The reality behind my Instagram ‘perfection’
Social-media star Katherine Ormerod is a poster girl for healthy living. But her 23,000 followers don’t see the torment it’s taken her to get there. Here, she reveals the truth
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 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 8, which feels right on my 5ft 4in 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 yo-yo-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 wellbeing. 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 or three times a week.
I now mix in yoga and fun cardio (a trampoline class, for example), do 7am slots during the week and add a weekend class before 10am. I have confidence in what I’ve achieved: I’m strong enough to carry my own suitcase up the stairs and those old-lady aches and pains have disappeared.
As for food, I certainly haven’t found the magic menu, but I’m far better at nourishing myself. I still drink wine, and eat bread and the occasional chocolate brownie. I still freak out when I eat three takeaways in a week and panic that I’ve gained too much weight. I still could do a lot better. But I know from experience that I could also do a lot worse.
My former self would roll her eyes at the woman I’ve become. Chia-eating, kale-smoothie-drinking yoga obsessives were never my people. I liked my men well-watered and girlfriends who would join me for a rosé or four at lunch. My family are the same. My dad even has his own brewery. Living a healthier lifestyle and sometimes saying no to alcohol or carbs has challenged how I see myself and others, which truly has been the hardest change to make.
These days I no longer think or talk about food all day. My weight goes up and down, but only by about 5lbs. And while I’m still critical, I don’t hate what I see in the mirror. I’m proud of how far I’ve come – but, make no mistake, nothing about it has come easily. And it’s worth saying that you don’t have to be a teenage, 5ft 10in glamazon with a genetically perfect face to be fit and healthy. You could also be a short, 33-year-old ex-smoker with a penchant for shiraz and a reprobate health history. Anyone can change the story when it comes to their health.
That fraudulent feeling I got on the beach inspired me to launch a site called workworkwork.co for Insta-famous women to share the other side of their story – the side that may not show their best angle but reveals the challenges they’ve been through. My hope is that young women will read it and see no one’s life is perfect. The edited world online is only the tip of an emotional and physical iceberg and, however easy it all looks, the truth is that nothing comes for free.
‘There was nothing healthy about the yo-yo dieting – I’d go up and down by 20lbs’ Left Recent holiday shots from Instagram. Above Katherine aged 20
Above Pictures from Katherine’s Instagram, including (bottom right) the thought-provoking bikini shot