Body-positivity model Tess Holliday opens up about eating disorder

The model said she hopes her story helps others who are struggling.

ByMya Green and Angeline Jane Bernabe via GMA logo
May 6, 2021, 8:12 AM

Plus sized supermodel Tess Holliday is opening up about her struggle with anorexia.

In an interview with “Good Morning America,” the mother of two said she was recently diagnosed by a psychologist but has struggled with “disordered eating” most of her life.

“I always thought that I overate,” said Holliday. “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.”

Holliday, who is known for loving and celebrating her curves as a “body positive activist,” has been receiving support for her honesty from many, but has also been questioned by some online about how she could love her body and also have an eating disorder.

“I’ve had a lot of messages from folks that are anorexic that are livid and angry because they feel like I’m lying,” she said. “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.”

But Holliday’s dietician, Anna Sweeney, says eating disorders don’t have to look a certain way. They’re also extremely common, affecting nearly one in every 10 people.

“You can’t look at someone and tell whether or not they’re healthy. You just can’t,” said Holliday. “I understand that people look at me and I don’t fit what we have seen presented as, you know, the diagnosis for anorexia. 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 like, a lack of diversity and representation in the world.”

In the past year, the National Eating Disorders Association reported a 41% increase in messages to its help lines compared with the previous year.

According to a study, conducted by Harvard’s Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders in collaboration with the Academy for Eating Disorders and Deloitte Access Economics, about 9% of the U.S. population -- almost 29 million people -- will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. Those numbers are on the rise during the pandemic.

Now, Holliday hopes she can use her platform to reach others that might be facing a similar battle.

“The sky’s the limit,” she said. “I actually feel like I can take on the things that life is throwing my way and I have been happier in the last six months, through my recovery than I’ve been in my entire life. I feel whole. I feel at peace. I really feel in my power.”