 4:53 PM

Eat less/Eat more, either phrase is unecessary to display on a T-shirt, and the purpose for displaying such a message seems to stem from a negative place. I think that this particular message on a shirt has the probability of promoting a negative body image on both ends of the spectrum. I think that there are plenty of phrases of encouragement that can be placed on a T-shirt instead that encourage healthy lifestyle and so on.

Cassandra June 9, 2010, 7:28 AM

obese people should have a negative body image. They are at a higher risk for a myriad of diseases even death. That sure would make me feel negative about my body - and rightfully so. There is nothing ‘okay’ about being obese & we need to stop endorsing it, telling everyone it is ‘ok’ b/c they are beautiful at any size.

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Anonymous August 3, 2010, 9:41 AM

THIS IS THE BEST SHIRT EVER!!!! AMERICA IS HUGE. PEOPLE SHOULD EAT LESS.

Anonymous August 4, 2010, 11:40 AM

this is the most asinine uproar i have ever heard. a tee shirt with “I am me I am not my size” is neither provocative or funny. EatLess is both. It doesnt say RapeMe. Its in no way pro-ana/mia its simply a thought provoking shirt. I’ll add also that I am a significantly underweight male, and there is a HUGE difference in how a skinny person is treated in comparison to a fat person. People make faces and ask how much I weigh and tell me to eat more and ask me to find a BigMac to eat etcetcetc, and i nearly every time respond telling them to skip a meal and save it for me if they are that concerned. so yeah, Id wear this teeshirt. the same way a fat person would wear one that says big is beautiful.. why do americans have to riot on behalf of the majority under the guise of helping poor defenseless bulemics. Everyones mad because they have their own set of confidence problems like the rest of us. Its a teeshirt, and that model isnt even overwhelmingly thin. move on america.

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