Woman lost 14 stone after gastric bypass… but needs 5,000 calories a day to stay alive


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.


Julie Dunbar who eats a staggering amount of food each day after surgery to reduce her weight left her with a small stomach which is unable to properly process the food she eats
Julie Dunbar who eats a staggering amount of food each day after surgery to reduce her weight left her with a small stomach which is unable to properly process the food she eats

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.

“Even if I don’t feel like it I still really need to eat. I can drop 6lbs in a matter of days when I don’t eat like that.”

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.

The surgery involves part of the stomach being removed, but leaves the valve that controls food drainage to be left intact, making it harder for the body to absorb nutrients.

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.

Julie before her weight loss operation
Julie before her weight loss operation

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.

“For example a normal person would consume about 30-40g of protein a day, I need to take 125g in to get my levels up to where they should be.
“Even from the beginning I was a size 12-14 and now I’m a size 8 and sometimes even those clothes are too big for me.”

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.

“I always have food in my hands and I am always eating, I even wake up in the middle of the night to grab something to eat.

“It’s a full time job.”

* A typical day’s intake for Julie would be:

Three cups of coffee with semi-skimmed milk

Two egg omelette with 175g of cheese (around about half a block)A whole packet of parma ham or smoked salmon

Chicken liver parfait with two rounds of toast

Two yoghurts

For the evening meal – large Thai curry with rice, a roast, shepherd’s pie

Several bags of sweets, especially jelly beans and fruit pastels

At least one bowl of crunch nut cornflakes100g of cashew nuts

A packet of chocolate biscuits

Cheese and savoury biscuits

Lots of fruit – melon, grapes, mango etcA huge piece of cake in the middle of the night

Water, milk and half a bottle of Lucozade


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