Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

the fashion of eating disorders


9222_162316921878_520241878_3272709_7976958_nSo here’s another controversial post.  Because I like to do that.

There’s this group on Facebook called “Body By Ensure,” playing off of the “Body by Milk” campaign.  The group originally was a positive, pro-recovery group.  We agreed that ensure and boost and resource sucked and we were glad we were off it or were going to get to that point.  People posted pictures of throwing empty bottles away.  Now they post pictures of ensure and boost towers–which can only be made with full bottles, not empty ones.

And now, they post pictures of themselves wearing sweatshirts such as the one on the left.  Thanks to sites like CafePress.com you make just about anything.

n195021565268_6351And now there is a new group with some clever name I can’t remember, but the idea is similar to Body by Ensure, except the slogan is “Booty by Boost.”

Yes.  They have the words “booty by boost” written on their asses.

I’ll address that fact first since it’s easier.  Why would a female with an intelligent head on her shoulders want to put words on her ass?  Doing so results in the wearer becoming a sexual object to be looked at rather than a sentient being who is to be appreciated for her thoughts, feelings, and opinions.  If you put words on your ass, then you have no right to complain if someone stares at your ass as you walk by.

What happened to using our voices?  Why are we writing words and putting them on a sexualized location for what–a joke?

A joke that’s not really funny.  I originally thought the Body by Ensure shirt was funny.  But then I realized that part of recovery is distancing yourself from things that are keep your identity chained to the eating disorder.  And that’s what these clothing items do.  This is what they say

I have an eating disorder.  Anorexia kills 20% of its victims.  But aren’t I cool?  Just look at my snazzy sweatshirt.

There’s nothing wrong with humor.  But there’s something wrong with wanting to shout to the world you have an eating disorder.

And what do groups such as these do for the numerous people with eating disorders who do not need to gain weight and may even, from a medical standpoint, need to lose weight?  How are they supposed to feel when one of the discussions in “Body by Ensure” is “How many were you on?” and the discussion turns into a veritable competition to see who was sickest (thinnest) and needed the most supplements.  Many bulimics and people with Compulsive Overeating Disorder already feel as if they don’t merit treatment because they aren’t “thin enough.”  Yet these groups encourage bonding over the fact that they were all malnourished and needed supplementation to gain weight.

Talk about excluding a group that’s already on the fringes.

You should not be proud of having an eating disorder  or needing to drink supplements, and if you wear a shirt that screams “I drink ensure” that is exactly what you’re telling the world.

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October 28, 2009 - Posted by | Communication, Eating Disorders, identity, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

27 Comments »

  1. I’m really glad that you wrote this.

    Comment by Emily | October 28, 2009 | Reply

  2. First I’d like to say I’ve never liked the fashion of anything being written on the butts of sweatpants. When Victoria’s Secrets PINK collection came out, I was appalled.
    So I guess it’s no great leap to what is going on with the Booty By Boost, although I think it’s so much more disturbing. As you said, eating disorders kill. I’m not proud of having had anorexia. I am, however, proud of finally over-coming it. But I don’t need a shirt or a pair of pants with words on the butts to make it known to everyone. The way I live my life is a much better way of showing those I care about, and who care about me, the work I’ve put into my recovery.

    I detest ensure-simply b/c of why it was once a part of my daily life. It has a place in the world, and I drank a few over the last year when I had a kidney infection and needed to put on a few pounds quickly. I did not enjoy it and after 2 days, decided it was much better to eat a piece of cake or a desert instead. Not as healthy? Depends. Deserts were one of the last things I had trouble adding into my diet with out guilt. So in my view, it was healthier.

    This trend in anorSEXia, as someone else termed it, baffles me.

    Comment by unknownperson | October 28, 2009 | Reply

  3. I used to be in the Ensure group. I put up a pic of my cat licking the bottle, which was funny to me since she actually enjoyed the Ensure. But then I realized the competitiveness and girls showing off how much they needed to drink, so I left. I think joking about it is funny while you’re in treatment, everyone can laugh or complain about it together – but I’ve also been on the other side where I didn’t need it and I felt left out.

    The shirts and pants, though…do they actually wear them in public?? I dare someone to wear one of those shirts the next time they see their therapist/psychiatrist. I don’t think it’d be too funny then.

