‘My 600-Lb Life’: Dead Weight TLC Should Shed?

Circa 2012, TLC began airing My 600-Lb Life, a show chronicling the journeys of morbidly obese individuals around the U.S. For five seasons, viewers have watched these people struggle to qualify for gastric bypass surgery, undergo the operation, and fight to maintain healthy post-operative lifestyles. Although many gastric bypass candidates achieve success, the show’s intro tells us their chances of keeping up that success long-term is less than 5%. Nearly every person featured on the show is over 600 pounds. Thus, most gastric bypass surgeons have rejected them, saying they are too obese for help. Most My 600-Lb Life participants call Dr. Younan Nowzardan, the surgeon featured on the show, their “last hope.” Indeed, the show often paints Nowzardan as a miracle worker.

Despite the many success stories chronicled over the last five seasons, My 600-Lb Life has endured its share of criticism. The blog “East Coast Stories” calls it “television and medicine at its worst.” The documentary is compared to a freak show and maligned as false inspiration. “We were supposed to be inspired when [a participant] got down to 500 pounds,” a blogger said–but that person had originally weighed 750. The unnamed blogger argues the people featured on My 600-Lb Life are “people in deep psychological pain who are getting the wrong kind of help.” They are being touted as cheap inspiration and horrid freaks when they deserve so much better.

Watching several episodes of this documentary will show any viewer such criticism is warranted for a number of reasons. The portrayal of participants as perpetual victims, Dr. Nowzardan’s overall attitude, and many other problems indicate this show is dead weight TLC should shed.

I Am Obese, and I Am a Victim

Every episode of My 600-Lb Life begins with an introduction. On a black screen, a name, age, and weight are presented to us–e.g., Erica Wall, 41 years old, 661 pounds. From there, the episode’s focal point begins narrating his or her story, often with a statement of how horrible his or her life is. “I hate this life that I have. I feel useless and disgusting. Never did I dream I would end up like this.” These and other statements are the beginnings of shocking and disheartening stories. Contributors are seen struggling to do everyday things such as getting out of bed, dressing, and grooming themselves. Many contributors must be bathed or wiped to keep clean, and all contributors are shown eating enormous amounts of food at every turn. One of the show’s first contributors, Melissa, revealed she ate breakfast at around 8:00 a.m. and then continued eating full meals or large snacks on the hour until lunchtime, when the process would begin again. No contributor is shown enjoying anything but eating. Their voiceovers reveal they love their families but can’t and don’t do meaningful things with them because of obesity. Obesity is each contributor’s defining trait, and in the first twenty to thirty minutes of an episode, their statements and interactions are intensely negative.

The majority of My 600-Lb Life contributors have been legitimately victimized. Many female contributors were molested or gang raped, and turned to food to drown the ensuing pain. A couple male contributors have been molested as well. Many contributors are the children of divorce, and nearly all have suffered some form of physical, mental, or emotional abuse. One man, Chuck, became obese after his wife was murdered, and contributor Erica’s obesity significantly worsened after her mother’s death. It is entirely appropriate for the show to explore this victimization and point to it as a reason for obesity. The problem comes in when legitimate victimization is mixed with learned helplessness, to which willing enablers usually contribute. None of the show’s contributors have gotten significant psychological help before being chosen for the show, nor do they have adequate support systems in their friends or families. Rather, they have enablers who excuse their behavior with statements like, “I don’t know what to do. If I don’t give him/her the food, he/she gets mad. I don’t want to fight. I’ll do anything to make him/her happy.” While these are understandable attitudes, they keep the contributors trapped in victim mode. These attitudes also make the enablers complicit in physical and mental problems, because they would rather make themselves feel better than provide legitimate help.

Stop Whining and Slim Down

Some people enable My 600-Lb Life contributors, and some take the opposite route. A recent episode featured Erica Wall, a 661-pound woman who has been overweight her whole life. Her weight problems snowballed into morbid obesity after a gang rape, the death of her mother, and the onset of depression. Unlike most participants’ families, the remaining Wall family did not enable Erica. Instead, they went too far in the opposite direction. Erica’s siblings Randy and Molly refuse to drive her from Lompoc, CA to Houston, TX to keep appointments with Dr. Nowzardan. They refuse to stay with her, help her keep on track, or help her move to Houston. Randy’s excuse for not doing any of this is, it would require him to sell his boat. When Erica asks if he would rather have the boat or bury her within a year, he accuses her of guilt-tripping him and maintains refusal to help her.

Molly is no better. She attempts to enact “tough love,” such as removing junk food from Erica’s house. Along with that though, she adds disparaging comments like, “I don’t know if she can change; she never has before” or, “You’re not there yet.” When Erica legitimately feels depressed or tries to explain her struggle, Molly is completely unsympathetic, blaming Erica entirely for the other woman’s obesity. “I’ll be supportive,” Molly says halfheartedly, adding a sarcastic, “Rah, rah.” That’s the last supportive thing viewers hear her say. She commonly tells Erica, “Get your a– in the wheelchair.” Even after Erica loses considerable weight, Molly slaps her behind during a family outing and says, “Move along,” not allowing Erica to enjoy said outing.

