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Former Cosmopolitan UK cover star and model Tess Holliday has candidly opened up about her eating disorder, explaining how the backlash after announcing her anorexia diagnosis last year had an impact on her.
"When I shared that I had anorexia on social media last year, it blew up," she said whilst speaking to Today. "I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal. But I had no idea how broken the eating disorder community is."
The 36-year-old continued: "People said I was lying. There are people who believe I was saying this to get attention. I've had some people say, 'You’re doing this to stay relevant'."
But, Tess explains that to some extent she understood other people's reaction, given that she too had struggled to accept her diagnosis. "When she [Tess' therapist] 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 recalled. "I know it’s untrue, but it’s so indicative of what a large problem this is."
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
As for why she chose to share her diagnosis, the model points out that she wanted to break down the stigma around having an eating disorder as a larger person. "I chose to share my diagnosis because it’s not just about a desire for thinness. I’m not restricting because I want to be thin. I’ve just done this for so long," she explained. "I still struggle with wrapping my head around, 'How can I be in a fat body and be starving?' Then I realised that bodies of all sizes and shapes starve."
The model went on: "So many people who are in larger bodies have messaged me and said, 'I never thought I restricted until you started talking about this.' It’s been very empowering, but it’s also made me incredibly sad. To get a diagnosis when there is so much weight bias and stigma in the medical industry is difficult. It’s tough when you hear the word anorexia and it’s only equated with one kind of image. It’s detrimental to so many people, including myself."
Looking to the future, Tess says she's still got a long way to go in her recovery, but is working hard to change the relationship she has with food and her body. "Recovery for me is messy. It’s lonely," she admits, before adding that "I remind myself that my feelings are valid. I go to therapy. Talking about it has helped."
By sharing her experience, she hopes others will be encouraged to seek out support too. "To people who are struggling, I say to find support," she emphasises. "One of the bright spots that has come from COVID-19 has been increased access to mental health professionals online. I found someone to talk to through just Googling someone in my area. I literally would not have been able to do any of this if I didn’t have that help."
Beat is the UK's leading charity dedicated to helping people with eating disorders. If you or someone you know is struggling and want to seek help, call their helpline on 0808 801 0677 or visit their website for more details.
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