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Model Tess Holliday says she "regressed" in her anorexia recovery.
The mom and body positivity activist first opened up about it last year and has been trying to heal from her eating disorder with Pilates and feeding her body regularly.
But, Tess says "Recovery for me is messy. It’s hard to deal with something for which there isn’t enough support."
Body positivity activist and model Tess Holliday, 35, says she "regressed" in her anorexia recovery. In a new essay for Today Tess revealed that her progress has stalled. She wrote, “I feel grateful that I’m tough enough to talk about this, but I’ve since taken a lot of steps backwards in my recovery. I’ve regressed. I haven’t eaten today. It’s 11 o’clock and I’ve had two sips of coffee, and I feel sick. This has been extremely hard on my mental and physical health.”
She also opened up about how societal expectations for what anorexia “should” look like has been harmful to her recovery process. “Recovery for me is messy. It’s lonely. It’s hard to deal with something for which there isn’t enough support. Having a diagnosis has been liberating and it has made me feel less alone, but the confused look on people’s faces when I say anorexia or the stares I get if it comes up in conversation—that’s hard,” she said. Even now, Tessa says she still struggles with accepting her diagnosis but knows that bodies of all shapes and sizes can deal with the same thing.
When some people hear the word anorexia, they often associate the word with thinness. This idea is far from reality and not uncommon. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, “Eating disorders are serious but treatable mental and physical illnesses that can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights.”
Tess also didn’t consider herself as someone who could be diagnosed with anorexia due to her weight. “My dietician, Anna Sweeney, first brought it to my attention. She told me, “I’m not licensed to diagnose you, but if I could, I would diagnose you with anorexia nervosa.” She continued, “When she said anorexia, I laughed. I thought, “Do you see how fat I am? There’s no way that word could ever be attached to someone my size.” She referred me to a psychologist, who confirmed the diagnosis.”
Tess first revealed her anorexia diagnosis in May 2021 as she shared a series of selfies in a bright red sports bra and got real in the caption: "To everyone that keeps saying “you’re looking healthy lately” or “You are losing weight, keep it up!” Stop."
Then, Tess explained her weight fluctuation: "Yes, I’ve lost weight — I’m healing from an eating disorder & feeding my body regularly for the first time in my entire life. 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. 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—and 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? If you can’t tell someone they look nice without making it about their size, then baby, please don’t say nuthin at all."
Tess chose to reveal a bit more about her journey on Twitter: "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."
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
Tess previously shared that Pilates has been key in her recovery.
Reflecting on why she initially chose to open up about her eating disorder, Tess explained that it didn’t come from a place of wanting to be thin but rather acknowledging the unhealthy habits that have been a part of her life for so long that she almost didn’t realize it.
For more context, Tess added that her family has always been critical of what she ate which led to unhealthy habits like hiding food. She said, “As I got older, I struggled with anorexia. I didn’t know that’s what it was until last year—but for over 10 years, I have restricted food. That means I don’t eat—or when I do eat, it’s very little. Or sometimes it’s one large meal a day.”
As part of her recovery, Tess says she now surrounds herself with people who hold her accountable for maintaining healthy habits. She said, “I remind myself that my feelings are valid. I go to therapy. Talking about it has helped. I surround myself with people who can gently say, “Have you eaten today?” or, “Let’s have a protein shake." I make sure I have things in my house that are easy to grab and eat. Moving my body makes it easier for me to feed myself because it makes it harder to ignore the feelings of hunger.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please reach out to the National Eating Disorders Association or for crisis support, text 'NEDA' to 741741.
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