'Eat less' shirt sparks controversy

SHEENA GOODYEAR, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:46 PM ET

TORONTO - An Urban Outfitters T-shirt with the words “Eat Less” scrawled across the front should be pulled from shelves, says a national eating disorder awareness organization.

“It certainly would be a trigger for someone who has an eating disorder,” said Merryl Bear, director of the National Eating Disorder Information Centre.

“It really doesn't do anyone any good.” Bear said it's discouraging to see something marketed at young women that sends a message that “restricting eating is good and is a sign of moral character.”

“To see it inscribed on a T-shirt actually encourages this kind of thinking and it's not healthy thinking.” Urban Outfitters - an American franchise with locations in the U.K., Ontario, Alberta and B.C. - had the new shirt for sale on its website last week, sported by a thin, young model.

But after a critical editorial in the Cleveland Leader newspaper last week sparked widespread criticism from consumers and health organizations alike, the chain appears to have pulled the shirt from shelves.

As of Sunday, the shirt had been removed from the website, though the Huffington Post reports it's still being sold in stores south of the border.

The shirt was not in stock at some Urban Outfitters locations in Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver, some merchandise is only available online, according to a sales rep at the retail chain.

Calls and e-mails to Urban Outfitters' public affairs department were not immediately returned.

Meanwhile, some people have piped up to support the controversial T-shirt's message.

Jay Parkinson, a pediatrician and preventative medical specialist in Brooklyn, defended the shirt on his website.

“Obesity kills more people than smoking. It’s a message the vast majority of us need to implement in our lives. Because remember, the kids today are expected to live a shorter, lower quality life than their parents. And that’s not due to anorexia,” he wrote, noting that there are more obese people than anorexic people.

But Bear said the idea of restricting your diet is not a healthy one, and that people should take a more holistic approach to eating by becoming informed about proper nutrition.

According to a 2006 report by the Ministry of Health, 3% of Canadian women will be affected by an eating disorder in their lifetime. Between 0.5% and 3.7% will develop anorexia, and between 1.1% and 4.2% will develop bulimia.

This isn't the first time Urban Outfitters has come under fire for its products. In January, there was backlash when the website listed some shirts under the colour "Obama Black," and again in April with its "How To Make An Ugly Girl Pretty" flask.


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