AS A teenager Amanda Woodrow was national schools champion at 800m and finished behind Lynsey Sharp in the National Track Championship to grab a silver medal.
But her desire for a competitive edge also sparked an eight-year battle with an eating disorder known as anorexia athletica.
People would be able to get help sooner if there wasn’t such a stigma”AMANDA WOODROW
Driven to exhaustion and despair, she was forced to abandon the sport she loved.
But now in recovery from the illness, Amanda is working to help others face similar problems as part of the 26-strong Beat Young Ambassadors, a team of young people who won the Volunteer Award at the Scottish Health Awards 2015.
The team – all of whom have personal experience of eating disorders – are trained and mentored so that they can share their experiences, breaking the silence around eating disorders in an effort to help people recover from them.
Amanda, 27, from Leith, said: “To be a young ambassador is to be able to talk about eating disorders without shame.
“People would be able to get help sooner if there wasn’t such a stigma attached to them. It is often assumed [falsely] that sufferers have a choice about it and should, ‘Just go and eat something’.
“Being able to talk about these things, and to demonstrate that recovery is possible, are very good things.”
At the height of her eating disorder, Amanda was working on a research degree, holding down a job and exercising obsessively four or five hours a day, sometimes with as little as one meal to sustain her.
Finally she broke down in tears in front of her boss, who urged her to seek help.
Amanda, who is out of treatment and is running again, is now doing a postgraduate degree in mental health at Edinburgh University with a view to becoming a clinical psychologist so she can continue to help people.
Beat was among three NHS Lothian health care teams to scoop top gongs.
The Edinburgh alcohol related brain damage (ARBD) Team collected the Innovation Award, while the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease integrated services project team was awarded the Care for Long-Term Illness Award.
ARBD clinical lead Dr Lynn McCallum said: “In our first year we have treated 44 patients and reduced their length of stay in the acute hospital setting to 26 days on average. In addition, 88 per cent of those patients who have been discharged for six months or longer have required no further admissions into hospital.
“Financially these are the gains but more importantly, the service is offering the opportunity for individuals who have often reached their very lowest ebb to regain their sense of self-worth.”