TEAM GB triathlete Andy Shirley, from Reading, will compete in the Triathlon World Championships at the end of August to fundraise for Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity.

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Forty-nine-year-old Andy is aiming to raise £5,000 towards Beat’s Helpline and support services as well as raising awareness about the importance of seeking medical help when somebody shows the early symptoms of an eating disorder.

Andy’s daughter Isabella, who is now 16 years old, has struggled with an eating disorder for the past four years.

It took Isabella more than three years to get professional help from CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) and BEDS (Berkshire Eating Disorder Service).

Eventually Isabella was admitted as an impatient at The Royal Berkshire Hospital with a dangerously low heart rate.

Mr Shirley said: “We did everything we could as parents to support her, but Isabella’s illness was taken seriously only when she was in hospital.”

Isabella spent seven months at a specialist eating disorders unit and numerous months at home and she’s now on her way to recovery.

He added: “It has been an incredibly difficult few years for all the family, not to mention the heartache we have all experienced seeing Isabella suffer at the hands of this cruel and debilitating illness.

“I hope that, through my fundraising efforts, I can make more people aware of this widely misunderstood and stigmatised mental illness which can anybody regardless of their gender, ethnic background or socio-economic group."

Mr Shirley, who is a member of the EVO triathlon club in Eaton, took up this sport just four years ago and competed in the European Championships for Team GB in May this year and came 10th in his age category.

Mr Shirley will be taking part in the Triathlon World Championships which will be hosted in Lausanne, Switzerland, on August 30 and September 1.

He said: “Physically I feel pretty good, but I know the nerves will start building soon. My aim is to try and finish in the top 40 out of 160 competitors.”

Beat has recently launched new guidance encouraging healthcare providers to ensure better support for families of people with eating disorders, including by offering an assessment of their own mental health needs and offering access to peer-to-peer support programmes.

The NICE guidelines for eating disorders require service providers to ensure that carers are fully informed about their loved one’s illness and the treatment for it. If fully involved, families and carers can help their loved one to recover faster and to ensure that they don’t relapse.

However, research by Beat finds families reporting that they currently do not receive adequate support in looking after a loved one with an illness that can consume their own energy and family life as well as the health of the sufferer.

Emily Battersby-Case, Beat’s Community Fundraising Officer said: “We are so grateful to our incredible supporters who choose to fundraise for our Helpline Services.

“The whole team at Beat wishes Andy luck in the Triathlon World Championships and we really appreciate his strength and dedication to make sure there is support available for other families who may be affected by these serious