    Comment by Jen | October 28, 2009 | Reply

  4. Great post.
    Ugh only EDs would do this. Can you ever picture similar ~fashion statements~ for another mental or physical illness?! WTF.

    I voted “not funny but harmless” in the sense that it’s not directly harmful to *me*–>because I can see it as as ridiculous as it is and just roll my eyes or am angered/frustrated/sickened rather than personally bothered. But I definitely agree with you on the reasons why it CAN be harmful in general. I never saw that “how many were you on?” thread… I should go in there and claim my own bragging rights… just to give them a taste of their own medicine and trigger them. 😉 Evil and immature and besides-the-point and just falling into a similar trap as they are though, right? Still, it’s so tempting…?!

    I truly wonder what any of the health professionals would say/think if they saw those clothing items. Although I’d be the girls didn’t wear them in front of their doctors.. Oh wait, I take that back. They were worn all the time by certain people at Remuda Ranch.. in the adolescent house, of course. Ugh. Seriously wonde what the staff thought..

    Comment by janie | October 28, 2009 | Reply

    • The staff didn’t say anything? I feel like there would be a discussion if these popped up at my tx center . . . My dietitian has a *fabulous* sense of humor, but I doubt she’d go for this.

      Comment by Sayhealth | October 29, 2009 | Reply

      • exactly. I know they’d have been banned from my tx center

        Comment by surfacingaftersilence | October 29, 2009

    • I have actually worn my body by ensure sweatshirt to every one of my treatment providers and they LOVE that I can have a sense of humor about it. My dietitian laughed for quite a while about it, actually. I do not wear it because I am proud of my eating disorder or because I want to compete. The reason why we wear these shirts is to remember that we are not in this fight alone. There are other girls (and guys) fighting this fight with me. When I am having a hard day, this makes it just a little bit easier.

      Comment by anonymous | April 12, 2010 | Reply

  5. when you think you have nothing else to be proud of – when you look in the mirror and see someone that unworthy of pride for any other reason – then yeah, that’s a damn cool shirt.
    beyond that, it’s just painful and sad.

    Comment by Michelle | October 28, 2009 | Reply

  6. What a great topic for a blog post! You smart lady, you!

    I’m actually a member of the body by ensure group, though I don’t know why really. I joined because, well, ensure is part of my life right now, and I thought it would be more pro-recovery than it is. I thought it would be a way to have a sense of humor about things (which, for me, is CRUCIAL), while working hard to move one from the current situation. I didn’t think it would be, “Oh, ensure! Thanks for keeping me out of IP!”

    Though, I must admit the slogan on the pants is pretty clever, I feel the exact same way that you do about objectification, sexualization, etc. And, frankly, I can’t see how treating our bodies as objects for others is going to help e.d. recovery! In order to recovery, we need to value our bodies more than society does.

    I have mixed emotions with the identity thing. I think that the Body By Ensure sweatshirts are problematic b/c it is wearing something that makes it seem like having an ACTIVE eating disorder is something to be proud of. While I obviously don’t think having an e.d. is something that we should feel shame about or feel like we need to hide, I think this kind of glamorizes it and makes it seem elite (actually, it makes anorexia seem elite). I also agree that for many people, they need a break from the eating disordered community in order to recover.

    That said, many people will live with an eating disorder for the rest of our lives. If we can’t incorporate that as part (and, yes, only part) of our identity, what do we do? Frankly, people with eating disorders and people in recovery do form communities based on sharing this common aspect of identity because most people can’t understand our experiences, cognitions, etc. For me, trying to pretend like this was not a pretty significant part of my identity was harmful to my recovery because it made me want to cling to my e.d. that much more. However, I have switched to doing work like body image activism, e.d. awareness, etc. I am open about my eating disorder and my history with it within these circles. That way I still get to “have” my eating disorder, I still have a community that understands me, AND that community is safe, productive and reinforces my recovery.

    Comment by Sayhealth | October 29, 2009 | Reply

    • Whoopsi! Messed up my blog address on that one! :-/

      Comment by Sayhealth | October 29, 2009 | Reply

  7. Just wanted to point out that Ensure is being marketed as a general nutritional supplement these days, so “Body by Ensure” COULD be read by a person on the street as simply someone who is trying to live healthfully and using nutritional supplements to at get in the critical vitamins/minerals/nutrition that one needs. Particularly women.

