• 13:11
  • 21.08.2017
The untold truth of 600-lb life
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21.08.2017

The untold truth of 600-lb life

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TLC's hit My 600-lb Life, has been on the air since 2012, illustrating the lives of ordinary people experiencing extraordinary obesity, and showcasing their struggles before, during, and after weight loss surgery. Here's a look at things you might not know about the reality sensation.

Dr. Younan Nowzaradan, M.D., F.A.C.S., known as "Dr. Now" on My 600-lb Life, is the no-nonsense surgeon from Houston, TX who performs the gastric bypasses that change people's lives on the program.

The Iranian-American is in his 70s but looks younger. He graduated from Tehran University in Iran in 1970 with a doctorate in medicine, then moved to the United States to continue his training, and has been in the U.S. ever since. He performs both general and vascular surgery. Patients on the show who do not live within driving distance of his practice, move to Houston for the year-long duration of the program, in order to receive treatment.
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Dr. Nowzaradan is a pioneer in laparoscopic surgery, particularly as part of bariatric weight-loss surgery. He specializes in the "super-morbidly obese," those with BMIs of 50 or more. Given that every participant on the show is at least 600 pounds, that means many patients have BMIs of 100 or more.

Some doctors who perform gastric bypass surgery have a maximum limit for a client's starting weight. For example, the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center has a weight limit of 450 pounds, due to that being the biggest weight their x-ray machines can measure. Also, the more somebody weighs, the more the risks increase, as with any surgery. This is what sets Dr. Now, and the show, apart, as those who may not be able to get bariatric surgery elsewhere come to his office.

However, candidates for gastric bypass surgery are generally required to lose some weight on their own in order for the doctor to do the surgery. That isn't about the weight limits, but to evaluate whether the patient is really serious about changing their lives.
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Jonathan Nowzardan is a TV producer for Megalomedia, an Austin, TX-based production company. In 2007, the company filmed a documentary about Renee Williams, a local woman who weighed 841 pounds.

Dr. Now, his father, performed weight loss surgery on Williams after other doctors said no, because she was too much of a risk due to her weight. Unfortunately, she died two weeks later, of cardiac arrest. This show became Half Ton Mum in the United Kingdom, which led to the Half Ton Dad, Half Ton Teen and Half Ton Killer? documentaries on TLC, as well as the A&E show Heavy.

Megalomedia also filmed a number of gastric bypass patients for seven years, which was edited into the first season of My 600-lb Life. Since then, the show only covers one year in people's lives, although they also air update shows.
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There is a perception that weight loss surgery is cheating, or a quick fix. And some people go on My 600-lb Life with that attitude, thinking that getting a gastric bypass will make them thin without them having to make lifestyle changes.

A few patients on the show didn't change their lives for the better because they kept on gorging and refusing to move. There was an infamous participant named Penny Seager who whined on the show, "Where's my yellow brick road?" because she didn't lose much weight. Meanwhile, she refused to even get out of bed.

Weight loss surgery is a tool, for use toward a greater goal. For example, if you use a food processor instead of cutting vegetables by hand, you still have to make the dinner. While bariatric surgery will shrink the size of your stomach, lowering the capacity of food that it can hold, that alone will not automatically make you thin. You still have to eat less and exercise in order to achieve success.
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When it comes to sexual fetishes, there is really something for everyone. To that end, there are a variety of fat fetish sites, where women get paid to eat on camera and do sexually suggestive poses. At least two people on the show had their photos on these sites.

Before she got picked for My 600-lb Life, Zsalynn Whitworth was posting her lingerie photos on fetish sites, in order to finance her weight loss surgery. Then she met her future ex-husband Gareth, who was "shopping for a fat girl" to marry, on one of the sites. And Pauline Potter was Paulee Bombshell at the SuperSizedBombshells site.
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Dr. Nowzardan married his wife Delores in 1975. She was a stay-at-home mom and they had three children together. The kids were adults when Delores filed for divorce in 2002, before her husband's TV fame. The divorce dragged on for years and was finalized through a trial in 2004. Dr. Now then appealed the division of property and lost in 2007.

The appeals court opinion is online, and it contains details on how Dr. Now was accused of all sorts of shenanigans, including allegedly hiding assets, claiming to be retired, and reportedly obstructing the discovery in the divorce. The court document states that "the trial court attributed fault in the breakup of the marriage to Younan, dissolved the marriage on grounds of cruelty and insupportability, and concluded that Younan committed waste of community assets." Ultimately, his wife won and received 70 percent of their assets.

While the show did note that Steven Assanti, who appeared on the show in 2017, had made YouTube videos, they didn't show that he was featured on Dr. Phil's "House of Hate" episode in 2007 as "John Assanti."
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Before landing a spot on TLC, Pauline Potter was also on Dr. Phil. And she got herself named as the Guinness Book of World Records' "Heaviest woman — living" at 643 pounds, even though the actual heaviest woman in the world tipped the scales at over 1000 pounds. Potter even appeared on Dr. Drew claiming she lost weight through marathon sex.

Oddly enough, though, My 600-lb Life didn't address any of these things when they aired her story. Nor did they talk about her super-size modeling on a fetish site, although they did reference Zsalynn Whitworth's own modeling photos. Potter's propensity for seeking out the spotlight, as well as her identity as a super-obese person, seemed to be important parts of the puzzle of her life, so it seemed strange to leave them out.

Most people are familiar with the fact that obesity can cause diabetes, heart problems, stroke, and high blood pressure. But My 600-lb Life also shows how other things like lymphedema (where the person's body parts can swell up), cellulitis, sleep apnea, and depression, among other health issues, are also common in the super-obese.
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For example, Tracey Matthews, who was on the show in 2017, had lymphedema and cellulitis so bad in her legs that they looked like elephant trunks. The International Business Times notes that of the 605 pounds she weighed, 400 were in those legs, that were so heavy "her husband, Anthony, would have to lift them up so she could get out of bed."


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