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COLUMN: Amazon needs to stop exploiting eating disorders

Amazon is selling a sweatshirt with the phrase “Anorexia: like bulimia, except with self control.” 

The product has been available since 2015, but it only recently came to the general public's attention. The shirt is produced by a third-party seller, but Amazon should take responsibility and remove the product from its online marketplace. 

This simultaneous glorification, stigmatization and exploitation of eating disorders for profit is absolutely unacceptable and extremely harmful to those who suffer from eating disorders or find themselves susceptible to habits of disordered eating.

Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. Glorifying it under the guise of self-control is extremely dangerous. 

It is triggering to those who already suffer or are recovering from anorexia and encourages those who do not to start engaging in harmful restrictive dieting practices.

Not only does this product glorify anorexia, but it also creates a stigma of and hierarchy within the community among those suffering from eating disorders. 

Claiming that anorexia is “bulimia with self control” implies that those who suffer from bulimia are lesser. In both anorexia and bulimia, the concept of control is altered by the disorder, and neither should be glorified or condemned. 

This is simply not the way psychiatric disorders work.

Bulimia nervosa is already stigmatized as “gross” and a worse disorder due to a perceived lack of control among those who have it. 

These negative stigmatizations are extremely detrimental. Bulimia has the highest suicide rate of any eating disorder. There is absolutely no reason to rank eating disorders, especially when they are already extremely prevalent within the community.

This product exploits eating disorders for profit. Three percent of the total population has an eating disorder, and their adversities are being capitalized. 

This is not the first time this has happened. Clothing store Urban Outfitters struck a similar controversy when it sold a shirt with the phrase “eat less.” This shirt also glorified disordered eating habits as a fashion statement, profiting from the suffering of many people.

Glorification and stigmatization of eating disorders are both equally dangerous in their own way. 

Negative stigmatization is especially harmful to those already suffering. It is triggering and leads to the high suicide rates among those with eating disorders, especially among those with bulimia nervosa. 

Classifying it as an “inferior” disorder also creates a rift between those who suffer from separate eating disorders, fracturing what could be vital and necessary support across the community. 

The result is polarizing, isolating and extremely dangerous.

Amazon needs to take responsibility and remove this extremely harmful and offensive product from its website. Otherwise, the company is actively contributing to the immense suffering of those with eating disorders and exploiting them for profit, which is unacceptable. 


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