Although some participants do not have adequate support systems, viewers would expect Dr. Younan Nowzardan to support them. In actuality, he is not supportive or empathetic. On discussion boards, viewers have described him as “holier-than-thou” and an “a–.” Even when contributors lose the weight he asks of them, Nowzardan commonly disparages them for eating too much or the wrong types of food. One woman, Tara, stormed out of his office saying, “I’m done; I quit” following a dressing-down from Nowzardan, although by then she had been losing weight consistently for almost two years. Despite the great progress of another contributor, Zsalynn, Nowzardan continually predicted she would revert to her old ways. If Zsalynn gained so much as a pound or two due to legitimate stress, Nowzardan scolded her and told her she was making excuses. Zsalynn maintained success despite Dr. Nowzardan’s grim predictions, possibly because she chose to seek help from another physician.

If Dr. Nowzardan’s hard-nosed approach to obesity were his only problem, he might not be criticized as heavily among viewers. Many of his patients have been enabled their entire lives and need serious wake-up calls to make lasting change. Reporter Cindy Perman of CNBC writes that many doctors, like Nowzardan, come off as insensitive jerks because they are “in the bad news business” and constantly expected to make life or death decisions, often for patients who don’t obey their recommendations in the first place. With this insight, viewers can hardly blame Dr. Nowzardan for being what Perman calls “condescending and difficult.” However, Nowzardan seems to believe obesity exists in a vacuum. He never shows any empathy or sympathy for his patients, although many of them have extremely stressful lives. He once scolded contributor Dottie for not sticking exactly to her diet plan, although she was traveling constantly in an attempt to care for a son with severe cerebral palsy. In another instance, participant Chad was unable to keep losing weight because he was sick and had no access to needed medications. “You can’t just do whatever you want,” Nowzardan told him, adding that he thought this was an excuse. He never offered Chad help in receiving medications, suggested different ones, or offered any non-medication-based treatment.

Additionally, Nowzardan never recommends his patients receive much-needed psychological help until at least three-fourths through an episode. For some patients, he does not recommend this type of help at all; they find it on their own. Either Nowzardan does not read patients’ medical histories, or he has no concept that obesity happens for a reason. He also fails to build rapport with his patients. We never see him talking to patients about anything except their weight, or asking how life is going outside of their eating habits. This doctor can go an entire episode without cracking a smile or telling a patient anything encouraging. Most of his patients call him Dr. Now for short, and it fits; he seems to want them to lose drastic amounts of weight now, no matter what else is going on in their lives. As a result, patients receive physical treatment, but little emotional support.

Just Put a Band-Aid On It

My 600-Lb Life focuses on people who need gastric bypass surgery, so naturally, the operation itself is a big part of each episode. Unfortunately, gastric bypass is often the most help any patient gets. As noted, most contributors receive referrals to psychologists well into their journeys. By then though, they have fought obesity-related demons without help most of their lives, and struggle to accept what therapists tell them. Additionally, viewers usually see participants attend just one appointment. This sends the message that a few sessions with a therapist will make a lifelong problem go away.

Dr. Nowzardan sometimes refers his patients to nutritionists, particularly patients who are struggling to stay on their diet plans or have made no efforts to do so. As with therapy however, viewers don’t see contributors receiving much nutritional help. In the show’s most recent episode, Dr. Nowzardan referred a nutritionist named Susan to patient Erica. Susan came into Erica’s house, removed her junk food stash, and gave her one extremely brief piece of advice: “Protein is good.” Other than praising Erica for having Greek yogurt in her fridge, that was it. Susan simply left with no further nutritional advice or tips to help Erica beat food cravings. In an earlier episode, Dr. Nowzardan sent a nutritionist named Kim to patient Penny Seager. Granted, Penny was unwilling to dialogue with Kim or make dietary changes. However, Kim did not explain why the changes were necessary or give Penny avenues to make them workable. For instance, she could have suggested healthy alternatives to Penny’s fatty favorite foods, or explained why Penny had not yet lost enough weight to warrant her insistence that, “I’ve done good.” Kim did neither; she simply had Penny’s husband clear out the junk food, sat with Penny for a few minutes, and gave up when Penny would not dialogue. Despite Penny’s constant whining and bad attitude, this reinforced the message that she was easy to give up on.

Dr. Nowzardan is famous for telling his patients gastric bypass surgery is not a magic pill, and dressing them down when they act otherwise. Yet judging by his actions and those of others, gastric bypass is in fact a magic pill. If people don’t magically become skinny within weeks or months of an operation, well, they must be doing something wrong. They must be rejecting the help they are offered. This mindset could not be further from the truth. Although the documentary does not have time to show contributors receiving help from every possible professional, it is clear they are not getting enough assistance. Surgery may have removed contributors’ fat, but the rest of their problems receive flimsy Band-Aids.

Oh My God, Look What She’s Eating!

