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Britain's fattest teen turns anorexic

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Shuffling around her flat, her skin pale and drawn, Malissa Jones looks like an old lady, wearily contemplating the end of a long and arduous life. To be fair, Malissa has endured many physical and mental obstacles over the years, but no one could ever call her life long. Malissa is just 21, the age at which young women should be embracing adulthood, forging careers and relationships, shaking off the insecurities of their teens and stepping out on their own. Yet Malissa can barely make it off the sofa, so ravaged is her young body by that cruellest of disorders, anorexia, reported The Daily Mail.

But this is no disturbingly familiar tale of a young girl falling victim to the disease in a quest for personal perfection or control over a troubled life.

As a morbidly obese 16-year-old, Malissa once weighed more than four times what she does now.

When, due to obesity, her health declined to the point where she was forced to wear an oxygen mask at night, doctors finally conceded that a £10,000 gastric bypass operation was her last chance of leading a normal life.

Surgery makes the stomach smaller, and shortens the small intestine, meaning food bypasses most of the stomach.

Initially, it looked as though the gamble had paid off: within 18 months, she’d lost 22st, and found a job, a social life and even a boyfriend, farmer Chris Robottom, 23.

But today it seems Malissa’s fight with her weight is a long way from being won.

Since the operation, eating has become so unpleasant for her that she has developed a food phobia. The thought of eating makes her feel physically sick.

Somewhat ironically for a girl who could once polish off 15 kingsize Mars bars for breakfast, Malissa now finds herself battling anorexia.

Speaking from her flat in Selby, North Yorkshire, which she still shares with boyfriend Chris, she says: ‘I can only manage softly cooked veg, so a typical day’s eating for me will be about 300 calories — that’s three cooked carrots, two pieces of parsnip and a roast potato.

‘Meat, bread and chocolate actually make me feel unwell as, since my bypass, I can’t digest any foods properly. I would be happy if I never had to eat again.

‘My consultant says if I don’t start eating, I might only have six months to live.’

Malissa says her days are generally spent confined to bed, as she is too exhausted and frail to do much else.

An outing is a trip to hospital to be weighed, and that’s about it.

‘My body is such a mess I can’t bear to look at myself naked in a mirror,’ she says quietly, lifting her T-shirt to reveal thick ugly folds of wrinkled skin hanging off her skeletal body, the legacy of her dramatic weight loss.

‘But I want people to see what I look like. I want people to know gastric surgery isn’t the answer to obesity.
'If I could only turn the clock back and lose weight with a combination of diet and healthy eating, I would.’
So how has Malissa’s young life come to this?

As in so many cases of eating disorders, the reasons are complex, and Malissa has known more than her fair share of tragedy in her young life. However, as throughout the UK, the foundations of her unhealthy eating habits began early on in childhood.

Malissa is the eldest of four children, all of whom, bar one, are overweight. By the time she started school aged five, she weighed 4st, twice the size of other little girls of her age.

Malissa refuses to blame her parents, who split up when she was seven, for her problems. Yet both are overweight: dad Richard, 53, who’s a security guard, wears 44in trousers, while mum Dawn, 46, weighs 16st, which is far too heavy for her 5ft 3in frame.
‘I don’t know why I got so fat,’ says Malissa. ‘Yes, if I was upset about something, I would turn to food for comfort. But I had a happy childhood,’ she insists.

‘If I didn’t let her eat, she would beg or steal food. I’d come down in the middle of the night to find her gorging on microwaved food from the freezer.’
However, Dawn is more forthcoming. When Malissa was two, her mother had a stillborn baby and found comfort in food.
Ten years of bingeing saw Dawn balloon to 29st, at which point she was offered a gastric bypass on the NHS.
The operation, Dawn says, was still only a partial success, in that she lost weight but remains medically obese to this day.
The impact it had on Malissa, however, was devastating. ‘I think it gave her the idea that however large she became, there would be a quick fix,’ says Dawn.

‘I used to beg Malissa to stop eating, but she just used to turn round and say: “Look, I’ll just get a bypass like you.” Seeing her like this is heart-breaking and I can’t help but blame myself.’
Dawn admits she pretty much let Malissa eat what she wanted as a child: bags of crisps, biscuits and chips around the clock.
‘Of course, I know how wrong that was. But I was in denial about how harmful Malissa’s eating habits were because I had eating problems of my own,’ she says.
However, by the time Malissa was six, and constantly teased at school about her size, Dawn tried to clean up their act, replacing their perennial chicken nuggets-and-chips diet with healthier alternatives such as salads and spaghetti bolognese.
But the following year saw the breakdown in Dawn and Richard’s marriage, at which point, not surprisingly, Malissa’s eating problems went into a tailspin.
‘I would have a dozen yoghurts in the fridge and Malissa would eat all of them at one sitting,’ says Dawn. ‘If I didn’t let her eat, she would beg or steal food. I’d come down in the middle of the night to find her gorging on microwaved food from the freezer.’
Price of weight-loss: Malissa said after the operation she hated her saggy skin hanging in folds from her thin frame
Malissa even used her parents’ separation as a means to get her hands on more food: ‘If I didn’t get it at home, I’d go to my dad’s and eat there,’ she recalls.
When Malissa was 13, the family GP referred her to the local social services’ specialised eating disorders team, where a small army of counsellors, nutritionists and psychologists stepped in — to no avail.
‘I was always hungry. I’d eat 15 kingsize Mars bars for breakfast and that could be followed by several packets of crisps, packs of ham sandwiches and takeaways such as fish and chips,’ recalls Malissa.
‘A nutritionist told me I was consuming 15,000 calories a day — the normal amount for a woman is just 2,000. But I still couldn’t stop.’

