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