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Warning: This post includes discussion of anorexia and eating disorders.
On May 1st, model Tess Holliday candidly opened up to her Twitter followers about being diagnosed with anorexia and that she's currently in the recovery process. "I'm not ashamed to say it out loud anymore," Holliday wrote. "I'm the result of a culture that celebrates thinness & equates that to worth, but I get to write my own narrative now." Many of her followers thanked her for speaking up about being plus-sized and having an eating disorder—two things that are rarely equated in conversation.
However, others wrongly assumed Holliday must be lying about her anorexia diagnosis simply because she's not a specific size. So, she wanted to set the record straight.
I’m anorexic & in recovery. I’m not ashamed to say it out loud anymore. 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
— Tess H🍒lliday (@Tess_Holliday) May 1, 2021
In an interview with Good Morning America on May 6th, Holliday further explained that though her diagnosis of anorexia is new, she's struggled with "disordered eating" her entire life. "I always thought that I overate," Holliday told GMA. "But then, people in my life would say, 'Oh yeah, I ate more than Tess' and it was almost like I wore it as a badge of honor."
Anorexia nervosa is described by the Mayo Clinic as a disorder that affects the way a person views their body shape and weight. Though it's oftentimes associated with abnormal thinness, not all who receive an anorexia diagnosis exhibit this symptom or their abnormal thinness may come across as a "normal body weight" compared to someone else's. Other behavioral symptoms of anorexia include excessive exercise, binging and purging, and restricting food intake.
"I really wish my younger self had you to look up to," one of Holliday's followers responded to her tweet. "I remember always thinking I couldn't be anorexic because I was still fat. Thank you for speaking your truth you are amazing." Another wrote that they "stand beside [Holliday] in calling out a culture that blatantly celebrates thinness over health," noting that this celebration has "highly racist roots."
Thank you SO MUCH for your vulnerability in saying this out loud. I'm in recovery from binge eating disorder, and stand beside you in calling out a culture that blatantly celebrates thinness over health. It's utter bullshit (with *highly* racist roots), and has damaged so much.
— Jamie Barton (@jbartonmezzo) May 1, 2021
But despite the positive feedback, the replies under Holliday's initial tweet attracted an "overwhelming" amount of hate, as Holliday wrote in a recent Instagram caption. One person questioned, "Anorexic???? I think you mean body dysmorphia..." And another even accused Holliday of "trying to make a new narrative and take away from people that are really suffering."
"I've had a lot of messages from folks that are anorexic that are livid and angry because they feel like I'm lying," Holliday told GMA. "I am plus size, but advocating for diversity and larger bodies, and so I think for people hearing me say I'm anorexic was really jarring and hard and confusing."
"You can't look at someone and tell whether or not they're healthy. You just can't," she said.
"I understand that people look at me and I don't fit what we have seen presented as, you know, the diagnosis for anorexia," Holliday continued. "But then, for me, that tells me that there's a larger problem which I've been actually saying for years is that we have...a lack of diversity and representation in the world."
Holliday wrote on Instagram that she'll be taking a break from social media to focus on her mental health following her coming out. "Just remember that having an ED isn't shameful & you deserve respect & love regardless of where you're at in your journey with your body," she concluded.
Since receiving her diagnosis, Holliday told GMA that she feels "happier in the last six months...than I've been in my entire life. I feel whole. I feel at peace. I really feel in my power." We can only hope that the negative comments do not derail her happiness. Even if she's helped just one person better understand the relationship between their body size and their disordered eating, then she's done an incredible thing in speaking out about her diagnosis.