Tess Holliday Reveals She’s ‘Anorexic and In Recovery’

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This week, Tess Holliday shared that she is in recovery from anorexia. The model and activist posted the revelation on Twitter and Instagram, apparently in response to comments about her recent weight loss. Comments like these can be extremely triggering for anybody recovering from an eating disorder (ED), she explained.

“I’m anorexic & in recovery. I’m not ashamed to say it out loud anymore,” Holliday tweeted on May 1. “I’m the result of a culture that celebrates thinness & equates that to worth, but I get to write my own narrative now. I’m finally able to care for a body that I’ve punished my entire life & I am finally free.”

Holliday, who has for years called out fatphobia, weight discrimination, and concern trolling about her health, elaborated on this message in a May 2 Instagram post. “To everyone that keeps saying ‘you’re looking healthy lately’ or ‘You are losing weight, keep it up!’ Stop,” she wrote. “Don’t. Comment. On. My. Weight. Or. Perceived. Health. Keep. It. To. Yourself. Thanks.” 

Her weight has changed while she practices regular eating patterns to help her body recover from the restrictive eating that characterizes anorexia, she explained. “Yes, I’ve lost weight—I’m healing from an eating disorder & feeding my body regularly for the first time in my entire life.” 

The model laid out for followers why, exactly, conflating weight and health is so harmful: It promotes the thin ideal, fatphobia, and diet culture. “When you equate weight loss with ‘health’ & place value & worth on someone’s size, you are basically saying that we are more valuable now because we are smaller & perpetuating diet culture… & that’s corny as hell. NOT here for it.”

In reality, research tells us that the connection between body weight and health is much more layered and complex than our popular understanding, SELF reported previously. The idea that someone is automatically healthy because they’re thin or automatically unhealthy because they’re fat is both oversimplified and heavily misinformed by weight stigma in medicine and dietetics. 

Holliday also explained why focusing on someone’s appearance, including making comments or compliments on weight loss, is specifically triggering for individuals in ED recovery. “For folks like me that are trying to reframe our relationships with our bodies & heal, hearing comments about weight is triggering as hell. It sets us back in our progress,” Holliday wrote. 

There is also a ripple effect, Holliday says, because the compliments reinforce the idea that thinner is more desirable to others in recovery. “When people working on themselves see you commenting to me that way, it hurts THEM, not just me. I can take it (I shouldn’t have to, but I can) but they didn’t ask for that trauma, ok?” she wrote. “If you can’t tell someone they look nice without making it about their size, then baby, please don’t say nuthin at all.”

The broadly held assumptions that all people with eating disorders are thin or underweight are false and harmful. The truth is that people with all kinds of bodies can develop eating disorders. But the lack of awareness of this reality is a dangerous form of weight bias and stigma—and it can be a serious barrier to eating disorder diagnosis and treatment, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) explains. 

People in larger bodies may be less likely to seek help for an eating disorder, perhaps in part because when they do, their concerns are not always taken seriously. People who don’t “look” like they have an ED are less likely to receive a diagnosis or treatment, and may be excluded from research studies, NEDA says.

So while complimenting somebody’s weight loss may seem innocent, it’s important to remember that you may not know what that person is going through or the state of their health. The weight bias and cultural obsession with thinness that such comments exacerbate are not just problematic—they can literally be a threat to people’s health. 

Related: 

  • Gabourey Sidibe on How Bulimia Became Her ‘Self-Defense Mechanism’ Against Depression
  • A Letter to Anyone Feeling Pressure to Lose the ‘Quarantine 15’
  • Tess Holliday’s Health Is None of Your Business

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