Last night’s TLC follow-up episode of the hit “My 600-Lb. Life” gave viewers a glimpse of the life today of several of the morbidly obese people and their journey of ups and downs leading to their weight loss. As viewers followed along their weigh-ins, they saw joy and frustration as they faced Dr. Nowzaradan and heard his straight-forward critique of their progress.
Melissa Morris at 31, her starting weight was 653 pounds. She had no idea how her life was going to change when she had gastric bypass surgery. She was one of the heaviest people to undergo weight-loss surgery. Dr. Nowzaradan recalls that Melissa was one of his most successful cases. Her desire to have a child kept her in the right direction. She ate breakfast at 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 o’clock. At noon she began her lunches. She was easily humiliated, especially in the supermarket. As she started to lose weight, she even fit on an airplane and in the back seat of a car. Three years after her surgery, she had lost 500 pounds and got down to 137 pounds. She and Chris were trying to have a baby for 12 years. Unfortunately, she lost the baby in the first trimester. They persevered and had a baby girl, a boy and then another boy.
While every patient’s story is unique, at times Dr. Nowzaradan faces unusual challenges. Charity Pierce at 39 had a starting weight of 778 pounds. Her body began storing fat in separate places, not all over her body. Her fiancé and daughter helped her, or she would be incapable of doing anything. She hoped Dr. Nowzaradan could help her because she felt that she was worse off than anyone else he had seen. She was able to lose 128 pounds before surgery. She watched her weight after the surgery to enable her to get skin surgery to enable her to become mobile. When she arrived at his office, she weighed 597 and one month later she returned for the skin surgery. Dr. Nowzaradan was able to remove the wings that were mostly fat and weighed 57 pounds. Two weeks later, she weighed 496 and continued to lose weight.
Penny Saeger at 45 weighed 530 pounds and was one of his most difficult patients who did not want to change. Even after weight-loss surgery, she continued to gain in the hospital. She told the doctor, she would lose weight at home and after missed appointments, Dr. Nowzaradan called Penny into the hospital for a weigh-in. She weighed 495 and after trying everything, she believed she was doing what she was supposed to do. He would never give up on a patient, and will be there for her if she ever decided to do her part.
In 2006, one of Dr. Nowzaradan’s patients achieved shocking weight-loss in a short amount of time. Donald Shelton at 34 began at 675 pounds. After by-pass, he lost almost 400 pounds in one year. He was going to a club to dance and have a good time, but he began to experience unexpected complications with his condition. In the hospital, he mother noticed he was talking erratically. One day later, he slipped into a coma. As the doctors struggled to find the cause of the coma, a friend admitted that Donald had been using drugs. Ultimately, Donald was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune syndrome called Guillain-Barre. Any previous drug use was unrelated to the illness. Six months later, he woke up.
Often, it takes an intervention from family members to help patients find the strength to change. Marla McCants at 43 was 800 pounds. After weight-loss surgery, Marla refused to walk for over a month. Dr. Nowzaradan told her family that she was playing a game with them. He sent Marla home, but after four months, she still refused to walk. Dr. Nowzaradan even went to her home and tried to get her to stand. Once she knew her legs would hold her, she gained confidence.
Sometimes a wake-up call is the only way to get a patient back on track. Tara Taylor at 35 weighed 606 pounds. Awaiting skin surgery, she did not lose enough weight to allow her to have the surgery. She finally realized that she was lying to herself and began her transformation. Ultimately, Tara was approved for skin surgery and continues to make progress with her weight-loss.
For weight-loss patients, it’s not just about making physical progress, but also emotional and mental changes. Chuck Turner at 45 weighed 693 pounds. Chuck lost 100 pounds in four months, but there were habits in his marriage that also needed to change. Chuck’s wife was recovering from minor surgery and needed her medicine from the pharmacy, as he sat and ate popcorn, he did not feel it was necessary to make a special trip. Tension in Chuck and Nissa’s relationship continued to escalate. After three years of marriage, Nissa served Chuck with divorce papers. Chuck used his relationship with Nissa to avoid changing his lifestyle. He worked hard to get Nissa back. She agreed to come back on a trial basis. After losing over 400 pounds, he felt that weight-loss had saved him.
Family support is one of the most important factors in a patient’s success with weight loss. Zsalynn Whitworth at 42 started at 597 pounds. When she decided to start her weight loss, she did not know that the person closest to her would stand in her way. Gareth wanted a fat wife. He had no idea how close to death she was. At the hospital, she was late for picking her up. After she had the surgery, their relationship had changed. On the way home from surgery, he stopped for fast food just to tempt her. She knew that if she did not change, her daughter would be without a mother. Zsalynn and her husband divorced, but he remains active in his daughter’s life. Zsalynn underwent skin surgery last year and continues to make good progress with her weight loss.
Many patients face medical emergencies as the turning point on their weight-loss journey. Bettie Jo Elmore at 24 weighed 654 pounds. Her husband Josh had to be her caregiver and even wipe her butt when she went to the bathroom. In Bettie Jo’s case, it took a near-death trip to the emergency room to save her life when she had trouble breathing. Dr. Nowzaradan told her that she would kill her, and this near-death experience changed the course of her life.
Olivia Cruz at 46 weighed 548 pounds. She lived in her mother’s basement and never left the house. A mass on her leg formed and did not allow her to walk properly. When she had the lymphedema tumor removed, the 41 pounds it weighed caused her trauma and pain. Once it was removed and she continued to lose weight, she went back down to the basement that was her prison. She is motivated never to wind up there again.
Over the past ten years, Dr. Nowzaradan has offered hope for patients with nowhere else to turn. He is a huge inspiration to those who are morbidly obese. Please stay well Dr. Nowzaradan and continue to help those who have lost hope to find the strength to lose the weight and have a life again.