‘My 600 Pound Life’ is an American reality television series created by ‘Megalomedia’ for Discovery Channel’s second network, The Learning Channel (TLC), which originally began as a five-part documentary mini-series. The initial production documented the lives of four individuals in their struggle to overcome morbid obesity.
Yet, because of the show’s popularity, ‘My 600 Pound Life’ gained extended air time and became a full-blown series, currently in its eighth season. The patients who appear on the show weigh at least 600lbs (273kgs) at the beginning of their filmed journey. With the help of Iranian-American doctor, Younan Nowzaradan, better known as Dr Now, they attempt to lose weight through strict dieting and exercise.
During the first season, the show followed the patients’ lives over the course of seven years, but as demand for the show increased, the producers shortened the time to a year, then later to six months.
When the show returned for its fifth season, the episode lengths increased to 2 hours from the original hour-long format.
If the patient doesn’t show positive results during the given time, Dr Now would perform a variety of surgical procedures to help with their weight loss, which features as part of the show, including anything from Gastric Bypass Surgery to Sleeve Gastrectomy.
‘My 600 Pound Life’ also features additional episodes, called ‘Where Are They Now’, which look in on past patients and inform viewers about their progress without Dr Now’s care, usually a year following their appearance on the show.
Since its debut in 2012, ‘My 600 Pound Life’ has provided intriguing entertainment, documenting the difficulties Dr Now often faces when dealing with stubborn patients or complicated situations.
The show also provides inspiring, heart-warming entertainment that shows people that there is always hope, no matter how dire the circumstances or how overwhelming the odds seem. Despite the show’s popular reception, ‘My 600 Pound Life’ still hides many secrets, and become the subject of many misconceptions spread among viewers.
Amidst the many successes celebrated on the show, dark stories and tragic events lurk behind the curtains, secrets the producers would not want the public to know. Aside from uncovering those secrets here, we will also set the record straight about a few false rumours making rounds among the show’s fan community.
Mal-Sued For Malpractice
In 2018, it came to light that both Dr Now and the production company faced lawsuits from patients who appeared on the show, which included the family of LB Bonner.
After appearing on the show, LB sadly committed suicide, which convinced his family to sue the show for negligence and failure to cover medical expenses.
The results of their lawsuit have never been made public, but, according to certain reports, it was not the only lawsuit filed against the doctor. Long before the production of ‘My 600 Pound Life’, a patient identified as Michelle Park, sued Doctor Nowzaradan for malpractice, claiming that the doctor neglected to remove a six-inch piece of tubing after performing gastric surgery.
According to the complaint of the patient, the tube remained in her body for 22 months before its discovery, causing not only pain and discomfort but also complications with her colon. In 2013, Park mysteriously dropped the charges against Dr Now, which caused wild rumours to surface that suggested the involved parties settled out-of-court.
Some even believed that Dr Now paid her to save his reputation, especially because no documents or record exists about an out-of-court settlement. However, in an interview with People Magazine, Dr Now cleared the air, stating that the court dropped the charges against him because he could not be held responsible for any malpractice, as according to Dr Now, the responsibility for removing the tubes after surgery falls to the anesthesiologist.
Despite being declared innocent in all the lawsuits filed against him, Dr Now gained a reputation for performing surgery on high-risk patients. Usually during the course of a patient’s journey, they have to prove to Dr Now that they can control their eating disorders, if any, or their poor lifestyle by losing between 50 to 100lbs – 23 – 46kgs – before he performs any kind of surgery.
— Lo Wiggins (@little_LOTWEETS) February 4, 2021
Considering that most patients who appear on the show weigh more than 600lbs, most of them only drop to an average of about 500lbs – 223kgs – which is still above the recommended weight of patients eligible for these types of surgery.
According to medical practice regulations, patients may not weigh above 450lbs – 205kgs – since it could not only lead to complications during the surgery, but also after completion of the procedure. Obese patients are known to recover slower than normal, which leaves surgical wounds exposed longer than the recommended period, and can cause severe infections.
