WRITTEN BY: KATE DZIENIS
IMAGE: THE EVENTURERS
FIGHTING THE DEMONS WITHIN
Tom Dade is young. He’s got a fire burning through him that’s hard to control, and it served him incredibly well when he took on one of Australia’s gnarliest races, the Down Under 135, earlier this year. The Victorian left behind a blazing trail so hot, he was this year’s only finisher, crossing that brutal finish line in an astonishing 53:07:53. Tom’s life as a teenager shaped who is today, but it was an outright assault of his mortal being as he battled an eating disorder that saw him land in hospital for treatment. Kate Dzienis discovers the vulnerable side of Tom as he opens up about his demons to spread the message and break the stigma that eating disorders are rare in males.
CW // Mental Health, Eating Disorders
TRM would like to advise that this article focuses on Tom’s lived experience, and therefore discusses mental health and eating disorders, in particular Anorexia Nervosa. We understand that this discussion may be difficult for those in our community who also suffer from an eating disorder, and have included support services at the end of the article.
At just 23, Tom Dade from Mt Martha in Victoria has entered the ultra running community in a blaze of glory. In September 2019 he ran his first ultra, the 100km at the Surf Coast Century, and went on to run a further three ultras before taking home the top podium spot in the New Year’s Eve Rock Around The Clock 50km that same year in December.
But it wasn’t all podium finishes and glory. In fact, Tom faced an ultra race of a different kind earlier in life – one that involved fighting through an eating disorder.
About one million Australians live with an eating disorder in any given year; that is, 4% of the population, and despite the stigma associated that they only affect women, eating disorders can indeed affect people of any gender.
But there’s been an under representation of males in eating disorder research, and research with males is almost exclusively with cisgender males and may not be inclusive of people who identify as trans or gender diverse. So official figures and statistics are tricky to come by.
It’s only estimated that one-third of people reporting eating disorder behaviours in the community are male, with research on the perceived barriers towards help-seeking for people found that stigma and shame were most frequently identified as barriers for accessing treatment.
And today, Dan wants to share his story to help break the stigma that eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa mainly affects women and girls…(cont’d).
CONTINUE READING THIS STORY – AND MORE – IN TRAIL RUN MAG #45 (NOV/DECEMBER 2022).