Finally, My 600-Lb Life is problematic because it’s voyeuristic. A major part of the show involves watching contributors eat enormous amounts of unhealthy food and demand said food from friends and family members. In the episode featuring him, contributor Sean ate an entire pizza by himself and then requested some of his mother’s pizza. Contributor Chuck’s then-wife Nissa claimed, “He eats enough to feed twenty people.” Recently, viewers saw Erica belly up to her kitchen counter and stick a fork into an entire pie, most of which it can be assumed she ate. These scenes add a sense of morbid curiosity to the show. Viewers wonder, “How much can one person eat? What is this person going to eat next? Will next week’s contributor be even heavier than last week’s?” One wonders how much each contributor’s struggle is real, and how much has been scripted for shock value.

It’s not just the food that makes this show voyeuristic, however. As the anonymous blogger on “East Coast Stories” puts it, My 600-Lb Life “gives viewers something to look at” and allegedly, makes our lives seem less boring. Those who regularly watch the show often do it with a “moth to the flame” mentality. They know what they’re seeing is terrible, but keep watching because the content is horrifyingly interesting, or so they can say, “Thank God that’s not me.” For some viewers, slight envy may be involved. They may think, “I wish I could eat a whole pizza by myself and not seem to care” or “I wish my family waited on me hand and foot like that.” Others may watch because they’re legitimately interested in weight loss journeys or have been through obesity themselves. However, the camera’s constant focus on how horrible the contributors’ lives are takes away from the show’s psychological or inspirational value.

My 600-Lb Life is not the only voyeuristic program TLC has produced. In recent years, the channel has become infamous for shows that encourage viewers to favorably compare their lives with someone else’s. The big problem with this show’s voyeurism is that it dehumanizes its contributors. Obesity is a real problem millions of Americans face, even though most do not reach the 600-pound mark. Many obese Americans truly want to change, and pursue that change with everything they have. Most receive help from local surgeons, or turn to weight loss methods other than surgery, and have good relationships with their doctors. Many have support systems. In consistently presenting worst-case scenarios, My 600-Lb Life sends the message that contributors are not really people. Instead, they are blobs who happen to have names. They cannot change, and if they do, it will be because someone else, like Dr. Nowzardan, did the hard work for them. In presenting worst-case scenarios, the show also communicates being obese–or even overweight–is a fate worse than death. In fact, many contributors say, “I’d rather be dead than live like this.” The overarching message is, “Stay thin, or this will happen to you. You will lose everything, including your humanity.” Although no cases have been reported, the show could be a serious trigger for Americans already battling eating disorders.

The Basic Skinny

My 600-Lb Life is going strong with no end in sight. Before its season four renewal last year, the show reached its highest rating ever. It’s clear millions of Americans are hooked on this show, for a variety of reasons. One would hope they tune in to see the ultimate success most contributors attain after long and arduous struggles. However, the question remains whether wading through fifty-five minutes of victimization, voyeurism, and sanctimoniousness is worth five minutes of hope. If My 600-Lb Life continues on its current path, the answer may be a regretful, “no.”

Works Cited:

“My 600-Lb Life: Television and Medicine at its Worst.” East Coast Stories. http://eastcoaststories.com/?p=6573

Perman, Cindy. “Why Your Doctor is Such an Insensitive Jerk.” http://www.cnbc.com/id/48845789

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  1. I like this show. We go on occasional binge-watchings of it before it all gets too sad and we have to try something else. It’s good anthropological material, and occasionally uplifting. My favorite so far is Olivia. I don’t know what it was about her, but she had me rooting for her from the start. I’m glad she found the success she did.

    • alexpaulsen

      I would love to see your take on Super Size vs Super Skinny, a British counterpart of weightloss TV, the voyeurism is still there however there is a kindness in it that is lacking in my 600 lb life.

  2. Many people on the show seem to have really deep-seated anger related to traumatic childhoods.

  3. I’m always glad to see the success stories, but I wish the show would do a better job in showing the totality of the experience, that it’s not just a simple surgery and you’re on your way to better health. You have to also address the issues that got you to this point in the first place.

    • Stephanie M.

      @Mertie: Agreed on so many levels. The journey from extreme obesity to health involves a lot of baby steps, and that’s one of my biggest beefs with the show (and why I quit watching). Many contributors don’t get the chance to take realistic baby steps. Of course, sometimes that’s because they’ve not done what they should, so within 6 months or so, they’re too far gone for baby steps.

  4. Stephanie M.

    @Buffy: Some people are definitely easier to root for than others. You can probably tell from the article who I’ve rooted for in the past. 🙂 The ones who don’t try and don’t seem to “get it” (i.e., Penny, Sean) are extremely annoying. They’re the ones who make the show seem voyeuristic and hopeless, IMHO.

  5. Roberge

    What a horrible life for them.

  6. farr-farr

    I watch this show a lot. In late September I started working to lose 100lbs (27 down!), and I discovered that I find this show to be motivational and/or inspiring. I also had a mother who was addicted to food and got up to 350lbs, so part of me sympathizes with the enablers. I think I’ve seen most of the episodes by this point.

  7. I know these are reality shows, edited to provide the most drama. But what strikes me in many of these episodes is the lack of psychological counseling.

    • I’d think a major obstacle is patients who refuse/won’t acknowledge the psychological aspects of their problem.