One such patient who appeared on the show, Susan Farmer, became an example of the risk involved when performing on patients above the regulated weight.
Following her surgery, Susan suffered an infection which caused a common nerve condition known as Neurotherapy. In severe cases, often because of neglect, patients who contract Neurotherapy could develop paralysis, but thankfully Susan received immediate treatment and made a full recovery.
During his interview with People Magazine, Dr Now stated that his job is never easy, as unfortunately he has to turn down dozens of patients who approach him with the hope of ending their morbid suffering,.
As mentioned, Dr Now only poses one condition to his patients, and that is to prove that they can gain control over the cause behind their excessive weight gain. However, not all the people who enter his doctor’s surgery achieve the desired results, often because of stubbornness, but possibly because or another difficulty, while others simply don’t try hard enough.
Yet, being the good doctor known for having eclectic manners, Dr Now keeps motivating patients who fail, never sending them away for good, and always giving them a second or third opportunity. As he’s stated, his work is a daily challenge focused on motivating self-destructive patients to work hard at achieving their goals, especially because morbid obesity holds many medical complications that could easily cause a patient’s departure.
Despite his good bedside manners, as befitting a good doctor, Dr Now knows that at times the situation calls for tough love, as seen on the show. When patients prove to be especially difficult, Dr Now displays his sternness, yet confesses it rises from concern, and sometimes from frustration. Regardless, Dr Now stated in his interview that he always tries his best not to become aggravated, or act upon his irritability.
While the show celebrates many successful stories, like that of Amber Rachdi, ‘My 600 Pound Life’ has also been host to many tragic events. Amber can these days be seen on Instagram, flaunting her newfound comfort and love for her figure, since she went from a 675lbs, 307kgs 23-year-old, to a curvaceous beauty weighing around 200lbs, 90kgs.
Yet, not all the patients share the same fortune or ability to lose 400 pounds, not even after completing their surgery. Quite often, as a result of failing to lose the desired extra pounds, some patients succumb to obesity-related diseases. One patient and participant in the fifth season, James King, sadly passed away on 3 April 2020 due to complications caused by his obesity.
On 22 September that same year, Coliesa McMillian, a participant during the show’s eighth season, passed away due to acute kidney failure, sadly while being treated in intensive care.
While these patients, unfortunately, received no honorary mention in the show, several tragic events happened during filming. Rob Buchel’s untimely passing on 15 November 2017, caused by a fatal heart attack, became the first tragic death recorded on the show.
Two years later, on 15 February 2019, Kelly Mason, who appeared as a patient during the seventh season, succumbed to heart failure, becoming the second recorded tragedy on ‘My 600 Pound Life’.
Regrets and Consequences
Of all the many difficult patients Dr Now has seen throughout the series, one stands out above the crowd, who became one of the few potential patients Dr Now sent away permanently. Although the patient in question, James K’s story seems sad, his inability to achieve the recommended weight loss became the reason Dr Now refused to perform surgery.
As James told the audience during his episode, his life hit its lowest point after he became immobile following an unfortunate car accident. During the accident, James injured his ankle, and because of his size, firefighters had to lend him assistance to get to the hospital for treatment.
However, since then, James has not placed any weight on his injured ankle, and as such never knew if it healed. Following his failure to achieve the goals set by Dr Now, James expressed his regret for not listening to the good doctor. Despite the positive change the show can lead to for some patients, it held bad consequences.
Christina Phillips, who appeared on the show as a 25-year-old weighing 700 pounds (318kgs), developed an eating disorder following her successful recovery through Dr Now’s assistance. Although she learned to curb her excessive eating, unfortunately it caused her to become obsessive and fear weight gain, leading her to starve herself as a prevention.
Despite the new development, Phillips claims she is at least happier with life, currently enjoying romantic bliss with her newfound love.
Oddly, while many obese patients’ partners would be grateful for the healthy recoveries their loved one achieved, it seems for certain participants of ‘My 600 Pound Life’ that it had the complete opposite effect. Zsalynn Whitworth, a patient who appeared on the first season of the show, reportedly divorced her husband shortly after achieving tremendous success because of Dr Now’s help.
