THE RE­AL­ITY BE­HIND

So­cial-me­dia star and fash­ion­ista Kather­ine Ormerod is a poster girl for healthy liv­ing. How­ever, her 24,000 fol­low­ers don’t

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - THE WHOLE PICTURE -

Sun­bathing on a beach in Mex­ico, scrolling through com­ments on my In­sta­gram feed, I should have felt on top of the world. Be­neath a photo I’d posted of my­self in a beau­ti­ful ochre bikini, right, were the words ‘body envy’, ‘fit­spi­ra­tion’ and ‘body on point’.

The mes­sages were un­de­ni­ably flat­ter­ing and there was, of course, a sense of val­i­da­tion, but I had a sink­ing feel­ing in my stom­ach. Most of my fol­low­ers, many of whom were very young and whom I had never met, were tak­ing the im­age at face value, rather than having any idea of the ef­fort and mis­ery that were part and par­cel of get­ting that body ‘on point’.

A pic­ture speaks a thou­sand words, but rarely on In­sta­gram where im­ages are con­structed, edited and cu­rated do you get a sense of the whole story. My body hasn’t al­ways looked like it does now. To­day, I’m a toned size eight, which feels right on my five-feet four-inch frame. But it’s been a long strug­gle to get to a place where health and hap­pi­ness go hand in hand. I know its easy to look on so­cial me­dia and think how lucky a per­son is when it comes to their shape, size, skin, fit­ness lev­els and ab def­i­ni­tion; those thoughts of­ten cross my mind, too.

But I also re­alise that you never know what might be go­ing on in the back­ground or the de­mons some­one had to face along the way. There is just no con­text. Grow­ing up, I didn’t care about health. Be­ing thin was my sole aim. As an ob­ses­sive teenage calo­rie-counter, ex­er­cise was what you did to fit into jeans, not to feel strong. Uni­ver­sity of­fered few chances for re­form. I reg­u­larly drank more than a bot­tle of wine a night and smoked so many packs of cig­a­rettes, it could have funded my stu­dent loan. I also ate the same ready-meal ev­ery night: an 88p sal­mon cot­tage pie with only 348 calo­ries per serv­ing. Not for a minute did I con­sider salt con­tent, fish sourc­ing or chem­i­cal in­gre­di­ents. Calo­rie con­tent and price were the only fac­tors.

Un­til my late 20s, my weight fluc­tu­ated wildly. When my mum got re­mar­ried, we had to chop inches off the bot­tom of my brides­maid dress and hur­riedly stitch the fab­ric along the side seams be­cause, in the three months be­tween fit­tings, I’d gone from a size eight to a 12. A lot of women look perfectly slim as a size 12, but I didn’t feel or look my best. I’d gained more than 15lb and couldn’t fit into a sin­gle pair of my jeans. There were also the ever-present, gnaw­ing, gripey stom­ach pains that would flare up from nowhere. I wouldn’t be able to eat for two or three days at a time with­out be­ing sick all caused by my smok­ing and eat­ing habits.

Over the years I’d tried Atkins, HFLC (high-fat, low carb), Clean & Lean, the maple syrup diet, Slim­fast and Slim­ming World. There was never any med­i­cal is­sue with my weight, nor did I have any de­fin­able eat­ing dis­or­der, but there was noth­ing healthy about the con­stant yoyo-ing. Each year, I’d go up and down by about 20lb, prob­a­bly three or four times. The cy­cle of eat­ing rub­bish and gain­ing pounds would lead me to skip meals and lose a stone just as quickly.

My weight con­sumed my ev­ery wak­ing thought. And while at times my nar­row frame was bloated, it was the anx­i­ety cre­ated by be­ing caught in this de­press­ing cy­cle that was truly un­healthy, rather than how I looked. Ex­er­cise went out the win­dow as soon as I left school. I man­aged to quit smok­ing, but barely lifted a fin­ger un­til I was 29, when I re­alised I couldn’t do a sin­gle push-up or sit-up.

My skin was grey and clogged and I had a dull ache in my hips that even four G&Ts couldn’t cure. It was then that I fi­nally de­cided to do some­thing about my life­style. I started small and, over the past four years, have totally trans­formed my at­ti­tude to well-be­ing. My nutri­tion ob­vi­ously needed an over­haul, but it was ex­er­cise that re­ally got the whole thing rolling.

I be­gan do­ing re­former Pi­lates. Having never done yoga, I was ex­tremely in­flex­i­ble and be­lieved the only point of ex­er­cise was to sweat (aka lose weight). But for some rea­son I chose to do a month’s course. It took about a year to build core strength and I ramped up to go­ing two

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