Zara McDermott has vowed to change her content on social media after learning it ‘triggers’ people with eating disorders.
BBC Three viewers were left divided after watching her new documentary, with many fans quick to slam the programme as ‘tone-deaf’.
The former Love Island star, 25, appeared on BBC breakfast on Friday to discuss the devastating impact influencers’ social media posts can have on young people struggling with eating disorders.
Zara told presenters Charlie Stayt and Tina De Healy: ‘I was sadly trolled quite badly when I came out of the show because of my weight you know I wasn’t the smallest girl there but I was a perfectly healthy weight but sadly the trolls decided to tell me I was too big.
‘I then went on my own health and fitness journey and lost some weight as a result of that.
‘I wasn’t suffering from an eating disorder myself but I knew there was a massive demand for weight loss content so I was just posting not knowing the detrimental impact it was having on my followers. I was just meeting the demands for that content.’
When asked what the ‘detrimental impact’ was on her followers, Zara responded: ‘We know that social media doesn’t cause eating disorders but it can have a huge impact on the development so essentially posts of mine and many other influencers could have triggered someone eating disorder at some point.
‘It’s tough because I want to share my life I’m still passionate about eating healthy but it’s about finding that balance in life.’
She explained her feelings now on posting revealing bikini pictures: ‘I think every once in a while totally but it’s all about not making it your whole social media profile, it’s about body image and showing your personality and the things you love, not just how you look.
‘I think even though I thought I was prepared for it nothing can prepare you for those conversations. It’s very rare you sit down with the most vulnerable people in society and reflect on it so it was really eye opening and it’s changed my view of myself and the content I put out and also I don’t think I knew exactly what the trigger points were but now I do.’
When asked what she’ll do moving forward, she said: ‘Essentially for me I’ve learnt not to allow someone to emulate your exact lifestyle, exactly what you’re eating in a day, what exercise you do because you may not believe it but people do what emulate exactly your lifestyle.
‘So not posting things like what I eat in a day, not strict workout regimes that people could copy.
‘I also have a responsibility it’s a bit of a tightrope because I want to share my life but I have to be mindful hat there’s millions of people watching what I do and I don’t want to trigger someone who’s really vulnerable so it’s about finding that perfect balance.
‘I mean I think 99% of the feedback has been positive, there was always going to be 1% that say something because it’s a controversial topic and a social media influencer taking on that topic was always going to have that.’
Zara’s documentary on Disordered Eating divided viewers following its broadcast on Tuesday.
Taking to Twitter to share their immediate thoughts, many fans were quick to slam the programme as ‘tone-deaf’ and ‘triggering,’ but others lauded the Love Island star for realising she was ‘part of the problem and wanting to fix it.’
In her documentary, Zara investigated the devastating impact of influencers’ social media posts on young people struggling with eating disorders, with the star herself learning that her own Instagram imageshad been ‘triggering.’
For the documentary, Zara spoke to a number of young people who had suffered from eating disorders, reflecting on how social media can have a negative impact on their body image and mental health.
But the programme earned a mixed response from fans, with some praising her for highlighting such a hard-hitting issue, and even acknowledging that her own health and fitness content may have contributed to the problem.
However, others were quick to brand the programme ‘tone-deaf’, with some who had previously battled eating disorders, admitting it was a difficult watch.
One tweeted: ‘Just watched Zara McDermott’s documentary on Disordered Eating. The bravery and strength of the young people who shared their experiences was what stood out to me.
‘The contributions from professionals throughout was insightful too.’
Another added: ‘I really hope every influencer, or person with any sort of following watches Zara McDermott’s documentary on @bbcthree. Things need to change.’
A third tweeted: ‘Just watched a BBC documentary hosted Zara McDermott and it was heartbreaking to see so many young people, preteen in some cases, ashamed of their bodies.
‘All credit to Zars for acknowledging she could be part of the problem and wanting to fix that. Body shaming is disgusting.’
‘Wheewwww that Zara McDermott doc is heavy,’ one fan posted.
‘TW on eating disorders ofc. I can’t believe that ‘meanspo’ stuff exists. Cried a lot in that – reminder that social media isn’t real and influencers need to be super conscious of who their audience is.’
One fan also tweeted: ‘Overall I think the Zara McDermott documentary was well made and fair play to her for exploring how social media and influencers can exacerbate disordered eating.
‘I have definitely found certain influencers triggering in the past and opening the discussion is so important.’
However, one viewer tweeted: ‘Watching the Zara McDermott #DisorderedEating documentary and have some mixed feelings.
‘It’s helpful to address the impact of social media but the whole conversation is around how triggering that content is whilst still showing that same content on the programme.’
A viewer also shared: ‘Oh the gradual dumbing down of the population is startling. This Zara McDermott documentary makes me want to throw my sofa at the telly. She is so, so dense, not to mention completely tone deaf.’
In her BBC Three documentary, Zara looks at the shocking rise in Meanspo sites, where young people sign up to be told they are ‘fat’ to ‘inspire them’ to lose weight.
She revealed that within minutes of creating an account on TikTok, she was bombarded with posts promoting anorexia and ‘thinfluencers’.
Zara said she wants her new documentary to encourage social media platforms and other influencers to tackle the problem and not ‘perpetuate’ eating disorders.
It come after she previously revealed she was left ‘devastated’ when eating disorder sufferers told her that her weight loss posts were ‘triggering’.
The star said she had never worried about her body or counted calories until cruel trolls branded her a ‘fat whale’, leading to her losing weight.
She then documented her three-stone weight loss with pictures shared to Instagram in 2020, but was accused of triggering anorexia and eating disorders with her posts.
‘I was absolutely devastated to hear that,’ she told The Sun.
‘I didn’t know where to go from there, because I don’t want to hurt anyone and it’s so easy for anything you post to be perceived in the wrong way.
‘I didn’t know whether to walk away from social media entirely, but I think all I can do is learn and listen and do my best.’
Zara said it was speaking to teenage patients at the Schoen Clinic Newbridge in Birmingham during filming that changed her perspective on her social media posts.
The TV personality said one young person told her she was ‘beautiful’ before her weight loss and that her posts could be damaging to young women struggling with eating disorders.
She admitted it was ‘hard to hear’ and said she felt ‘really upset’ afterwards but said influencers have a ‘duty’ to be responsible with their content, saying she never wanted to make the same mistake again.
If you need help or support for an eating disorder, please call Beat on 0808 801 0677 or visit www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk.