1. ITV Report

Rise in Instagram food bloggers and fitness models leads to weight loss warnings

A teenager nearly died from cardiac arrest after her weight dropped dangerously low. She says she cut what she ate after following food bloggers on Instagram.

Izzie Tidswell says she slowly reduced what she ate until she became so ill she needed urgent medical care.

I started looking at what other people's lives are like and what other people are eating, and I looked to them for validation and I kind of felt if I was doing what they were doing I was doing the right thing.

Actually I'd begun not listening to my body at all, and I just started looking to others for verification.

– Izzie Tidswell

Izzie has had an eating disorder for four years. She says following food bloggers on Instagram made her anorexia worse.

It was only when she was in hospital that her dad, Richard, realised just how ill she really was.

"I remember sitting in a room with the lead medical professional turning round to me and saying 'I need to tell you your daughter's at risk of heart failure'", he says.

"That's the thing really, within the space of months you go from someone who is highflying at school, to hearing that and being rushed in for emergency ECGs, that will live with me forever."

And Izzie's not alone.

Sam Woodfield became underweight after over exercising and cutting food. He says he was inspired by food bloggers and lean athletes on the social media platform - he may never be able to have children.

I'd be looking at cyclists going, 'oh he's really really skinny' or 'he's really really veiny, I want to be like that.'

I'd see photos myself and I don't look like that at all. It was where I had a very poor perception of myself.

I was always comparing myself to others and having a very poor personal image and self acceptance.

– Sam Woodfield

Even though Sam is now recovering, at 28 he still has the bone density of 60 year old - and there are long lasting effects from being so underweight.

"There is a possibility I might never be able to have children, because I really did plummet my hormones that low, they might never rebound."

Although Sam is now recovering, at 28 he still has the bone density of 60 year old

Health professionals say the true effect of social media is only just being realised - and what is a fun pastime for most, can be a dangerous obsession for others.

Renee McGregor, and eating disorder dietician says social media is holding people in the grips of the mental illness for longer.

She says: "Ten years ago if I was working with somebody with an eating disorder it was a bit easier to move them on because you weren't really up against social media.

"Whereas now when you're working with an individual, you'll make a suggestion, you'll rationalise an argument that they might bring forward, but then literally the following week you see them it'll be 'but such and such is doing this on social media, and they feel great so...'

"I know for a fact there are a number of high profile bloggers who put pictures up but don't actually eat what they've put up."

Posting what we eat and how much exercise we've done has become second nature.

Instagram says eating disorders are a complex issue and it's working with mental health charities to better understand them.

It adds it provides advice and links to experts, and some of its users promote positive body image and provide support networks for those with eating disorders.

Content that encourages eating disorders violates Instagram’s community guidelines and we use powerful tools and technologies to help identify and remove it.

We recognise this is a complex issue and we want people struggling with their mental health to be able to access support on Instagram when and where they need it.

– Instagram spokesperson
  • WATCH IN FULL: An Unhealthy Obsession

More on this story