    I see your points though. I hve one of the sweatshirts and it does remind ME that I am strong enough to use a calorie and nutrition-packed supplement to stay on track. That having been said, there IS a mentality of “look how sick I am, I can’t even make myself eat and have to get my calories from a supplement drink”. I think it can go either way, depending on yoru motivations and reasons for getting a sweatshirt.

    I do think that the pants are really silly and DOES send a harmful message.

    Comment by Anon | October 29, 2009 | Reply

  8. While they’re at it how about: “Staying off IV by Gatoraid!”

    Comment by Andi | October 29, 2009 | Reply

  9. HELLO!

    I found you from Sandy’s site, and this post touched my heart. I had bulimia in HS, College, and even now, in my 40s I will go o a real good binge and purge.

    I never thought of Ensure for this- it was something my elderly grandfather drank in the nursing home, because he couldn’t eat solid food well. When I had my tonsils out, they gave me that for a day or so. I keep a can or two in the fridge now to use when I am so depressed I cannot eat, and know I got to get something, anything in my body.

    Wowl I am so glad I read this piece, and look forward to reading more of you.

    -Susan

    Comment by susan | October 30, 2009 | Reply

  10. I was in treatment with the people who started both groups, and I think it’s harmless. There were also t-shirts made called Team C, referring to a specific meal plan. For me, I view it less as a “look at me” sign and more of the supplements suck, so let’s try to make them a little more bearable. I didn’t view the sweat pants as a sex symbol at all. It’s more or less embracing a feminine, womanly figure. I support the good humored with innocent intentions apparel and Facebook groups. I hate to be so contrary to your post. I love reading your blog, but I suppose it’s okay to take a different stance? I’m sorry.
    Claire

    Comment by gainingandgrowing | October 31, 2009 | Reply

    • Oh, Claire, if there is one thing you should know about me is that I like it when people have discussions about differing viewpoints. yes, this is a topic I feel very strongly about, but that doesn’t mean you have to apologize for having another opinion. I may counter your statements with my own opinions, but isn’t that how we learn about each other and the situation? If we don’t discuss things, there is no opportunity to learn. So yes, comment. When you agree, when you disagree, please comment. And don’t apologize.

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | October 31, 2009 | Reply

  11. Lex, I’m so glad you wrote this post and the one about Ted hose. I recently saw them on Facebook when I went to look at my groups and I shuddered. The other thing I notice are people joining every possible treatment facility group out there, or at least some people I was in treatment with who I know didn’t go to all of these centers. It saddens me because it speaks to the strong connection they have to all things eating disordered. The other thing I can’t wrap my head around is the rise in the number of people getting the recovery tattoo, people who are so obviously sick. Is it so they can let the world know “I HAVE an eating disorder”, rather then “I’m recovered”? Sorry, slight rant.

    Comment by Kiersten | November 2, 2009 | Reply

    • I agree with your post, but thought I’d offer another perspective…

      I did get the “recovery tattoo,” and I did so while I was sick. Maybe not a great idea, but it made sense to me at the time. I didn’t get it for anyone else to see (I have it in a very discreet place, and I haven’t puposefully shown it to anyone, with the exception of a couple very close friends). I got it because I have trouble moving on from my eating disorder. For me it was almost like someone who gets a tattoo to memorialize the life & death of a friend. I thought maybe if I got the tattoo it would be like grieving the death of my eating disorder, remembering the impact it had on 20+ years of my life (the good and the bad), and then I could move on. I don’t regret the tattoo at all, I do however wish that I had saved it until I was closer to a place of actual recovery. I’ve been in treatment a few times since, and I’ve been quite embarrased by it when I’ve had to do the whole “strip search” thing, because I DON’T want to look like the person who advertises, “Look at me…I’m proud to have an eating disorder.” I’m not proud. But after it being a part of my life for so long I’m also not going to deny that it’s had a major impact on who I am.

      Sorry for my rant! Somehow I felt the need to defend myself. But I do totally understand where you’re coming from.

