Plus-size model Tess Holliday is pretty much the champion of the body positivity movement.
Tess is responsible for the hashtag #EffYourBeautyStandards, which has since become an Instagram account, a movement, and more importantly, an inspiration for curvy women everywhere.
She’s by far the most famous size 22 model, having graced the covers of People magazine, L.A. Weekly, and now Self. She’s one of the most influential women in the body-positive landscape, and it’s a responsibility she takes extremely seriously.
But relatively recently, her lifestyle has started changing, and now she fears she’s letting down her followers.
It all started after she began suffering from post-partum depression. She told Self,
“I’ve started taking medication for my depression. I have a life coach who has been extremely helpful and supportive. I feel very L.A. saying that, like, I take medication and I have a life coach, but I literally felt like I was going crazy at the beginning of this year.”
But she’s also taken on other measures of self-care, like eating well and being active. But as a self-proclaimed “fat-positive” person, how does this lifestyle shift look to her fans?
“I feel guilty. The amount of people [who] get thrust into the limelight and they’re plus size? They lose weight. The more successful they get, the more weight they lose. It’s hard because those people don’t owe staying fat to anyone. It’s their body and what they want to do, but there is also a sense of betrayal that [people with] bigger bodies feel, and it’s hard because you’re in your head. I’ve [thought this about] many people, where you’re like, ‘Is it their choice? Were they pressured [into losing weight]?’”
Tess’ concerns are not unwarranted. A while ago Ashley Graham posted a slimming pic of herself on the set of America’s Next Top Model on Instagram and fans started attacking her, accusing her of losing weight and betraying her fans. (It turns out Ashley hadn’t lost weight, it was just a particularly flattering angle).
I can’t imagine what kind of pressure the public eye brings, but I do know what it’s like to have conflicting feelings about your body.
In the last year, I’ve gained about 20 lbs, and while I’m still technically “straight-sized,” it wasn’t the body I recognized. I felt incredibly guilty for even thinking about losing weight. I believe in body positivity. Wanting to lose weight, or god-forbid, diet, seemed so anti-feminist.
But sometimes you have to remind yourself that being body-positive means celebrating everyone and how they want their body to be. Tess explains,
“I believe in doing things for yourself and being active in a way that suits you and your lifestyle, but I try to tell people all the time you can’t judge other people and what they’re doing with their bodies. It’s none of my business and you just have to let people live and do their own thing, but I feel guilty saying I eat well and that I’m active and that I do all those things,”
At the end of the day, Tess is going to do what’s right for her. And it doesn’t mean she’s going to stop eating Cheetos, it just means she’s going to take better care of herself.
“I can live my life, I can be at Disneyland and eat fried chicken, and that’s my choice. That’s what’s great. It’s my body.”
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Body Positive Activist/Model Tess Holliday: ‘I Will Continue to Live Unapologetically’