I used to have a great deal of respect for Tess Holliday. I admired her for putting herself out there and raising awareness that large women can be successful in the modelling industry. I liked how in a sea of thin models, she stands out. I loved her confidence. And her sassy comebacks to those who mock her weight and appetite are fantastic. Holliday is absolutely stunning, even compared with women a third of her size.
But recently, I’ve been incredibly saddened by her comments. I follow Holliday on Twitter and genuinely enjoy her posts. However, I stumbled across a few tweets where she has been professing herself to be healthy and not at risk of health problems. Holliday is 5″3 and a UK size 26 and I know for a fact that this can’t be healthy. This self-denial is common with larger ladies, believe me, I was one of them for a very long time, but I have an issue with such a public figure declaring that it is ok for your health to be morbidly obese. As a public figure, she has a huge following, and a lot of these are young girls who struggle with their weight, and looking desperately for a reason to justify themselves. Holliday is providing them with a scapegoat, and while this may be reassuring to some of her fans, it is ultimately destructive and dangerous.
When I was a larger lady, I never weighed myself out of shame. I didn’t want to face up to the facts. But after I had my daughter in November 2013 – and by this point I was not at my biggest – I decided to bite the bullet and step on the scales in February 2014 because as a parent, I was now a role model. The results were shocking. My height was 5″7 and my weight was over 16 stone. This placed my BMI at around 35, which is defined as being clinically obese. Clinically obese. It sounded like a description of a monster to me and I was so upset. Like other people with this problem, I had deluded myself into thinking that I was healthy. I had convinced myself that walks up and down the stairs, walks to the bus stop and walks to the fridge was more than enough exercise. I considered that having five portions of fruit and vegetables a day defined my diet to be healthy even though I was also stuffing my face with chocolate, cake, crisps and takeaways. It was sort of a mental illness because I didn’t know what I was doing wrong and why I was this size. I was incredibly deluded. I was between a UK size 18-20 depending on the fit of the clothing. The words clinically obese proved to me that clearly, I was doing a lot wrong.
By 2015 I had lost four stone. It was all down to a huge lifestyle upheaval, and my health was all the better for it. I lost weight gradually and safely, and with a baby to run around after, it wasn’t particularly hard. I was able to wear gorgeous clothes and feel great. Me and my mum, who has always been slim, were able to share clothes. At my first midwife appointment after I fell pregnant again, at the end of 2015, my BMI was 28, the smallest I’ve been. I was a UK size 10-12 in dresses and tops but I still had a voluptuous bottom and wide hips so I was still a UK size 12-14 in jeans. A BMI of 28 was still classed as technically overweight but I looked slim. I did it. I had beaten obesity. And in my 37th week of pregnancy, I have put on a bit of timber, I’m not “all baby”, and my face and body have swollen but I will never, ever let myself become obese again.
Health risks of obesity
Holliday is incredibly misinformed when she declares that obesity does not involve health risks. Contrary to her suggestion that Diabetes is not a lifestyle-related illness, let me break it down for you, because she was right, but also wrong, and I don’t want impressionable young ladies believing her. There are two types of Diabetes. Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 is what some people are born with and are stuck with. It is not lifestyle-related and can be genetic. Type 2 is caused as a result of abusing the wrong foods and lack of exercise. Often it can be avoided by eating healthily and monitoring your weight.
There’s a whole heap of other health risks which stem from obesity. Heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, cancer, respiratory problems, osteoarthritis, gallstones. Here is a link with the full list of health risks associated with obesity.
Let’s wrap this up
I am not a fat-shamer. There are so many beautiful women above a size 16 and it fills my heart with joy when they discover that they can be confident. In a world where a lot of people and media outlets take joy in making women feel inferior, it is refreshing to see women are starting to raise the middle finger, flick their hair and know that they are fabulous. But please, please be aware of the risks and don’t let someone kid you into thinking you’re safe from your health being tarnished. Extreme weights whether underweight or obese are concerning and by all means love yourself but please just be careful.