Model Tess Holliday struggles with people who don't believe she exercises and those who ask why she needs to if she loves her body at her current size

By Julie Mazziotta
September 05, 2018 10:00 AM
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Tess Holliday is working out again and loving it — but she’s struggling with the judgment she gets from people on social media.

The model, 33, is caught between people who don’t believe she’s actually exercising, and those who ask why she needs to workout if she loves her body at her current size.

Holliday has already shared a few photos and videos from her workouts with trainer Massy Arias, and their first full workout together is a big part of her new PeopleTV special, Tess Holliday: Making It Big, premiering Sept. 5.

“My workouts were important for me to show because there’s so much judgment placed on me about what my life is like, and if I’m active or if I’m not active,” she tells PEOPLE. “I struggle with it because I don’t want to feel like I have to prove anything to anybody.”

Plus, Holliday says, she doesn’t want the people who look up to her to think that they have to exercise too.

“I have to be careful when I talk about exercise, because I want people to know that it’s something that they can choose to do or not to do,” she says.

Tess Holliday and her trainer, Massy Arias
Tess Holliday/Instagram

In Holliday’s case, she started working out again for her mental health, particularly after dealing with postpartum depression following the birth of her second child, Bowie, 2.

“It wasn’t about my size,” she says. “It was that I wasn’t doing everything I knew I could to help my postpartum depression and the feelings I’ve been having.”

For more on Tess Holliday and her new PeopleTV special, pick up a copy of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

Celeste Sloman

And after some trial and error, Holliday found her ideal trainer in Arias, who is also a mom with an enormous Instagram following.

“Massy has been following me for awhile on social media and commenting on my stuff and being really supportive,” Holliday says. “I was really suspicious at first, because I was like, this person has an 8-pack. Here’s this person who is super fit and does this for a living — why is she following me when my message is this is who I am and I’m happy and I love myself and I’m fat? But once I started following her and gotten to know her, I realize that that’s what her thing is as well.”

Holliday says that Arias had people constantly complimenting her body when she was actually struggling with her eating habits.

“She used to have disordered eating and I relate to that,” Holliday says. “Since I was 12, I dealt with disordered eating, which came back since having Bowie, and she was like, ‘don’t beat yourself up for how you’re feeling.’ ”

Arias and Holliday understand each other, which is why their partnership works as the trainer puts her through squats, arm presses, leg raises and more.

“It’s been something that I really needed in my life,” Holliday says. “I actually enjoy working out — it’s so hard to say that — but I enjoy working out with her. I hope that it inspires other people to find things that they love.”

To watch Tess Holliday: Making It Big, go to PeopleTV.com or download the free PeopleTV app on your favorite mobile or connected TV device.