JUST five years ago Thomas Sheppard was suffering from eating disorders and had attempted suicide, but a passion for weightlifting has now turned his life around and he is now set to represent Britain in the sport.
Thomas, who hails from Kenilworth, was at an all time low in July 2011. Suffering from anorexia and bulimia, he attempted – and thankfully failed – to take his own life.
The following day he woke up and vowed never to starve himself again.
Instead he chose to focus on improving his body by lifting weights, and he hasn’t looked back since.
Now 23, he told the Observer: “I suffered from eating disorders since I was about 13 and seemed to flip between anorexia and bulimia. My weight would go up and down, at my lowest I weighed about nine stone and my hair was falling out.
“Attempting suicide was the lowest I have ever been. I think my issues were linked to depression although looking back there was no real reason to feel the way I did. I just wanted to change the way I looked and think it was a kind of self harm.
“Instead of harming I chose to focus on improving for the better through lifting weights. It was an obsession, and perhaps to an unhealthy extent, but it was definitely better than what I was doing previously.”
When Thomas started the sport he was studying marine biology at university, where he met now wife Naomi.
Looking to specialise in a form of weightlifting the pair decided to pursue powerlifting – lifting weights in a sequence of squat, deadlift and bench positions.
Now they have returned to Kenilworth where they have set up their own powerlifting group and are both set to represent Britain in the sport.
Already group members have broken no less than five British records.
Tom has also dropped his planned career as a marine biologist to pursue his passion for exercise as a personal trainer.
He said: “Powerlifting has given me direction in my life and for both myself and Naomi to get to the point where we compete at international level gives me immense pride in both myself and her.
“When I compete at the European Powerlifting Championships in June it will be five years since that night in 2011.
“I want to use that as a chance to raise money for mental health charity Mind so they can help those who were in the same dark place as I was back then.
“Sadly most people who go through what I went through have no help and even feel ashamed to talk out about it. Even worse, many are successful in their attempts to end their suffering.
“No-one should ever have to go through that pain alone and scared without help.”
Visit www.justgiving.com/itgetsbetter to donate or contact Thomas on firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about powerlifting.