However, few could ever blame her, since her ex-husband, Gareth, did not support her in her decision to lose weight and live a healthier life. While trying to overcome her eating disorder, Gareth would deliberately tempt her by eating fatty foods and takeaways in front of her.
Even worse, after she underwent surgery, Gareth didn’t have the courtesy to visit his wife, which made Zsalynn decide that their relationship was over. Today, Zsalynn reports that her life is lonely, especially because they share custody of their daughter Hannah, but at least she feels more comfortable and is proud of her achievement.
The Whitworths are not the only ones who suffered strain on their marriage because of the sudden changes. Laura Perez and her husband, Joey, reported that they have been going through difficulties. According to Joey, the adjustments reduced his caretaker role, making him feel left out and jealous. Luckily, there are no reports which indicate that the Perez family split.
Dr Now – The Humanitarian
According to many of the rumours out there, viewers suggest that Dr Now only appears on the show for fame and fortune. Most of these suggestions stem from the stern role Dr Now sometimes has to play, and many consider it almost too much to bear.
Regardless, during an interview with Houstonia Magazine, Dr Now expressed his true motivation. Driven by his commitment to medicine, Dr Now stated that he must help patients recover their lives. He also said that he never intends to make a living off every patient, and he does not care to be rich.
It seems that for Dr Now – a true humanitarian – the love of helping patients and seeing the positive change his work renders in their lives is motivation enough.
Surgery Is Not A Quick Fix
Although every patient who appears on the show undergoes weight loss surgery, viewers need reminding that, despite popular belief, these surgeries are not quick fixes. Since the show made its appearance on TLC in 2012, patients suffering from morbid obesity, as well as less severe cases, seek the help of surgeons like Dr Now hoping that it would miraculously turn their world around.
Unfortunately, it is never that easy, and even with surgery, it requires a lot of effort to lose and keep off the pounds. On top of improving one’s diet, any doctor would recommend regular exercise to achieve the desired results. It is even something Dr Now frequently discusses on the show, and he motivates his patients to work hard to reach the goals he sets.
Money for Lies
A misconception among viewers seems to be the belief that the patients who appear on ‘My 600 Pound Life’ are compensated rather handsomely for their participation, and that they regularly lie about their pain and problems or even read lines off a script.
This is far from the truth. Despite receiving the resources to turn their life around, as well as the involved surgery, most of the patients struggle financially after the show.
According to the investigative gossip website ‘Starcasm’, the patient who appears on the show might gain talent fees averaging just $1,500. They may also receive relocation assistance payments of about $2,500. Hardly enough for a luxurious lifestyle, and certainly not the compensation stars in other reality TV shows gain.
As for the constant mention by patients about suffering from pain, whether physical or mental, they never fake it. All the pain patients suffer from occurs naturally in most obese patients, and the problems many of them face aren’t pre-written. What you see on the show is the real-life struggles associated with morbid obesity.
The Good Doc
It’s true that Dr Now acquired a reputation for performing surgery on high-risk patients, and that he, like many other doctors, has faced several lawsuits in the past.
However, there should be no doubt that Dr Younan Nowzaradan is a good doctor. In fact, Dr Now is a pioneer in his field of expertise, as he became the first doctor in Houston to use laparoscopic techniques during surgery. Dr Now is also the only doctor to perform weight loss surgery on patients over 450 pounds, since many hospitals and surgeries do not possess the right equipment.
Not only that, but Dr Now has enjoyed a long and successful career, during which he published several medical journals. Many other medical practitioners consider his work as prestigious, so confirming that he earned his title as an expert in weight-loss surgery.
With these misconceptions cleared and the few interesting facts learned here, fans of ‘My 600 Pound Life’ can look forward to enjoying the latest season. With the length of the latest episodes now airing in 2-hour formats, the heart-warming entertainment Dr Now provides will keep you glued to the screen.