After facing severe backlash from customers, eating disorder recovery support groups and former patients of anorexia, online women’s apparel retailer PrettyLittleThing (PLT) withdrew online sales of gym vest printed with the slogan “Am I Skinny Yet?” The outrage was directed not only at the slogan – considered insensitive for promoting eating disorders – but also at the fact that the vest was stocked only in size extra small and advertised on a size eight model.
Although the issue first received publicity in January 2017 when an open letter to the retailer emphasized that “fitness is not just about being skinny,” the vest was only recently removed from PLT’s website. This was a result of severe criticism from a United Kingdom-based charity for eating disorders and Jess Mell, a blogger and recovering anorexic patient. According to Mell, the vest “would make people think they have to aspire to be skinny and consequently promote eating disorders.” She described being “disgusted” and “horrified” by the vest.
Mell also expressed serious reservations regarding the placement of the word “skinny” on the waist, an area which receives higher focus during weight loss. She emphasized that fashion retailers ought to be more mindful about the messages they send through their apparel and “need to recognize the influence they have.” This becomes even more important in the age of excessive social media promotions and celebrity endorsements, which can easily sway the minds of youngsters.
PLT has since issued an apology to Mell and other customers. The retailer also affirmed that it was taking the allegations very seriously and encouraged “young girls to be happy and healthy whatever their weight, shape or size.”
Fashion industry can greatly influence eating disorder perceptions
The fashion industry can have a significant impact on youngsters’ choices and opinions, including those related to body image, weight and shape. Although eating disorders can affect anyone, young women have a higher degree of vulnerability and a greater chance of being influenced easily through social media posts and promotions.
A spokesperson for the charity, while expressing shock, said that the fashion industry can play “a big part” in eating disorder perceptions, as well as in “influencing attitudes, beliefs and actions.” Moreover, this was not the first instance of eating disorders being trivialized or glamorized. Clothes like the slogan vest could “trigger negative behaviors” in people who were already battling complex mental health conditions, thereby exposing them to serious harm.
The presentation of impossible ideals within the fashion industry may result in a worsening of symptoms and prolonging the duration of the illness. The problem becomes acute in case of eating disorders since it can lead to extreme behaviors. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), eating disorders affect an estimated 2.7 percent of American adolescents aged between 13 and 18 years during their lifetime. Girls have a two-and-a-half time higher likelihood of suffering from an eating disorder compared to boys.
A research published in the Journal of Eating Disorders in September 2017 found that social media propagates certain body ideals by sharing images marked as “thinspiration”, “fitspiration” and “bonespiration.” The researchers found a disturbingly high level of online content related to issues like glorification of emaciated bodies, eating disorders, extremely low calorie consumption and extreme weight loss.
Treatment for adolescent eating disorders
Past research funded by the NIMH has found that most adolescents suffering from eating disorders did not receive treatment. Moreover, majority of such youngsters also met the criteria for at least one or more mental disorder like depression. Adolescents with eating disorders exhibited higher levels of suicidal ideation compared to those without such disorders. The findings emphasized the need to provide better treatment facilities for such youth.
Eating disorders in adolescents can be treated with timely intervention. Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego understands that teen eating disorder is a big problem in the U.S. and we use evidence-based treatment to overcome the issue. Parents and guardians should regularly monitor eating habits of their adolescents and be cautious of any adverse changes in them. If your teen is showing symptoms of eating disorders, call our 24/7 helpline or chat online to know more about our teen eating disorder treatment centers.