Woman tells how gastric surgery she had alongside her dad sparked a deadly slimming obsession20th Jun 18 | Real Life
Danielle and Shaun went under the knife when their combined weight hit more than 50 stone - but she soon became dangerously hooked on slimming.
A teaching assistant who had ‘father-and-daughter’ gastric surgery alongside her dad when their combined weight hit more than 50 stone has spoken of her struggle after it triggered a deadly obsession with slimming.
Always overweight, when Leicester pair Danielle Worsley, 27, and her personal assistant dad Shaun Barley, 48, were offered weight loss surgery by their doctor, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to change.
But, after losing nearly 10 stone in the first year after the procedure, hooked on slimming, Danielle was soon plunged into the eating disorder anorexia, explaining: “I’d spent so many years dreaming of being slim, and the more weight I lost, the more people complimented me.”
She added: “I became obsessed with slimming. I’d weigh myself two or three times a day until, eventually, my family worried I’d taken it too far.
“I went to the doctor and they said my habits were like that of an anorexic. Now, I’m almost at my healthy goal weight and feeling very positive. After years of trying to lose weight, all I want now is to gain it.”
Speaking out to raise awareness of eating disorders, Danielle revealed how, in her teens, she was diagnosed with the hormonal condition polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – symptoms of which include weight gain, excessive hair growth, no periods and skin problems.
On top of her PCOS, then working nursery manager, she rarely had time for proper breaks – tending to snack on “quick fix,” highly calorific food.
She said: “My main thing was sandwiches. I’d have about three or four a day, eating them whenever I had a quick break at work. That, or pastries and sausage rolls.”
On her September 2014 wedding day to reprographics assistant Tom, 29, Danielle – who weighed nearly 24st at her heaviest – wore a size 28 bridal gown, which had to be ordered specially.
“As I’d had to get it ordered in, I couldn’t even try it on until about a month before,” she said.
“I was really paranoid on the day about how my arms looked. Tom still told me I looked beautiful, though.”
Meanwhile, Shaun, now a PA to a multiple sclerosis patient, but then a doorman and security guard, was getting bigger simultaneously – reaching 28st 1lb at his heaviest.
At a routine check-up in late 2014, his GP told him he would be eligible for an NHS gastric bypass if he shifted some weight.
Confessing to a reliance on fast food, Shaun, who is married to Danielle’s mum, council worker Sarah, 48, said: “My mates have always known me as a big lad. I’d finish work late and grab something quick like a kebab or a burger.”
But, eager to have gastric surgery, Shaun consulted a dietician and, after following a healthier regime, shed 5st by November 2015 – going under the knife a few weeks later at Leicester Royal Infirmary, where his stomach was stapled, creating a pouch, which was then connected to his small intestine.
By bypassing the rest of his stomach, medics were able to ensure he became fuller quicker, meaning he ate less.
“They basically created a new stomach the size of a golf ball,” said Shaun. “I was incredibly nervous on the day of the surgery.
“I remember sitting there, with my surgical gown on, and panicking and getting redressed. But then I thought, ‘No, I need to do this.’”
Made to stick to a liquid diet initially while his body recovered, after two weeks, he moved to soft, pureed food, before finally being able to eat properly again after two months.
And by Christmas Day 2015, he weighed 19st 5lb, after losing three-and-a-half stone in a little over a month.
As he grew stronger, he also began exercising, joining a gym and going on walks – hitting his goal weight of 12st, which he has maintained to this day, in September 2017.
Shaun, who has completely overhauled his diet, banning takeaways and instead eating fresh vegetables and healthy lean meat, said: “For me, the operation wasn’t a quick fix, but more of a tool to teach me better habits.”
Told by her GP she was also eligible for NHS surgery, Danielle had a gastric sleeve operation in June 2016, during which part of her stomach was removed completely.
“I woke up very sore. I had five different incisions, so I was very tense about moving. I didn’t want to cause myself any pain,” she said.
Initially, Danielle was happy with how her body was changing and was delighted when, in June 2017, she weighed in at 10st – almost half the size she had been when she had the procedure , then weighing 19st 11lb.
But her relationship with dieting had become obsessive, as she continued to restrict herself to tiny meals, also weighing herself throughout the day.
“I just couldn’t seem to stabilise. I was getting obsessive about it and hiding what I was really eating from my family, as I knew they’d worry it was too little,” she confessed. “Eventually, Tom and my parents told me they were worried I’d become too thin and urged me to get help.”
Thankfully, Danielle agreed, visiting the doctor towards the end of 2017.
Referred to an eating disorder clinic – her lowest weight around 7st 10lb – she continues to go there for counselling to help her develop a healthy relationship with food.
Now in recovery and close to her goal weight of 9st 7lb, she is hoping she can help fellow sufferers to realise there is help out there and they do not need to suffer in silence.
She said: “The only person you hurt with secrecy is yourself. Reach out to a friend, a family member – anyone – because the help is out there, and you won’t be on your own.
“I’m feeling very positive now. I’d love to start a family with Tom one day, but I know I need to get healthy before I do that, so that’s my aim right now.”
Shaun, who is delighted with his new trim figure, has done his best to support his daughter’s recovery.
“As Danielle’s dad, it was very hard for me to see her struggle,” he said. “I hadn’t had any problems with my operation, so it was difficult to understand what was happening.
“It scared me to death seeing her like that, but I’m proud of her for getting help.
“We also both want to thank the NHS, because not only did they allow us to have our operations in the first place, but they’ve now provided Danielle with counselling, too. We owe them an awful lot.”
© Press Association 2018