Aged 15, and weighing 20st, her body finally had enough, and Malissa collapsed with chest pains. Angina was diagnosed, a form of coronary heart disease that usually affects only the elderly with a lifetime of unhealthy living.
But even after such a stark warning, Malissa continued to eat . . . and eat.
By 16, she weighed 34st, had a body mass index of 72.4 (a healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9) wore a 48EE bra and took a size 28 dress. Although she had gained 13 GCSEs, normal life became impossible.
She recalls: ‘I suffered from asthma and doctors said my weight was crushing my internal organs. So at night I slept with an oxygen mask on, while in the day I was so breathless I spent most of my time stuck in a chair, unable to move.’
The wrong answer: Malissa wants to share her story so that others thinking of a gastric band might reconsider
Doctors prescribed diet pills and she saw more nutritionists, but found it impossible to stick to the strict diet plans.

How much her will-power was weakened by the thought of her mother’s ‘quick fix’ gastric bypass operation is impossible to gauge, but Malissa admits it was always at the back of her mind: ‘Because mum had a bypass, I thought that would be the answer.’
So when a ‘last resort’ gastric bypass was suggested, Malissa agreed.
Because of the cost and her unusually young age, doctors at York District Hospital had to seek special permission from the local authority before the operation could go ahead in January 2008.
A year later, despite a few setbacks, the operation was being hailed a success: Malissa’s weight had dropped to 14st, she got a job, and a social life and met Chris through friends, moving in with him shortly afterwards.
Watching her daughter cling on to life, Dawn desperately regrets the day Malissa followed her lead and tried to find the answer to her problems in weight-loss surgery.
But it soon became clear the dramatic weight loss came at a price.
‘I got stomach cramps whenever I ate, and although I still lost weight, my immune system was low and I got so many colds and flu bugs that I had to quit my job,’ she says.
‘Also, the operation scars and excess skin looked awful. I was so ashamed of my body, it was months before I let Chris see me naked.’
When she inquired about surgery to remove the excess skin, she was told it wasn’t available on the NHS in their area — and privately cost £20,000, which was beyond their means.
Then, last autumn, Malissa was thrilled to discover she was pregnant, having been previously warned that internal scarring and complications from the operation meant her chances of conceiving or successfully carrying a child were very slim.
As predicted, the pregnancy was fraught with difficulty.
‘With the morning sickness, I felt worse than ever,’ she says, ‘I was constantly ill and developed a food phobia. I tried to force myself to eat, but the bypass meant food wasn’t absorbed properly.’

In February, at 27 weeks’ pregnant and weighing 10st, Malissa collapsed with dehydration and septicaemia.
Doctors were forced to perform an emergency life-saving Caesarean but, tragically, baby Harry, who weighed just 16oz, was too small and weak to survive. He died just 57 minutes later.
Wasting away: Since her gastric bypass operation, Malissa's weight has fallen to 8st. She is now waiting for counselling
Malissa can’t even recall his birth. It was only the next day when she came round to see her mother crying that she realised her baby had died.
‘Chris and I were heartbroken,’ Malissa says. ‘I was still desperately ill myself, and spent a further three weeks in a coma. When I came to the second time, I was devastated all over again. All I ever wanted was to be a mum, and yet I never even got to hold my son.’
Since coming home from hospital in March, Malissa’s weight has plummeted further from 10st to 8st and doctors have now diagnosed anorexia.
Watching her daughter cling on to life, Dawn desperately regrets the day Malissa followed her lead and tried to find the answer to her problems in weight-loss surgery.
‘It seems she has simply swapped one eating disorder for another,’ says Dawn. ‘Surgery doesn’t teach you how to eat well or help with your emotions.’
Malissa is now awaiting counselling, which she hopes will finally get to the root of her problems. Food, she says, is still an enemy she is terrified to face.
‘Chris does his best to care for me and tempt me with food and I know I’m too thin but, believe me, I would rather be fat again.
‘I wish I’d never had the operation because it can’t be reversed. I believed it was the answer, but I was wrong. There’s no easy way to lose weight.’
Alas, that is a simple conclusion that she has learned in the most painful way possible.

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Location: United Kingdom
Location: United Kingdom
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