      Comment by rochelle09 | November 9, 2009 | Reply

      • I think tattoos can be a powerful motivator for some of us. I have two separate tattoos that are recovery tats–one for the eating disorder, one for the cardiac stuff. I did wait to get the one that stands for my recovery from the eating disorder–and knowing that i could get it if I kept going forward helped on a hard day. I did have the NEDA necklace before I was recovered. And that helped me on hard days. It was a tangible reminder that I needed to keep fighting. So I get it.

        Comment by surfacingaftersilence | November 10, 2009

  12. P.S. I’m catching up on your blog so you might see me commenting on random posts.
    xo
    Thanks for all you do!
    Kiersten

    Comment by Kiersten | November 2, 2009 | Reply

  13. Thank to good article and all of you do.

    Comment by chuck | November 16, 2009 | Reply

  14. I have alot to say but I will try and sum it up. Let me start by saying that “Body By Ensure” is my group and I made the sweaters.

    I believe you have a valid point to an extent – some people glamorize eating disorders and use the internet to “advertise” it or gain support in an unhealthy, life threatening way. However, “Body by Ensure” is not one of these groups. It is, always has been, and always will be a positive place for people struggling to get support in a way that is positive and understanding. Of corse there are times when people post things that are not appropriate but I do my very best to delete these comments as soon as they are posted. I have made it my personal mission to ensure that “Body by Ensure” is not just another place for people to “brag” and glamorize eating disorders.
    As per my sweaters, its not a fashion statement, or an advertisement. It was a way for me to feel less alone. In making my sweaters, I was able to remind myself that I am not alone. Could this have been done in another way? Sure. But this was MY way. And quite frankly what does it matter to anyone else? My sweaters enpowered me to find the strength to fight, and work at recovery because we all know damn well its hard work. Everytime I have my sweater on, I can be reminded I am not the only one fighting this fight. And I was able to share that feeling with over 50 girls through a simple sweater. When, Where, and Why people wear these sweaters is out of my control. All I can try and explain was the inivitive behind it.

    I completely respect your opinion, I simply do not share it. I hope that you are able to see the other side of things. Just because its not a choice you would make, doesnt mean it is a bad choice.

    – Vic –

    Comment by Vic | April 12, 2010 | Reply

    • Vic-
      I totally agree with you. I wear my sweater all of the time and am so thankful for the community body by ensure has provided. It truly is usually a recovery (although sometimes humorous and often people share inside jokes in posts) oriented group. Sometimes, you just have to laugh to get through things. Recovery is hard work. I completely share your opinion of how these sweatshirts help empower us towards recovery…honestly, to most of the world, ensure does not equal eating disorder. I am completely comfortable wearing my sweatshirt in public because I know that body by ensure really means absolutely nothing to 99% of the people I come across on a daily basis.

      Jodi Lynn

      Comment by jodilynn484 | April 12, 2010 | Reply

    • I’m part of the “Body by Ensure” FB group as well. I’ve been moving toward recovery for some time now and BBE helps me to remember that there are others fighting with me. I WISH I had a BBE sweatshirt, to me having something tangible to touch helps me in my recovery. I have blankets, stuffed animals, etc… from my road that I can see where I have come from and where I am going. These girls may talk about the number of supplements they’re on but I know for myself I always think, I never want to have to be on that many… (not on any now, but I never want to go back there). Vic does a great job of keeping it positive :0)

      So thank you BBE! I haven’t given up hope because I know there’s a place I can go to receive support!

      I do have to say that I don’t really agree with putting the “booty by boost” slogan on the butt, but if it’s what someone said to be able to get through a rough patch with a friend then so be it. People I went to treatment with refer to it as “eating camp” we learned how to eat like we’re supposed to again.

      “You are seen, you are known, you are LOVED” ~ SARK

      Jebecca

      Comment by Jebecca | April 12, 2010 | Reply

    • THank you for respecting my opinion. I am totally fine with people not sharing my opinions and I don’t take it personally. This blog has always been open to all comments, whether or not they agree with me or not. Sometimes comments that disagree with my opinion open up a space for a healthy discussion to begin.

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | April 14, 2010 | Reply

  15. Is there a way to order these items. I am going through recovery, and humor is so important for me in getting through this. I would love to buy both the hoodie and the butt pants

    Comment by Kate | July 13, 2010 | Reply

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