A woman who dropped from 20 stone to just six after undergoing gastric bypass surgery now has to consume 5,000 calories a day – just to stay alive.
Julie Dunbar, 51, lost a staggering 14-and-a-half stone in 12 months after a rare complication caused her body to stop absorbing nutrients.
She ended up dangerously malnourished and close to death in hospital before doctors diagnosed the condition and prescribed a remedy – eating as much as she can.
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Pub landlady Julie now has to eat constantly throughout the day as her body can only ingest a tiny fraction of the total calories she takes in.
During a typical day she will get through half a block of cheese, a whole packet of smoked salmon, a dozen biscuits, cake, a curry, shepherd’s pie and bags of sweets.
But despite having the freedom to eat what she likes, she describes her constant need for food as a “chore” which is like a full-time job.
Julie said: “No one believes what I eat on a normal day, our food bill is phenomenal. It must cost about £200 to feed me every week.
“It’s not enjoyable. It is a task really. It was enjoyable for the first week but now it’s a pain and I hate it.
Julie paid for the £10,000 operation herself when her weight peaked at 20st 7lbs after years grazing on food behind bar of her pub, the Butterbowl Hotel in Leeds.
She underwent the underwent the operation – a bilo-pancreatic diversion with a duodenal switch – in December 2010 at the Spire Hospital in Leeds.
Julie’s weight dropped so quickly that her sister Karen, 50, who weighed 21st 7lbs, was inspired to have the same procedure in a bid to slim down.
But as Karen’s weight began to level off at 10st, Julie’s continued to plummet until she reached a skeletal six stone and could no longer keep any food down.
Julie said: “At the beginning I was really happy because I was dropping lots of weight and but then you are supposed to stop and level off. But I didn’t and it just kept dropping off until it got too much.
“To me, looking at pictures of myself is like looking at a picture of a African child that is starving. I’m just bones.
“There was no light at the end of the tunnel, it was all just going downhill. It was an absolutely awful time.
“In the pub people looked at me and thought she is not going to make it. My face was like a skeleton and it was totally sunken in, there wasn’t an ounce of flesh on me. It was hell.”
Julie ended up being rushed to hospital and was kept alive on a nutrient drip while doctors diagnosed her condition.
She had to undergo two operations in June and September 2012 to try and release more of her stomach to allow her to take in more food and nutrients.
Julie’s digestive system had become so small she was unable absorb any of the trace elements – such as Vitamin B12, Zinc, Copper or Magnesium – needed to survive.
She was so malnourished she developed Wernicke Encephalopathy, a serious neurological disorder caused by low or inadequate supply of Thiamine – or Vitamin B12 – which is used to break down carbohydrates.
The condition is normally seen in alcoholics, people with HIV or people who have been starved and can also cause memory loss and balance problems.
Julie, who is unmarrried and childless, explained: “To combat the illness I need to absorb as much as I can from food, I’m trying to get the calories and all the nourishment.
Julie’s condition has no cure and she will have to keep up her mammoth calorie intake for life.
She said: “It has completely changed me as a person, I went into hospital to lose weight and I came out as a different person.
“I have to eat tons more than I did when I was overweight. I have much worse eating habits but I have never looked as good in my life.
“It’s a full time job.”
* A typical day’s intake for Julie would be:
Three cups of coffee with semi-skimmed milk
Chicken liver parfait with two rounds of toast
For the evening meal – large Thai curry with rice, a roast, shepherd’s pie
Several bags of sweets, especially jelly beans and fruit pastels
A packet of chocolate biscuits
Cheese and savoury biscuits
Water, milk and half a bottle of Lucozade
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