'Eating was more important than my house'

PAUL Mason is a man who loved food too much, and today he lives with the consequences of that obsession every day.He craved food so much that he reached an incredible 62-stone at his heaviest, making him one of the largest people in Britain.

ONE of Britain's fattest men contacted dieting reporter REBECCA LEFORT to offer support in her journey. Today Paul Mason opens his heart about how disgusted he feels about how he once was, and his determination to lose more weight. Rebecca met him to discover what life was like for someone who is so large they can't walk.

PAUL Mason is a man who loved food too much, and today he lives with the consequences of that obsession every day.

He craved food so much that he reached an incredible 62-stone at his heaviest, making him one of the largest people in Britain. He lost his house, his self respect, even all his teeth, and he could have lost his life. When the emergency services stepped in to take him to hospital in 2002, the only way was to remove a wall of his home. Firefighters had to carry him to the ambulance, and the drama hit national headlines.

His love of food has now confined him to a specially-designed house at Ravenswood, Ipswich, and he knows that he will never have a normal life again.

The 45-year-old admits: "I don't feel like a human being," and said being carried from his house by firefighters was a real wake up call. The experience made him determined to regain as much of his life as possible, and today he has shed an impressive 15 stone from his peak weight.

Paul said: "I thought 'why have they gone to all this trouble for me?' It was so much effort for them, and cost so much, and I know that my life isn't worth any more than anyone else's.

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"You don't realise until something dramatic happens like that, that you rely on so many other people. But it is only you that can make the change.

"So it worked as a real incentive to change, and although it hasn't been easy and I have gone up and down on the way, I have lost weight since then, and my attitude has certainly changed. I wouldn't say I'm happy with where I am now, weight wise, or even with what I've achieved in losing the weight I have because I'm still 47 stone. Now my ultimate goal is to be about 30 stone."

Paul who lives with his 73-year-old mum Janet, on Loganberry Road, Ipswich, wants to warn younger people about the dangers of overeating and an unhealthy lifestyle.

He traces the start of his bad eating back to a difficult period of his life in his 20s, when a relationship ended and he lost a substantial amount of money as a result of the break up.

He said: "I've always been unusual because I'm tall, so people didn't really notice the weight when I was younger, and it wasn't a problem then. But when things started to go wrong, I started to eat too much.

"I never thought it would end up like this, and there are points when I feel I could have changed things and had a different life.

"But I don't regret anything, we learn from everything we do and I have gained valuable information and knowledge through my experience that I can hopefully pass on to others to help them."

His spiralling pattern of behaviour caused problems for more people than himself. Even after the house he had been living in with his mother was re-mortgaged in 1993 to pay their bills, he continued to spend on takeaways.

He used to consume three family-sized take-outs costing about £50 each day and amounting to around 20,000 calories a day.

The recommended daily allowance for men is about 2,500 calories a day.

He said: "Eating was more important than my house, it gave me that buzz and you get to a stage where you never feel full or hungry but you just have to eat.”

Eventually this expensive diet saw the mother and son's home repossessed.

More than ten years on, Paul can now look back and admit that at points he felt so low that he considered suicide. He didn't want to wake up each day, and even now he is resigned to the fact that he can never repair what he has done to his body.

He said: "I don't feel human. I know I'll never be able to walk.

"It disgusts me now, but it didn't then. I had all my teeth removed recently because all the food had ruined them. It was a horrid experience, I hate going to the dentist because I once broke one of their chairs.

"I'll never go back to that weight now though; it can only get better from here. Things are much more stable now, which is good for someone who has had quite a bit of upheaval in their life."

In July, Paul moved into his purpose-built home where he has the help of a carer for 12 hours every day.

The support is provided by Suffolk County Council, with help from Suffolk Heritage housing association and it has given him a new lease of life.

He spends his days in bed, watching tv, throwing a ball to get some exercise, and chats to friends on the Internet.

He does not suffer from many of the obesity-linked diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

He is determined to lose a bit more weight, so he can undergo a gastric bypass operation on the NHS - a procedure which would cost £16,000 if he paid for it privately.

Now he says his diet provides about 3,000 calories a day. Breakfast is three slices of oatmeal bread with low fat spread and sugarless jam, his snack is a banana. Lunch is pasta or lean chicken. Dinner is a normal meal but with nothing fried and no processed meat. Plus he drinks tea and coffee.

He said: "I'm not addicted to food anymore and I am happy about that. I could have a different life ahead of me.

"I want to be able to get out more, I'd love to be able to drive and be more mobile.

"I'd also like to find love and be as happy as possible. I look forward to every day now."

Around the world more than 300 million people are considered obese

Obesity shortens your life expectancy by an average of nine years

More than 40 serious diseases are linked to obesity

A Body Mass Index (BMI) of 18.5 to 25 is 'healthy'; 25 to 30 is 'overweight'; '30 to 40' is obese; and above 40 is 'morbidly obese'.

To calculate your BMI see www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk/interactivetools/bmi

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