Posted by: VoiceinRecovery | June 3, 2010

Letter to Urban Outfitters re “Eat Less” T-Shirt

To Whom It May Concern,

I am saddened and angered by Urban Outfitter’s carrying a T-shirt that says “Eat Less” depicted on a young woman. I honestly cannot understand WHO manufactured such a message and WHO would approve this at UO to be sold to a national audience of young women.

I am sure you have received plenty of emails from people stating that anorexia nervosa and eating disorders are no joke, and are deadly. In the United States, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life and death battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. Millions more are struggling with binge eating disorder (Crowther et al., 1992; Fairburn et al., 1993; Gordon, 1990; Hoek, 1995; Shisslak et al., 1995). Anorexia nervosa has the highest premature fatality rate of any mental illness (Sullivan, 1995). 91% of women recently surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting. 40% of newly identified cases of anorexia are in girls 15-19 years old, and I believe your Target Market is within this age range. Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives (Neumark-Sztainer, 2005).

I find it irresponsible of Urban Outfitters to support a message that encourages unhealthy behaviors that are potential risk factors for developing an eating disorder.

As an Eating Disorder/Body Image Advocate and someone who is in Recovery from numerous eating disorders, I cannot support Urban Outfitters or the message they are sending to young girls, young women and the general public. There are enough myths and stereotypes regarding eating disorders in the media on a daily basis.

I would like to know WHAT are the intentions of Urban Outfitters or the manufacturer of this T-Shirt? What are they trying to tell young women? Urban Outfitters is a national chain, and has a great opportunity to empower women by choosing products and messages that could help lift young girls and women, versus telling them to “Eat Less”. With two simple words you are telling young people and the public it is OK to follow an unhealthy message. Women get ENOUGH mixed messages and negative pressure from the fashion industry in general and particular stores that don’t carry sizes for all types of body shapes and sizes.

As a Body Image advocate and a woman, I am concerned for the messages national chains are sending to young women. We have children as young as 5 concerned about gaining weight, wanting to be on diets and developing self esteem/body image issues that could potentially last a lifetime, and potentially lead to pathological issues. We have children who are overweight subject to bullying and teasing. Young children and teens worry about fitting an “ideal” body type that is not healthy, and this T-shirt supports the message that it is 1) ok to diet and 2) ok not to eat. I can’t imagine anyone thinking this is an empowering or healthy message to be sending to young women.

It is time for corporations who sell products to young adults to be mindful and responsible for the messages they send to the public. Urban Outfitters has a choice with every product it sells. It is also time for the consumer to use their power of choice; the money they use and the messages they support with the products they purchase.

I would encourage ALL parents, teens, young adults (of ALL genders) to NOT shop at Urban Outfitters if this is the kind of message they want to send. I hope this T-shirt is taken down and a public message is sent to the public regarding its sale.

I would refer you to:

National Eating Disorders Association’s

Information and Referral Helpline: 1-800-931-2237

and website:


Kendra Sebelius
Founder, Voice in Recovery (TM)


  1. Good for you Kendra…I hope you get a response, and if you do, I hope you share it!

  2. Well said! Stand by you & behind you 100%. Please keep us posted on their response.

    • I absolutely Will!!! Thank you for your support!

  3. Very well done, Kendra. Thank you for sharing your voice and doing so in a non-combative manner. Your approach was wonderful.

    • I was trying to be professional and responsive versus “reactive”. I think creating a dialogue is important and often times how we approach the dialogue really makes a large difference. With reactions often nobody “hears” anyone. Thanks for your support!

  4. Our society is so consumed with vanity, that it sickens me about the pressure people face day in and day out. I appreciate the words spoken above and thank you for being a strong voice against the silent whispers of pain.

  5. Good job!! I had NEVER even heard of this company, but I will not promote, or shop there. It is the same treatment for Ralph lauren. I tell everyone I know NOT to purchase items from companies that don’t have a healthy approach to women. They have mothers and sisters don’t they?? How could they think this doesn’t hurt society itself?

    • I know. Thank you for your support and comment!

  6. such a fantastic letter. thank you for sharing.

  7. Fantistic! You are amazing!

  8. Brava, Kendra.

    Thanks for writing this and thanks for letting me know so I could write and lend my name to your effort also.



  9. Brava to you!

    What the hell where they thinking? I’m so sick of these things being manufactured.

  10. Let us know if you get a response!!
    Honestly I’m of the opinion that it’s just a tshirt, because I believe that people will find triggers anywhere they want if they really want to be triggered, but I totally understand the controversy and kudos to you for such a wonderful and well-written letter and for standing up for what you believe in!!

    • You make a very valid point and I considered it before writing. I know there are many things people find triggering but personally this one kicked me in the gut and couldn’t walk away. So thank you for reading, and I will let everyone know if I ever receive a comment or response!!!

  11. Kendra
    That is a beautifully written letter! Wow, I am so very impressed at your ability to clearly state your concern in a non-threatening dialog. You don’t come off as some extremist who is going ballistic on them, a mistake I see so often when people react as you mention above, from a strong emotion.

    Thank you for being the voice of reason and helping this cause as well as helping this company to be responsible and in the end helping their bottom line.

    I am so glad you are doing the advocacy work you are doing, your skills are very well matched with the work you are doing.

    Thank you,
    Becky Henry

    • Thank you so much for your support and kind words. With passion often comes ranting and with ranting I feel we can lose sight of creating a dialogue. I struggle with this a lot, but feel very proud of myself to step back from my emotional reaction and have an emotional response – two very different things 🙂 Thank you for your comments and support on ViR’s Facebook page as well. I love what I do and love interacting and networking with various people in this field!!

  12. You have written a clear and concise letter. I hope that you get a response from someone who is thoughtful and considers your message and not some kid right out of school wanting to toe the corporate line.
    The problem with the t-shirt is that I think Urban Outfitters thinks it is funny or witty – which it is not.
    Thank you for taking on this fight!
    xx kris

  13. good for you. what a ridiculous t-shirt. I feel as passionate when I see marketing towards suggesting that drinking more is good especially for young people.

  14. […] “Eat Less.” Tasteless, I know. Luckily, Kendra over at Voice In Recovery wrote them a kickass letter about the potential hazards of selling a aforementioned shirt. She was single handedly responsible for their […]

  15. I agree with you, and I am so sick of this constant pressure from the media to maintain a thin frame. The disturbing part here is that urban outfitters IS usually found in the junior section in most stores… So that tells you right there who their target market is. While there is an obesity epidemic in the united states, I do not think this is an appropriate way to tackle the issue. Why don’t they put something on the shift like, “take care of yourself”, or “be happy with you”.

    It is sickening how themedia, freinds and family are constantly trying to influence and control how we think. Honestly would anyone reading this even feel proud wearing a shirt the says, “eat less” What the heck were they thinking!?!

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