      You can’t force psychological help on people. If they don’t realize that they need to alter their thought processes they’re not going to, and attempting to force that change is likely to only make them more stubborn.

    • I’ve seen most of it, I think, and quite a few of them do visit counsellors. Possibly more do but their counsellors don’t agree to be filmed.

    • I agree. I haven’t seen the show address the psychological aspect of morbid obesity.

  8. I find myself watching this in a slow-down-as-I-pass-a-car-wreck kind of way.

  9. Tremendous transformation in this show.

  10. Jonathan Judd

    Excellent article, the critique of the show is on point. Voyeurism is exactly what keeps us engaged in these spectacles of victim-hood.

  11. I hope u guys loose weight so u guys feel better I’m praying for yall

  12. So tragic. Some people should never have kids when they neglect them and fail to protect them from abuse.

  13. All the best to all of them – congratulations for how far they have come. I hope that with time and support, the enduring issues can be worked through.

  14. Of course it’s voyeurism – it’s entertaining, sometimes shocking, sometimes horrifying. That’s reality TV. I agree that these individuals are complex and that super morbid obesity is caused by a variety of factors – including psychiatric – but it’s difficult to fit a year’s journey into a 55 minute episode. Perhaps it may be more informative to indicate that the nutritionist actually spent an hour with the patient rather than 45 seconds, or that they saw a therapist 10 times and not just once, but viewers aren’t watching for the educational benefit. I like the show, and disagree with your assessment that these individuals would fail if someone else didn’t do that work for them. I admire the resolve of some of these patients and appreciate that this is an extremely difficult undertaking, and cheer along with them when they start to get their lives back. The success stories make the show worth watching.

  15. Stephanie M.

    @Lisa: I think you misunderstood my assessment. My assessment is that the show itself presents the *idea* that these people can’t do the work required to beat morbid obesity. There’s no doubt in my mind they can, but My 600-Lb Life seems to give Nowzardan more credit than his patients, even and especially those who try hard. And yes, some patients have deep resolve, which makes some episodes less voyeuristic/more hopeful. However, especially in the most recent season, there was a lot of “medical/body horror,” patients who did not put forth effort, and in my opinion, too much condensing.

  16. Emily P.

    Waiting for a The Artifice article on how easy it is to assume you know why people watch shows like these.

  17. You know what I dislike when those skinny girls that weigh like 60lbs and say they are fat. And if you tell them other wise they say that they are so fat just because they gained a pound. Girls like that are terrime

    • I believe that’s called anorexia. And that is just as bad.

  18. Garrison

    There seems to be a common theme in that the people are using food to avoid dealing with emotions. When that’s taken away, they don’t have any coping mechanism.

  19. D.Ratcliff

    Good on these people for being so successful with their weight loss. I need to lose around 14 pounds and to me that seems like a monumental task, don’t know how they get their heads around losing 500lbs or more, incredible.!

  20. Stephanie M.

    @ D. Ratcliff: I agree wholeheartedly. It is for that reason I chose to write the article, because I think the show could represent these people and their lives better than it does.

  21. Rebecca

    I like watching the show and seeing the success stories, but I do agree that they often are left on their own without the help that they need beyond surgery.

  22. This show always seems to have an underlying feeling that they do not want success. Perhaps it is in the way that the narrative dwells on the eating and the struggling of the people, or the inter-family relationships, the negativity, but the successes of the patients are rarely as focused upon as the initial issues. Of course the promotional material adds to this as it emphasises the first 20 minutes or so of the programme. I’ve always felt a bit strange watching it for that reason — if I recall, the original special of a similar name was a much more straight forward look at gastric bypass surgery. Now, with a consistent series, it has definitely caught itself up in something darker (and, as you said, has most of TLC).

  23. Stephanie M.

    Agreed, ever so much. I would like the show better if it focused on the participants as people, and showed them doing something with their time other than trying to lose weight. They have been defined by their weight, and whether or not they largely did it to themselves, that’s sad and unfair.

  24. “Finally, My 600-Lb Life is problematic because it’s voyeuristic.”

    This is a pretty bizarre point to single this show out for. All television is voyeuristic in nature, that’s kind of the point? It could also be said that any form of story telling is voyeuristic, and that wouldn’t be a negative. The magic of story telling is getting to watch a life experience that is different from our own. Maybe it’s not the deepest story in the world, but how can you deny that there is something fascinating about these people’s lives?

  25. caitlinm

    I definitely agree that the root of what contributed to their obesity should be acknowledged and explored further with a psychologist earlier on in the episode. Changing their unhealthy diet and lifestyle to a more healthier one doesn’t mean the problem is fixed.

  26. ReidaBookman

    Great article. I think one of the major problems with reality TV shows like this is that recovering from a life-long addiction/disorder cannot happen over an episode. Therapy, medication, and behavioral adjustments are not easy and take a long time to create a lasting change.

  27. Diego Santoyo

    Love the article and love the show! I’d love to see more of each journey. I sometimes feel like each journey should be a full season. There is so much that they catch and we don’t get to see it all because it’s aired in an episode or two. Anyway, great read!

