He once weighed almost 1,000 pounds, ate nearly 20,000 calories a day, and had become a laughingstock in his native UK. Today Paul Mason, once the heaviest man in the world, is a new man, and Justin Heckert reports on his amazing transformation for GQ. It was seven years ago this winter when "Man Mountain" (what the British media called Mason) decided "he didn't want to die" and that he wanted more out of life than being stuck on a 10-foot mattress. And so he chanced the surgery that had a 50% risk of leading to his death if certain complications (a heart attack, organ failure, a blood clot) developed. His doctor, bariatric surgeon Shaw Somers, even asked Mason if he was willing to put his life on the line to lose weight, a question to which Mason responded with a weepy yes.
Mason wasn't always overweight as a youth, though he was always tall: He reached nearly 6 feet at just 9 years old. A strict dad who made him consume huge plates of food, sexual abuse at the hands of an aunt, and a love affair that suddenly ended when was in his 20s led him further into the snacking spiral, and as the years went by, the weight piled on—in one six-month stretch, he put on 150 pounds. "I let all my dignity go; I just didn't care," he says. His gastric bypass surgery and the lifestyle changes he made afterward dropped him down to just under 300 pounds, but Heckert notes Mason's new life "full of wonder" was "still defined by all his old burdens," including medical issues, a lack of money, and a tough time finding a partner. "People want the wonderful story where he does something with his life," a plastic surgeon who's worked with Mason says. "We're hoping he does." Read about Mason's struggle at GQ. (The world's "heaviest woman" just dropped 200 pounds.)