Fashion

Model Tess Holliday reveals she’s recovering from anorexia

Eating disorder campaigners have hailed a decision by the American plus-size model Tess Holliday to announce she is receiving treatment for anorexia, saying that it is helping to stop the idea that “only very underweight people can have anorexia”.

Holliday, who has 2.1 million followers on Instagram and has been featured on the pages of Vogue, recently wrote on Twitter: “I’m anorexic and in recovery … I’m the result of a culture that celebrates thinness and 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 and I am finally free.”

Tom Quinn, external director of eating disorder charity Beat, said Holliday speaking out about her struggle was vital in terms of shining a light on the issue.

“Eating disorders thrive on secrecy. The more influential people that come forward is very beneficial. It can give others the confidence to seek help and reinforces the message that eating disorders don’t discriminate and can affect anyone,” he said.

Chelsea Kronengold, the associate director of communications at the National Eating Disorders Association (Neda) agreed. “Higher-weight individuals are often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed due to stigma and misconceptions about who can have an eating disorder,” she said.

Kronengold said this was due to the weight stigma around the illness. “Many people suffering from atypical anorexia fail to recognize they have a severe eating disorder. However, people with an atypical diagnosis experience many of the same medical and psychological complications as those who struggle with ‘traditional’ anorexia,” she said.

In her Instagram post Holliday, who became “the first size 22 model” when she signed to Milk Model Management in 2015, said that she had been getting messages that were positive but also triggering, such as “you’re looking healthy lately”.

“Don’t. Comment. On. My. Weight. Or. Perceived. Health. Keep. It. To. Yourself. Thanks,” she wrote. “Yes, I’ve lost weight – I’m healing from an eating disorder and feeding my body regularly for the first time in my entire life,” she wrote.

“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,” she wrote.

“You cannot determine someone’s health based on their weight,” said Kronengold. “As a society we need to stop placing moral value on arbitrary social constructs of an ‘ideal’ weight and body size.”

Gemma Oaten, actor and charity manager of Seed the eating disorder support service, said she has experienced this first hand.

“Even though I’ve been in recovery for 10 years [from anorexia] and nearly died four times, I’ll stand on the red carpet and photographers will say ‘oh Gemma you’ve lost weight, you must keep at that’. It boggles the mind,” she said. “It’s important we get the message out that someone can look good without weight loss. We need to start looking at what makes a person good and kind instead.”

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