  28. Stephanie M.

    @Diego: Thanks! I don’t know if each journey could be an entire season, because there’s been so many people already. But if they overhauled the format, I think the show could be much better. I’d like to see more focus on the patients and less focus on Nowzardan. For one, I want to know what did/do these people enjoy besides eating? What do they want to do with their lives? What does their mental journey entail, because that’s as important if not more so than their physical journey (please, give me more than one appointment)! As you said, many questions remain unanswered.

  29. I have binge watched this show once. Each episode left me wondering where these people are now on their journeys. I completely agree with many of your points, for example the lack of nutritionists and psychological help.

  30. Stephanie M.

    Indeed. Looking back now, I also wonder how much is scripted or played for drama, like conflicts with family members or the doctor, or even what the participants eat. Call me cynical, but it kinda wouldn’t surprise me to learn there’s somebody behind the camera urging, “Go ahead, eat a whole plate of fried wantons.”

  31. I watch this show not jus to see them succeed but as a substance abuse counselor in training, I firmly believe(though it’s not solidly included to my knowledge yet) in food(and sex for that matter) being something you can absolutely be addicted to. Many people use drugs abusively to bury emotional pain and I believe the same happens with food and sex addictions. This show has shown me that food addiction needs to be something that is as real to clinicians as substance addiction and better studied. But beyond that, I love rooting for these folks to get better! It’s easy to cheer for them as they control their diet and get psychological help for their issues. And my heart goes out to the people who get to where they want to be as well as the people who just aren’t ready. But I worry that once the folks who are successful getting to where they want to be, that they will develop eating disorders that would keep them rail thin and put their lives in danger once again.

  32. Stephanie M.

    @Kelly: You’re absolutely right, esp. about the eating disorder thing. I have never been obese, but there was a time in my life where a well-intentioned diet and exercise regime became disordered thinking toward food (perhaps you are familiar with the acronym EDNOS)? I think clinicians, and society at large, need to do a much better job at (A) educating people about how their bodies actually work (B) educating people about what a healthy weight is for *them*, and (C) promoting authentic acceptance of bodies.

  33. Stephanie M.,
    It seems like you have a chip on your shoulder about this show. Your assessment involves “facts not in evidence.” “It is clear they are not getting enough assistance. Surgery may have removed contributors’ fat, but the rest of their problems receive flimsy Band-Aids.” You’re making this statement based on what additional research? Did you only watch the 1-hour show or did you do some checking behind the scenes? Furthermore, I’ve watched all the episodes and I don’t see how you feel Dr. Now gets more credit than the patient doing the hard work. You seem to have a personal dislike for him. But he’s honest, which for some people is hard to take. When you have addicts, no matter the substance, you need direct, honest communication-no babying, no coddling. As you can see time and time again, the babying is part of the reason they’re in the obesity predicament. Addiction is ugly and complex; this show presents that fact. It’s only one-hour and it does an excellent job of showing the ups-and-downs of fighting “food” addiction, with surgery, nutrition, exercise and counseling being various tools in the treatment process. If you stopped watching the show for whatever reason(s), you don’t have to malign it to justify your choice. At least, Dr. Now is trying to help a part of society that most people and medical professionals have given up on. Part of that help is getting people to understand that they have to take responsibility for their decisions, the consequences, and their health; nobody can do that for them.

  34. Stephanie M.

    @TSloan: While I see where you’re coming from, I completely disagree. I have seen every episode as well, and done some background research into what the show doesn’t tell you, both about the weight loss process and Dr. Now himself. I am not maligning this show for kicks. I understand these people are food addicts and often need, shall we say, a kick in the rear. But from what I see, Dr. Now and family members continue to kick these people when they’re down. Beyond that, I personally think the show has its share of creative problems, which I tried to elucidate here.

  35. Josie A.

    I watch this show on a regular basis, in part because I am technically morbidly obese, but not anywhere near the size of the people profiled in the episodes. I can relate to their use of food as comfort and coping because I do the same thing. I agree that much more emphasis needs to be placed on getting to the root of their problems, even before they are considered for surgery. Maybe they do receive intensive counseling but it’s not shown because viewers might not find it nearly as compelling as watching the patients stuff tons of food in their mouths in one sitting. Dr. Now has zero beside manner and patience when his patients are not losing enough weight or gaining for any reason. He is compassionate in a way but I kind of get the impression that he believes that being hard on his patients all the time will keep them on track. Some people don’t respond well to that. I agree that the show makes weight loss surgery look like the miracle cure for obesity. It’s not easy by any means, and people need to see more of what a patient goes through to prepare for surgery,post operative complications, post surgery life.it’s more than just not eating a lot. There also needs to be more emphasis on the role of the nutritionist and how important their support to the patient is. One short visit of throwing out food isn’t going to cut. These people need information about how to eat well. The families need counseling on how to shop and cook healthy meals. They also need counseling on how not to be enablers. It a all voyeuristic indeed, but it can be a learning tool if produced properly. I don’t see the show focusing too much on Dr. Now. I see people struggling to make sense of their situation, deal with the issues that got them there, and fighting their way out of a miserable cycle of hopelessness. I think he might believe he is a miracle worker, but if he only addresses the effect and not the cause, it’s pointless.

