Mark's story: Gastric bypass
In January 2009, Mark appeared on BBC documentary Inside Out. The programme highlighted the fact that, unlike anorexia or bulimia which are recognised eating disorders, there are many obese people who also have an eating disorder - known as Compulsive Eating Disorder, or Binge Eating Disorder.
Of course, not everyone who is overweight has a compulsive eating disorder, but whereas anorexia, which only affects 10% of the people diagnosed with an eating disorder, is accepted by and has the public’s sympathy, many obese people with the compulsive eating disorder are just labelled “greedy” or “lazy”.
Mark Crook was one of these labelled people. Mark was 12 years old when he started piling on weight – this was round about the time he began to question his own sexuality. He was a sensitive boy and extremely self-conscious. To pre-empt any bullying or name calling, Mark used to make jokes about himself and wobble his “big fat belly” to make people laugh.
Struggling with “coming out” as a gay man, Mark often suffered with bouts of depression and at these times he simply could not stop eating. During the documentary, Mark told the BBC “Food rules my life. I would more than happily never eat again”. Over the years, Mark regularly went to local slimming clubs. The trouble was that one in particular stated that you could eat all you wanted – as long as it was certain food groups they recommended of course. However, psychologically for Mark, who was at the time undiagnosed with a compulsive eating disorder, this just fuelled his binge eating.
Mark's eating habits
He worked as a taxi driver for a few years which meant he was sat behind the wheel for 12 hours a day. Sometimes he snacked all day long, stopping at take-aways several times a day or munching crisps and icecream. Other times he would starve himself all day, knowing that once he started eating he couldn’t stop. So he thought that if he left it until as late as possible in the day, he would eat less, but then he would literally eat all evening long.
By the time Mark reached his late twenties, he had reached 32 stones with a 68” waist. He had severe sleep apnoea and his throat was literally collapsing under the weight around his neck. Every time he went to his GP, he was told that if he didn’t do something radical about his weight, he wouldn’t see his 30th birthday. His doctor told him that he needed surgery on his throat, but the risks were too high.
It was around this time that Mark was diagnosed with the recently recognised compulsive eating disorder and his doctor arranged for him to attend a two year “Changes weight management course”. Mark had looked into weight loss surgery, but desperately wanted to do it on his own. However, by the time he reached 29, he was so big that he could not even stand for long without falling over as he could not balance on his own two feet and he was completely out of breath just going upstairs.
At the end of the BBC documentary, Mark is filmed celebrating his 30th birthday – something he secretly believed he would never see. Six months later, in July 2009, Mark underwent gastric bypass surgery at Spire Regency Hospital. By April 2011, Mark had lost more than half his bodyweight. Now weighing fifteen and a half stone, he has shed seventeen stones. He is unrecognisable.
When asked what the biggest change in his life was since he had lost weight after surgery, he said that the other day, he went into a shop and there was a group of young lads stood outside laughing. For an instant, he thought they were laughing at him – like kids had done for most of his life. Then he realised they weren’t even looking at him and that it would take a long time to lose that self-conscious feeling he first developed in the school playground.
Recently, Mark went out for a bike ride with his brothers and this was the first time he had ridden a bike since he was twelve years old. He also swung across some water on a rope tied to a tree – something he would never had dared to do all his life.
Mark still has his low spots and it has been a long and difficult journey at times. But he soon relates to all the positives and stresses that he has absolutely no regrets. He says that now, when he goes out at night, he just goes shopping for something to wear and it is great that he can just go and buy his normal sized clothes from a high street shop, instead of having to buy off the internet from places that sold big clothes.
Weight loss surgery support evenings
Nowadays, Mark is very much involved in the bariatric support evenings held at the Spire Regency Hospital in Macclesfield and is happy to chat to anyone thinking about weight loss surgery or just wanting advice.