Fashion Unzipped podcast: How social media is impacting the body image of a generation

Social media can be an inspiring place. Where did we discover new brands, styling tips and travel recommendations before Instagram? Now there is a whole world of advice and insider knowledge available for free with a scroll of the thumb. But there are downsides to everything, and when it comes to Instagram, the impact it can have on our own body image is one of the biggest. 

Katherine Ormerod, influencer and author of the book Why Social Media is Ruining Your Life, and Alex Light, body confidence influencer, join host Charlie Gowans-Eglinton in the recording studio.

Subscribe to the podcast and hear past episodes on Apple Podcasts or at unzipped.podcast.telegraph.co.uk, or play the video at the top of this page to listen right now.

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Alex Light

Journalist and influencer Light may preach body confidence on her Instagram page, but her own was hard fought. Having struggled with an eating disorder, she now uses her platform to promote anti-diet body acceptance, often sharing her own spin on the usual weightloss before and after pictures - Light's show her at her lower, unwell weight alongside her current healthy, well weight. 

In the episode, she speaks about recovery, dealing with trolls, and why she sees herself as an ally of the body-positivity movement, not a leader of it. 

Katherine Ormerod 

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Ok, SERIOUS CAPTION alert...Of all the potentially -ve sides of social media, it’s the impact on our body image that cuts deepest. Over the past month I’ve lost nearly a stone which I didn’t have to lose. It’s been gnarly and definitely not aspirational. But I’ve received several messages which have really disturbed me. Aside from at least 20 people asking if I can give them my bug (haha😐), I’ve also been told my figure now looks ‘perfect’. That ‘parasites have never looked so good.’ That I look like I’ve had a makeover. These are messages from people who know I’ve been ill, but believe I look better sick bc perspectives are so warped that thinness at any cost is seen as worth it. I genuinely appreciate when anyone messages me... but if I still had any inkling of an eating issue I would now be lying in bed at night thinking...how the F do I keep this weight off because, clearly, I look better now...I must have been gross before. In the past 15 months you’ve now seen me lose 50lbs - albeit 10lbs was a second human. I’ve gone from a 36G to a 30A. We live in a new world where we can watch hundreds of other women’s bodies ebb and flow through sickness, health & pregnancy from the comfort of our screens & we all need to think seriously about how we talk about that. I completely don’t have all the answers and have doubtless made mistakes myself, but just in case anyone is looking at me and thinking wow, she looks great, I just want to put it in context: the only other times I’ve been this thin were when my husband left me & when I was in my teens with an eating disorder. It’s not in any way ‘lucky’. Being underweight more often than not means being heartbroken (‘heartbreak diet’), feeling miserable or depleted. Speaking of our thinnest moments wistfully (that summer when I fit into my thin jeans!) or congratulating each other about it are things we have the power to change. It’s up to us to make the new rules & I really hope we can create a better conversation PS: as soon I can, I’ll be back on the burrata and vino, because contrary to legend, they really do taste better than skinny feels. Also for the record, I thought I looked pretty good before.

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Having penned the book Why Social Media is Ruining Your Life, you might imagine that Ormerod would be avowedly anti-apps. Instead, she shares advice for finding a balanced way to use social media platforms without negatively impacting your own sense of worth or body image. For her, the engaged communities that Instagram has helped her to find - like the digi-clique she found when she became a new mother, and was searching for advice and support from women at a similar life stage - are worth persevering for. 

In the episode, she talks about her relationship with social media, and her reaction to potentially damaging comments on how she looked after she recently (and inadvertently) lost weight due to illness. 

To listen to the full episode, click here or search 'Fashion Unzipped' wherever you normally get your podcasts.

Send us your feedback and fashion questions at [email protected], and check back soon for a new episode. Happy listening!