Teenager with eating disorder ‘told her BMI wasn’t low enough to get help’

A life coach said she was told her BMI wasn’t low enough for her to get medical help despite developing an eating disorder.

Victoria Spence is now 26 but as a teenager she said her eating disorder was sparked by images of women’s bodies on social media.

She has since recovered but she said if her parents didn’t have the finances to pay for her to be privately treated she would be dead.

The Instagram influencer spoke candidly about her battle which may have been halted sooner if a person’s Body Mass Index wasn’t used to decide if someone is too fat or too thin.

Last week MPs urged Ministers to scrap the BMI scale.

Victoria told the BBC she had began losing weight after being spurred on by “unhealthy” body images on social media.

She said she “fell down a deep hole” very quickly after being guided by images of people with six-pack stomachs and thigh gaps on social media.

Her body image was accelerated after she found out about the BMI system and after it dubbed her as “overweight” her eating order kicked in.

“I put my weight into the BMI calculator and I came up as overweight and I was far from overweight,” she said.

Victoria was losing weight quickly and as her anorexia affected her confidence she confided in her mum that she “hated herself’ so they went to see her doctor.

Victoria said: “She told me that my BMI wasn’t classed as anorexia, however if I did get worse then to go back.

“What the doctor said to me I saw that as you’re not thing enough yet. There was still more to do.”

Victoria said her weight loss accelerated rapidly which left her mum and dad with no choice but to pay for private treatment.

“If my parents couldn’t have afford it and I had to wait for therapy through the NHS I don’t think I would be here today,” she said.

While social media helped to fuel Victoria’s eating disorder it also helped her on her road to recover and she is now an influencer with more than 129,000 followers on her victorianiamh Instagram account.

Victoria’s story comes as the death of Big Brother star Nikki Grahame was announced on Saturday.

She died aged 38 just a day after leaving a facility in Devon where she had been receiving treatment for anorexia – the star had battled the disease since she was eight-years-old.

Her friend Leon Dee started a GoFundMe for the BB7 star after Nikki ‘exhausted every option’ on the NHS and they raised over £69,000 to pay for her to have private treatment.

Last week MPs called for the BMI system to be axed after a report by Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee found lockdown had had a “devastating” impact on those with eating disorders.

MPs have warned the Governments’ current obesity strategy was “dangerous” for people suffering from negative body image, and could potentially trigger eating disorders in the people it is designed to help.

They recommended Public Health England immediately stop using the Body Mass Index (BMI) in determining if an individual’s weight is healthy and replace it with a “Health at every size” approach, which prioritises healthy lifestyle choices over correcting weight.

Committee Chair Caroline Nokes said: “The use of BMI as a measure of healthy weight has become a kind of proxy or justification for weight shaming. This has to stop.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said it is important that they take action to help people live healthier lives and their approach is “guided by the latest research and emerging evidence”.

NHS England has been clear it does not support the use of BMI thresholds.”