I went to Nordstrom during my lunch break to return something, briefly pausing in the Women’s department, ya know, just to see if there was anything “on trend” that I must have. Then, there she was.
The mannequin wearing a tank top that said: Last name HUNGRY, first name ALWAYS.
I immediately took a picture of it and texted it to a couple of my eating disorder therapist and dietitian friends who were equally frustrated and appalled. This mannequin was perched between the tween, teen, and adult departments as this would surely appeal to all. I mean, wouldn’t it be SO COOL to advertise to everyone as you walk around that you are starving?! So cool.
I think I made an audible sound of disgust then came back to work and looked up the tank top on their website. Nordstrom’s product description of this shirt (manufactured by a company called Recycled Karma) says, “Whether it’s a to-do list or a pile of nachos, this bold cotton tank proclaims that you tackle life with an insatiable appetite.” A to-do list or a pile of nachos. I mean, that IS bold.
Synonyms for insatiable: greedy, ravenous, limitless, unquenchable. I recognize that because of my work primarily being with eating disorders that I have a hyper-awareness/hypersensitivity to things like this that could be triggering, so I took a step back from the situation to look at all sides and to consider this description that would make attacking life in a ravenous way be the positive message here. And… I’m still mad. Yes, we should live life to its fullest and soak up all we can in a voracious way that keeps us stimulated and growing. But Carpe Diem is not what I think when I first see this tank top. I see words that are glorifying the act of being hungry. Using that as a measure of success. Yet another societal message perpetuating this idea of hungry being sexy and appealing, therefore skinny being desirable and the ultimate goal. It may seem benign and subtle, but as someone on the front lines with men and women and boys and girls who are so effected by the constant collective message, it’s ringing loud and clear.
We eat when we’re hungry and stop when we’re full. Sounds simple, yet for so many it’s not. It’s a daily battle of challenging an inner voice telling them they are undeserving of nourishment or that they’ll be happier once they reach a certain size or that they can use food or hunger to numb feelings of anxiety or shame or even to keep people away. We need to be teaching people to listen to their bodies. To trust their bodies. Your body is able to be satiated and quenched, and it should be. Appropriate fullness and satisfaction is healthy for our bodies. Whether it’s undereating or overeating, we need to help people gain awareness and insight into how they are using food, to recognize if it’s become a sort of philosophy or if their self worth has been tied to their weight. It’s not cool to be hungry and someone’s hunger level or body size/shape is not a determining factor of their worth. It’s also no one else’s business.
And, $22!?!? Ugh. That’s like 3 lunches you could buy to satisfy that hunger. I thought “ironic” t-shirts had seen their day, but alas, they’re very much still in and still doing their part in driving stereotypes or self-consciousness.
If I saw someone out in public wearing this shirt, I’d say: “Girl, if you’re hungry, trust that physical cue and eat something. You deserve that. You are worthy. You are made up of so much more than a number on the scale. You should tackle life with everything you’ve got. Because you’re valuable.” THAT would be a bold statement without any ambiguity or double entendre that perpetuates low self-esteem or a mental illness.