Using Food As A Coping Mechanism, Tess Holiday Doesn’t Need An RD, She Needs An Addiction Specialist



Written By: Anton Sawyer



Using Food As A Coping Mechanism, Tess Holiday Doesn’t Need An RD, She Needs An Addiction Specialist


Though the information in this article may come off as cold, analytical, or with an otherwise disregard for feelings, that’s not my intention. No matter what I think about Tess Holliday and her body-positivity campaign, there’s always a certain level of empathy I have for someone who has had similar struggles to mine. In fact, after looking through all the information, I can promise you that what will best help Holliday and her current diagnosis of anorexia nervosa isn’t a registered dietician, but an addiction specialist. I may be no doctor, and the opinions contained herein are just opinions, but the similarities that she shares with someone who was an active addict for many years like myself are stunning. The tool I used to cope was any substance I could get my grubby little fingers on. Holliday’s is food.



 

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The first thing you need to know to play catch-up is that plus-sized model Tess Holliday came out during the spring of 2021 proclaiming that she was diagnosed as suffering from anorexia. I understand if you had to re-read that sentence twice. It’s worth noting that I don’t think Tess Holliday is incapable of being anorexic because of her size alone; to say that there’s a “one size fits all” when it comes to mental health issues would be intellectually obtuse. But some of the key contributors to anorexia nervosa, like the skeletal appearance, brought about doubts. Immediately my mind jumped back to when I would be in the early stages of some court-ordered rehab and two questions formed.

Do I believe that she was given the anorexia diagnosis? Yes.

Do I believe she shaded the information she presented to whoever was in charge of making such a diagnosis to receive one that gave her a specific result? Yes. Oh yes.

The demons of addiction are many and carry with them a plethora of different masks when it comes to misdirection. Looking at her interviews, Tik Toks, and other forms of social media since the reveal of her diagnosis in 2021, there are all the traditional hallmarks of someone who suffers from an addiction of some kind and has spent that time just repeating a cycle. Anorexia just happened to be the disease du jour that allowed for the masses to shift the focus of the core issue initially, but her actions in 2022 have shown that nothing has changed.


But, I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Let’s go back to spring, 2021.

Like any severe addiction, when you first begin any kind of a rehabilitation process, that addiction goes into some dark corner of your being, starts shooting up steroids and lifting weights, all the while biding its time until you return. In most cases, the addict will return and by that point, the beast breaks through the cage and it’s pretty much a downward spiral from there.

The beginning of Holliday’s journey followed suit. There was the stun of the initial diagnosis with her stating, "I didn't know that's what I had [anorexia] 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." She continued, "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.'” In addition to this “non-diagnosis,” Anna Sweeney, MS, RD, LDN has also said, “If you think most eating disorders are visible conditions, you’re wrong.” Shortly after being given this information, Holliday made it a point to learn about the disease and in doing so found that, Chelsea Kronengold, Associate Director of Communications at the National Eating Disorders Association, agreed with Sweeney’s assessment saying, “Anorexia can affect all sizes.” And that, "anorexia doesn't have one look." Shortly after Sweeny’s diagnosis, Holliday’s dietitian had her following a three meals per day regimen along with a Pilates routine.


So, whether it’s anorexia or not, we have established that Holliday has had an unhealthy relationship with food for at least a decade.


I started smoking cannabis at age 16. By the time I was 17, I nearly died of a meth overdose. Having come close to death once or twice (myself or others), I quit meth at age 22 and switched to alcohol. During this time, I was an alcoholic for several years before the party ended when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. This, in turn, opened the door to pain specialists and the pharmaceutical candy known as opioids. So, like her, I too have had an unhealthy relationship with substances and in every case, I too looked for reasons that could be the culprit to my addictive tendencies which made sense to me. It was also common for me to adhere to the prescribed method of whatever drug counselor I was seeing at the beginning and put forth an effort.


We now can see where Holliday is at a year later and see where she’s at in her recovery.


"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," she wrote for Today. "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." It’s important to note that during the time this interview was published, there was a two-part Tik Tok video starring both Holliday and her plus-sized model/influencer Alyssa Marie consuming a multitude of Taco Bell food items; the most memorable being several bags of cinnamon twists, and literal armfuls of chalupas.


It’s apparent that Holliday still has an unhealthy relationship with her coping mechanism, and this relationship is based on misdirection—especially towards herself. That’s an addiction. Or at the very least, severely addictive tendencies.

I need to make it clear I’m not judging her for this cycle she’s currently in. Having been to multiple counselors and rehab programs over the years (both voluntary and forced), I myself have been through that revolving door of Hell more than once. So, if Holliday wants to have 35 double-meat cheeseburgers, excellent. All I ask is that she doesn’t use some shading of her addiction to justify it to her followers. She has millions of people who have made her rich and famous and she should at least respect them enough to be honest about it. By shedding this anorexia disguise and coming out to her fans and flat-out saying “I’m an addict” could do far more good than I think Holliday realizes. The law of averages says that with how much of a following she has, there are going to be people who have an addiction but are trying to sublimate it into something it might not be and could look at Holliday for helpful techniques instead of nuanced deceptions. This helps nobody. This just sets an example that will be followed by others.


Imagine if there was a content creator who made videos of them shooting up heroin and nodding off. There isn't a giant platform out there that would allow it to continue for too long because of the potential to influence other people into doing heroin. Yet, it's acceptable to watch an infinifat woman (and per “Teen Vogue” magazine that is the correct term) put things into her body which, over time, can have a profound impact on her health (parallel to addiction), all while she's beings applauded for it. These are both addictions and send a bad message.

So what gives me the right?

The only thing that I can say in my defense is in the fact that during Covid I used the time to better myself by getting into counseling, opening up my entire being and letting spill out, and then dissecting it with a psychologist before putting it back in. To go through that much exposure and self-examination is incredibly difficult, but it’s what needs to be done in order to at least gain some perspective and closure on the root causes of where the addictions stem. Though I am still a work in progress, I’ve stayed away from opioids and have been able to stop a majority of the behaviors that were making my life a living hellscape. It’s because of this knowledge that when it comes to Holliday, I empathize, I really do. I know how many times I went into addiction counseling of some kind with the greatest of intentions, but wasn’t able to do what was needed to really solve the problems.


To be honest, I don’t think that Holliday is ready for it. She’s made mentions in past with some of the struggles when it comes to her using food as a coping mechanism. "Everyone in my life has always said, 'Are you sure you want to eat that?' [or] 'Don't eat that'— it's just constant. From the moment that I was plus-size which was [when I was] 11.” Quotes like this lead me to believe that she knows what some of the issues are, and has the self-awareness to be able to identify them. But identification is miles away from confrontation.

I hope she gets through this mess as unscathed as possible, including any fallout. This fallout includes the fans I mentioned before. No matter where her addiction, relapse, or recovery takes her, it’s important that she never forgets one of the key components to recovery: recognizing and acknowledging the collateral damage you’ve caused before you’ve lost everything to you that matters. Fans, career, family … all of it. I hope she gets the memo sooner rather than later.


 

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