By Josh Saunders
A dangerously-thin dancer who weighed the same as a nine-year-old has beaten her eating disorder after going from anorexic to bodybuilder to naturally healthy.
Victoria Spence, 22, from Worsley, Manchester, was blinded to how malnourished she was after dropping to six stone (39kg) trying to get into ‘better shape’ for dancing auditions.
After daily 10k runs, all-day dancing and clean eating, she was suspended from school to recover following her struggle to pick up routines and falling asleep during rehearsals.
It wasn’t until going on a cruise in 2014, that a bikini photograph helped her to recognised how ill she was and that her bones were protruding from her skeletal frame.
After therapy and documenting her achievements online, she was able to get to a healthy weight before getting into bodybuilding.
She entered bikini competitions but believes they were an extension of her eating disorder, however after meeting partner Michael Robinson, 29, she curbed her fixation on food control.
Now at a healthy 9st 1 (58kg), she believes dating stopped her from obsessing over food and adores her new feminine and curvaceous body.
Victoria, a personal trainer, said: “On holiday, when I was in my bikini people would point at me and were talking about how thin I was, I was really aware of it and it didn’t feel good.
“Then I saw a picture of myself and could see every single bone around my thighs sticking out and that my arms were stick thin, it was a bit of a wake-up call.
“After the holiday, I decided to cooperate with my therapist, it was hard eating more food to begin with and accepting weight gain but it was worth it.
“Later I started doing bikini competitions, where I was counting macros and calories, it gave me a sense of control again, but ultimately I believe it was an undercover eating disorder.
“I stopped it once I met my other half, I realised I couldn’t be seeing someone and obsessively weighing out my meals in front of him, it would just be weird.
“Also, I was so sick of competing by that point, I couldn’t wait to start living normally again, doing things like going out for drinks with my friends.
“I feel free now, I’m carefree and so much less stressed, I wake up and feel like I love my body ten times more than when I was waking up and obsessing about food.
“Before I used to feel like a woman but looked like a malnourished child, at my worst I weighed the same as I did at nine-years-old, now I look so much healthier.
“I have a very feminine body now, I’m fairly muscular and have a curvy bum and legs.
“My mindset is the biggest change, I’ve been working on what’s inside so I’m more than a six pack, thigh gap and curvaceous.”
Victoria’s eating disorder took over while at dance school, when she was under pressure to get into the ‘best shape of her life’ and have the ‘perfect body’.
She embarked on a risky routine of dancing throughout the day followed by excessive exercise at night and at her worst points consuming just 600 calories a day.
Victoria said: “In our final year we were told that ‘your body is your CV’ and we needed to look amazing, I was determined to be the best.
“I had this belief that I shouldn’t be able to pinch an inch of flab, everyone wanted six packs and thigh gaps.
“I was dancing from 9am to 7pm, then would do a 10k run after that, as well as cutting down my food and clean eating – I would hardly eat anything.”
At the height of her eating disorder, Victoria was told she weighed the same as she did at nine-years-old and had a dangerously underweight BMI of 13 – the healthy range is 18.5 to 25.
Despite family and friends raising their concerns about her malnourished appearance, she was unable to see how unwell she was until a holiday cruise.
Victoria said: “My family made comments about me needing to eat more and that I had lost enough weight, but I couldn’t see how ill I was.
“At school, I was told to take a week off to gain weight because I couldn’t pick up any of the dances, my head wasn’t there and I was even falling asleep in rehearsals.”
Victoria received counselling for her eating disorder, along with starting an Instagram page that she used to document her journey.
She said: “I started my Instagram account and used it as a diary, I documented all of my achievements and used it as a way to hold myself to account.
“I wrote down my food intake and kept a diary of my thoughts and feelings, it was all about changing my focus.
“I started sharing three things I’m grateful for each day to help myself see more positives in life.
“Battling an eating disorder is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, it’s a constant battle with your mind.”
In 2015, Victoria started preparing for bikini competitions after her personal trainer helped her to switch focus from being skinny to strong.
But after competing, she knew that to become healthy and fully overcome the tendencies of her eating disorder she needed to be less obsessed with food.
She added: “I’ve learned from everything and it’s made me a lot more mindful, I can appreciate my body for what it is and enjoy food now.
“Now I feel like I eat very normal foods like spaghetti bolognaise, curries, fajitas, I make it all fresh but it’s very ordinary stuff.”
Victoria who is now at a healthy weight, works out to give herself a more effeminate figure.
She credits partner Michael Robinson, 29, for helping to normalise food for her and empowering her to see herself as beautiful away from her size.
Victoria said: “He’s been amazing, he’s the first person to show me what it was like to love who you are on the inside and made me feel more confident.
“While battling an eating disorder you’re obsessed, you forget to live and enjoy life during that time, once you can break free from it you feel ten times better.
“Now I work out and eat the way I want to, from doing that I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life and happier than I’ve ever been.”
You can follow her here.