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

The Sunday Telegraph - Stella - - HOW I MAKE IT WORK -

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 work­work­ 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

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