  36. Stephanie M.

    @Josie: I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your comment. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who is not a Dr. Now fan. I’ve been terrified of doctors and medical procedures my entire life (long story), and if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s a doctor with zero bedside manner. Maybe I should’ve been clearer on the fact that at times, it’s okay for Dr. Now to give the patient a verbal kick in the rear–but he seems to enjoy doing it every time he sees someone, no matter how much weight they’ve lost, what else is going on, etc. In the last few months that I watched the show, I found myself using it as a venting tool, with both Dr. Now and the patients who wouldn’t even try.

  37. The show demonstrates that you can lose weight by eating less. Before they are approved for surgery, they must lose approx. 50 pounds (sometimes in as little as one month) to demonstrate that they can stick to a diet. After surgery, they still have cravings and can negate the results of the surgery by overeating. They still have to use willpower and must follow a reduced calorie diet. Many who have had the surgery do not lose weight because they revert to their old eating habits. This proves that they can lose weight if they stay on a diet and do not need such an invasive surgery.

    • I lose and gain the same 10lbs over and over so I find this show motivational. Research disagrees with your assertion that people who are super obese can lose all the weight they need with just diet and exercise. The study attached shows that 72% of people who have gastric bypass lose 20% of their body mass, and 40% lose 30% of their body mass, compared to just 11% and 4% of those who try non surgical means. 10 years later, only 3% of those who had the surgery regained the weight, compared to a regain rate of 56% for those without the surgery. Surgery is not a miracle tool, but it is a tool, if you commit to changing the way that you eat.

  38. Stephanie M.

    On Supersize vs. Super-Skinny: As far as I know, we don’t get it in the U.S. (at least, not the channels I have). But I have seen a few episodes. I’m particularly interested in those featuring children, or Supersize vs. Super-Skinny Kids.

    Yes, the doctor featured there (Christian Something-or-Other, I think)? definitely has a much kinder approach than Dr. Now, but is still firm and businesslike in his approach (balance, people!) 🙂 There is, however, still the voyeurism issue, common to reality TV at large. And I have to wonder–putting two people in a feeding clinic and having them switch diets for a short period seems like it’s effective, but also seems extreme/played for drama. I like other parts of the show much better, like when the doctor gives advice to parents on how to help their kids eat better/how to say no to unhealthy food, or when he goes around Britain and does spots with people who, say, used to be obese or anorexic and beat it.

  39. Daria Jameson

    Erica Walls brother wouldn’t sell his boat because that is his families livelihood ! You make it sound like it was a selfish reason. Erica would be the incredibly selfish one to expect him to. And then there is Chuck- google Chuck – you will find that it was his very much estranged ex wife- to whom he was bitterly estranged that was murdered. That turns out to be a good excuse for Chuck. Anyone that knows Chuck was shaking their head when that came up on the show because it was ludicrous.

  40. I do agree that these people deserve psychological help as much as physical help, however although the process of losing so much weight is hard, one cannot be constantly treated like a victim.
    I also agree that to an extent, this show demonizes these people, and the doctors and some families/friends need to show more sympathy towards their loved ones. But you cannot walk on egg shells and expect results. Sometimes a push is needed. I have an anxiety disorder, and part of dealing with it is to put myself in uncomfortable situations, and for those around me to push me to be in them while still taking into account what I am capable of handling at the moment and how I will feel in the future about the situation. Obesity and anxiety are very different, but that’s the only example I can personally try to explain my thoughts with so forgive me.
    Obviously I cannot speak for them because I have not dealt with weight problems the same way they have, but I can say that with anything that evolves such a big change you do at times need to be harsh. If you want comfort, sometimes that means being uncomfortable.

  41. Most of the patients have sought help previously. Can’t we assume they’ve already gone through all the nutritional and psychological steps prescribed by previous doctors, several times over? Maybe they want a miracle! It is hard to follow dietary restrictions. It is hard to deal with past trauma. It is far easier to go for weight loss surgery and expect to shed the fat that has taken years to accumulate. Dr. Now must be firm, must be stern. He is not a Psychiatrist, and these patients already have enablers or self enable with excuses. There is no room for excuses if you want to lose the weight; the excuses are the cause, and sympathy a contributor. We don’t get to see everyone that has tried to help in the past, and I don’t think we are shown all the help given while being followed by TLC. Dr Now has reasons for his methods, and they work better than anything the patients have tried so far. But there are no miracles or shortcuts. The surgery is a tool, not a cure-all. In the end, it’s up to the patient to accept the help and follow through. The old adage “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink” is appropriate here.

  42. Eyleeia

    I know a lot of people with mental issues that do not eat themselves to Death!! A lot of the people around the person trying to lose weight r fat too!!

  43. It’s interesting that you appear to believe that the few minutes of interaction with the dr/therapist/nutitionist is the sum total of the interaction. Do you think when they are shown in the gym for 1 minute that that is the entire workout?
    I can’t argue that the show is extremely voyueristic— but honestly, that’s what the viewers tune in to see. Sideshow tv is here to stay, I suppose.

