Anorexic student turns life around and inspires others

Tom Halstead diagnosed with anorexia nervosa is now running 13 miles in the Great North Run.
Tom Halstead diagnosed with anorexia nervosa is now running 13 miles in the Great North Run.
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Dropping to a life threatening weight, an 18-year-old student could barely muster the energy to walk, never mind run.

But Edinburgh College student Tom Halstead turned his life around and will now take part in the Simplyhealth Great North Run covering 13 miles and raising money for Mind – the mental health charity who helped save his life.

Diagnosed with anorexia nervosa two years ago, the teenager developed an extremely unhealthy relationship with food and exercise, causing rapid weight loss and fear of food.

Seeing exercise as a form of punishment and self-harm, he battled with not only the physical effects of the disorder but also the mental impact.

Only 16 when he was diagnosed, he was considered a child, but when he turned 18 he was discharged from treatment.

He explained his journey: “My weight had restored and I had control of the eating side of things, but I relapsed. It was actually the best thing that happened to me. It opened my eyes to the mental health aspect of the condition.

“Before I was diagnosed I had started running, but for the wrong reasons. I had a negative relationship with exercise, I saw it as a way to punish myself.

“But after my relapse I hit this place where I knew it was time to change something. I wasn’t achieving anything and that’s when it flipped and I thought ‘this is the time to get stronger and improve’.

A few months later Tom found out he had been selected to run for Mind in the Simplyhealth Great North Run in Newcastle.

“I have not been inspired to take up running but been driven to do so.” Tom said.

“I didn’t think I would be able to run. Now I am fit and healthy and ready to show that there is life after anorexia.”

Through his progress, Tom has decided to raise money for the charity Mind, who not only helped him, but also his great grandfather who suffered from depression after losing his job.

He added: “Mind supports those who suffer from mental health illness which unfortunately affects more and more people every year. Mental health can affect anyone at any point in their lifetime. I think there’s a lot fewer men speaking about their emotions over eating, not that there are fewer men who are suffering. It’s even been suggested that more men are being diagnosed with the disorder than women.”

Tom first started taking part in the weekly Park Run at Cramond and said running in a group was a really positive experience.

He also does strength training five days a week a runs indoor and outdoor three days a week.

With renewed vigour the ambitious teen has focussed on his future and will soon start a new course in fitness, health and nutrition.

A drive for to use sport and exercise as a way helping himself, Tom now has a passion to help other people and hopes to one day open his own business and help others who are struggling. He added: “I take pride in knowing that every step taken closer to the finish line, is a step closer to battling against mental health.”

To help people get the most out of life, everyday healthcare provider Simplyhealth has launched a train and prepare section online available at www.greatrun.org/training-simplyhealth