Man branded world's fattest tells of '24/7 eating illness'

By Mark Bulstrode
BBC News

  • Published
Paul Mason
Image caption,
Doctors say Mr Mason's weight must plateau before he has further surgery

As his weight ballooned to 70 stone, even seemingly simple tasks represented a huge challenge for Paul Mason.

For the best part of a decade, the former postman relied on help from carers while confined to his bed.

Each day around £75-worth of takeaways and chocolate would be delivered to his door.

His daily intake of 20,000 calories - nearly 10 times the recommended average - saw him tagged in the media as the "world's fattest man".

Everything had to be within arm's reach at his Ipswich home, including a feast of snacks to satisfy his constant need for a "quick fix".

Mr Mason, 50, said he would barely sleep as he went on "24/7" binges of fish and chips, Chinese food and kebabs.

"You have no sense of time, months all rolled into each other," he said.

"For several years I didn't sleep properly because I was always eating. All I could think of was getting a quick fix of food.

"I made sure I had supplies around my bed - chocolate, crisps and sausage rolls. I got to the stage where I had an addiction.

"It was 24/7 eating. You don't feel full and you don't feel hungry."

'Constant battle'

Nearly two years ago Mr Mason had life-saving NHS gastric bypass surgery to control his weight.

But first he had to face up to the "demons" that he says led to his food addiction.

He was bullied at school - not for his weight but for his height, as he quickly shot up to 6ft 4in (1.93m).

He also endured heartbreak when a four-year relationship with a woman ended in the mid-1980s.

Soon after, his father died, aged 52, and he helped care for his mother who suffered from arthritis. She died two years ago aged 76.

Mr Mason, one of three children, said food was always a major part of family life - and something he turned to for comfort.

"My dad used to insist when I was young that I cleared my plate," he said.

Image caption,
Mr Mason consumed about £75 worth of takeaways and chocolate a day

"He would say 'I haven't worked all those hours for you not to clear your plate'. We had big meals. There was always a constant battle between us to see who could clear their plate the quickest."

After leaving school, he did a mechanic's apprenticeship but would binge on food while skipping college lessons.

His weight gradually increased during his teens and by the time he was 30 it had topped 25 stone (158kg).

But it was in the early 2000s when his weight really shot out of control as he grew from 40 to 70 stone (250 to 450kg).

Mr Mason said he barely left his home in Ipswich, Suffolk, between 2001 and last year, aside from occasional hospital trips.

In early 2010, he underwent the bypass surgery. Since then, he has shed 40 stone as he transformed his diet and, gradually, became more active.

That brought with it new stresses, including learning to cope with venturing outside.

"I remember travelling to hospital in the ambulance for my operation and the traffic really freaked me out," he said.

"I had become institutionalised."

'Fat boy' jibes

He has also had to deal with being recognised.

"I do get jibes - people drive past saying 'fat boy' and things like that," he said.

"You get people staring at you but it doesn't bother me.

"You don't do this because you want to become the world's heaviest man.

"Anyone can come up to me and argue about 'why should you get that help and why have you got that?'

"We live in a free country. When I talk to them and explain what my problems are they are more understanding. It's an illness."

Even with his dramatic weight loss, his battle for more surgery has continued as he has been left with vast folds of excess skin.

Doctors have told him his weight, currently around 30 stone (190kg), needed to reduce further and then stabilise at his target weight before he could have surgery to remove the skin.

But he said it was hindering his effort to reach his target of about 17 stone (107kg).

"I don't want to be a drain on society but I can't get on with my life without this surgery," he said.

Image caption,
Mr Mason has been left with large folds of excess skin after losing 40 stone

"I feel like I have been left high and dry. My life is on hold because it is stopping me from getting back into society."

A spokesman for NHS Suffolk said a panel, including clinicians, decide on whether such operations should take place.

He said: "A patient must have a stable weight before he or she is considered."

Prof David Haslam, from the National Obesity Forum, has backed Mr Mason's fight for further surgery.

He said: "By undergoing the first operation to have gastric bypass surgery, which would normally cost about £9,000, Mr Mason has saved the NHS tens of thousands of pounds.

"The least the NHS can do now is give him the operations to remove his excess skin.

"It's not a simple case of just snipping the skin off - it's complex plastic surgery but it's almost inevitable in a case such as this."

Mr Mason is determined to win his weight battle - and says he is driven on by flashbacks of his previous condition.

"I don't want to block out what happened to me because it spurs me on now," he said.

"It stops me from going back to how I used to be."

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