  44. Natalie

    I see Dr. Now as being sensitive to his patients, but he’s also signed death certificates of people who haven’t heeded his advice. He’d rather be stern and be listened to than too gentle and ignored. He is the doctor, and he deals with 600-pound people who often come at him thinking that they can tell him about nutrition. And, like most addicts, they lie about what they’re eating. That being said, they often ignore him anyway. As for the psychotherapy, it’s better for them to get adjusted to the dieting process before delving into their issues. And, as for the nutritionists, you only heard 2-3 minutes of what was most likely a 60 minute consultation so you don’t know what all was covered during that time. They all have deep-rooted psychological issues. I don’t think anyone gets up to 600 pounds without them. I’d be curious as to whether having cameras following up on them improves their odds or makes it worse.

  45. Seaside Suicide

    I mean, it’s no worse than Intervention, Celebrity Rehab or any other addiction-type show. They’re just showing the harsh reality that people of this size actually live. No need to script anything–obviously these folks actually eat that much food to get to that weight. And nobody’s forcing them to participate & share their stories so it’s not like they’re being exploited.

    Dr. Now has made some ugly remarks, such as “you don’t even look human” & similar things to certain patients, but some of them are just crazy enough to need that kind of wakeup call. This is life and death stuff; not a beauty pageant. The level of denial & diversion some of these patients engage in is beyond all comprehension. They seem to have a mental illness all their own in which they derive pleasure from acting helpless & playing the victim. Dr. Now is not a touchy-feely therapist type which is why he sends patients to see people who are. Physicians & weight loss doctors have no requirement to be warm & fuzzy or to sugarcoat things…particularly for diabetics & sugar addicts (sorry).

    These folks are getting an opportunity that many others will never be able to afford or access & should be putting their all into it. Many of them ARE but it’s clear that others like Schenee, the Assanti brothers & Lisa (R.I.P.) were playing some weird, sick attention-getting games often on the taxpayer’s dime. Worst of all, many of them have children or pets that end up neglected due to their self-indulgence & refusal to change. The kids who are overweight have a virtually 100% chance of becoming obese adults.

    I posit that eating this way in front of your children is absolutely no less abusive than drinking or shooting up IV drugs around them. And I’m tired of food addiction being treated with kid gloves while drug addicts get called to the carpet constantly. Obesity-related diseases are the #1 cause of preventable disease & death in America. Thus they cost us ALL a great deal of money & healthcare resources.

  46. Its funny that we all trfy to find the negative in something good – The American Way!
    The show is a motivational tool to encourage others that there is hope in losing weigh through surgery; however it is challenging to say the least.

    I dont think that every episode has to show counseling. Just know that any major surgery as this involves a discipline of other professionals – psychological, nutrition, and therapy. It is still the choice of the person to want to change no matter what size you are.
    At no point in the episode it dehumanize the individual. A person weight size has nothing to do with their character.

    It is understood that the person may have experienced a trauma event that started the obesity.

    This show has inspired me to take ownership of my health. I believe that is the point the doctor makes.

  47. I think that show is great; instead of pointing and laughing at the fatty, we’re told these are human beings who have reached their current state as a result of trauma, abuse, isolation et cet. The show humanizes obesity in ways many of us have never considered.
    I also think, such as the case of imminent heart failure, Dr. Now is well justified in critiquing and shaming food choices. After the weight is lost, the damage to these hearts doesn’t go away. They will have lasting scars, internal and external, of what obesity did to their bodies. It’s easy to run down the SJW talking points and lament how terrible this show is, but for some of the patients, the show was the only help they ever got.

  48. I watch for insight into a person’s journey to where they are now. To the quest for help. Their willingness to change. I was once 407 pounds. It’s a long and hard journey to bettering yourself. Well worth the struggle. Emotions, habits and friends and family all come into play. I don’t watch to see what this person featured did but what they do to turn around. Extreme obesitu is being trapped in your own body. Why continue to eat when you know this and feel this is what I feel the show features. It shows people striving with help to overcome. It’s not pretty. It’s difficult. It contains images hard to watch and feel. The reality is people are working extremely hard to overcome. They inspire. Bravo to all that serk help, receive it and work from there. If this avenue helps many that would never be helped, I pray it continues. People watch rwality tv. Most is just voyeurism. This changes lives. Good or bad exists in everything. May more good come from this.

  49. I rewatched the episode involving Chad who weighed 701 lbs. When Chad told Dr. NOW that he didn’t have his medicine because it cost too much, Dr Now told him that he should have let them know and they would have found a way to help him get his meds. Dr. NOW is not a jerk. He has too be a little tougher because what these people have been trying and the excuses they have been making has not been working. What amazes and inspires me from the show is that these people actually lose weight before surgery. This proves they can do it. My question is why didn’t they do it before? They needed someone like Dr. Now to push them to excellence.

  50. Stephanie M.

    An update: I stopped watching for a while. As someone who has struggled with EDNOS and whose weight yo-yos, I found the show held “triggers,” which is probably why I was so rough on it. I still disagree with some aspects of the show’s presentation, but in recent seasons, I can see exactly why Dr. Now acts and speaks as he does. The stuff he puts up with from these people can be unbelievable. I still think he could do better with bedside manner, but when you give a person chance after chance… Yet, I’m still not a frequent watcher and have not watched a Season 6 or 7 ep all the way through. Lately, it seems as though producers are focusing more on people who refuse to try, and I would rather see the success stories, plus more “character development.”

  51. I watched the show recently, a few days ago with the episode “Justin” and the special “Pauline, June and Chad” who’d been on the show before and are now getting skin removal surgery. At first I thought the show was gross because of the surgeries and had a negative outlook on it in general, before seeing these episodes. Asking myself “why is the family letting them eat so much?” But upon seeing the change in Chad and June’s life after the show, it can’t be all that bad. I’m glad these people are finally getting the help they need to turn their lives around. I don’t think the show should be scrapped entirely but has room to improve.

  52. Christina

    This entire article is Bullshit! None of these disgusting lard asses deserve ANY sympathy! We all have fuc%in problems but they did this to themselves and they should be thankful that ANYONE is willing to help them at all! SMDH

  53. Christina

    Oh, and the doctor is my favorite!! He refuses to let these lying fools cry their way outta anything! PERFECT!

  54. Minerva Moser

    I don’t know who writes the scripts, but all the “victims” of obesity must be reading scripts from the same writer because they all have the exact same speech patterns, AKA piss-poor grammar. One fat lady said she had a master’s degree, but she still started her sentences with statements like, “Me and my mom went to the store…” What respectable institution of higher learning gives a master’s degree to someone who doesn’t realize that “me” is an object pronoun, not a subject pronoun?

    Try this fun drinking game: sit with friends during the airing of one of the episodes and take a drink every time the word “so” is uttered. You will all be bombed within minutes. Dozens of statements on each episode are awkwardly linked together with “so…” I guess they hate to face any finality, such as an end to binge eating. Likewise, they are reluctant to legitimately end their sentences…so…

  55. Stephanie M.

    Yes, I’m sure that drinking game would leave me completely blitzed. Also, I have noticed the poor grammar. A lot of the contributors come from the Deep South, which might explain things but also exacerbates the stereotype that all Southerners are less intelligent than most people. The whole thing is intensely frustrating, especially if you are or ever were in the English language, literature, or education fields.

  56. I watch it because it reminds me I am correct to be averse to the obese: they are selfish and disgusting, and most of what they say is composed of hypocrisy and lies.

  57. This show really helped me get my mom on a path to help and health. Because of the tough approach Dr. Nowzaradan takes and the inspiring hard work of his patients I got an idea of what was possible. So much of the show illustrates how deeply in denial about some of our own behaviors we are. While there may be a voyeurstic aspect to the show (as there is to many reality shows), all the people involved are consenting adults who know what they’re getting into. When weight becomes a life and death prospect, it is either a priority or it’s not. It seems like despite what anonymous bloggers and reddit users may think, the Dr himself is regularly dealing successfully with people who are morbidly obese–the success of many of his patients speaks for itself. How many of those making negative comments have been similarly effective in helping people. This show transformed my mom’s and my own life for the better. How many shows manage transforming lives?

  58. I think all of these fat shows miss out on one extremely thing, all of these people have severe binge eating disorder which is an extremely painful eating disorder, you’re eating ice cream until your throat is sore from swallowing or eating three whole pizzas while your stomach is cramping and it hurts but you still do it. It’s self-harm, it should be treated like self-harm.

  59. Personally, I feel that My 600-lb Life acts as a sort of cautionary tale, for and about all people involved in the life of the morbidly-obese: without being mean or cruel about it, please be careful about your life choices. I do understand the concerns about having the show on television however.

  60. Jacqueline Garnett

    I started watching this show as a fluke when I laid on my remote and the channel changed to this. I myself am morbidly obese and I thought maybe this was a divine intervention or a message.
    I see many things wrong with what happens on the show and for some reason I never stopped to think that TLC created or edited it that way. This article brought that thought to the forefront. I was neither abused or had that childhood drama that many have had. I have suffered like millions of single moms who have to work many long hours and raise 4 kids alone. Literally there’s not one family member or friend around. My support is completely just each other. My weight ballooned by eating all the bad foods I can easily pick up around work with little time to think about it. Or working late and having to go home and throw something unhealthy together for dinner.
    I would truly suffer if I was at the hands of Dr. Now. Life has already “beat” me up as it is and having one more attack (Dr. Now) would put more on my plate than I can take. No pun intended.
    Dr. Now apparently is sadly mistaken if he thinks that holding the surgery over someone’s head is an incentive to follow his sudden demand to just scale down to a 1200 calorie diet. Especially with no consideration of how we got there in the first place. It annoys me how failure no matter how small outweighs the struggles the patient took to have at least begin to change. Granted there are some that I believe have been combative and left me wondering do they really want to make a change. Those individuals just take a little more longer than others as in anything in life. So telling them that they just want things their way or that they don’t take seriously the fact they can die is completely outrageous. Who wouldn’t take it seriously? It’s downright ignorant to say that. Support is about discovering the root of the problem and helping to resolve it.

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