those that were formerly referred to as “really, really, really fat people” are now medically labelled “super morbidly obese” and represented by their own tv series called My 600-lb Life on TLC.
as america was founded by pioneers, it is not surprising that even the laziest and most indulgent citizens are capable of invention.
with links to purchase the full episodes, youtube stirred my interest by recommending TLC’s official promotional clips of My 600-lb Life. i was initially interested in the show because of the different ways each individual’s genetics distributed the weight. some lost their facial features, while others had severe lymphedemic swelling that bulged in alien sacks from the bottoms of their pants. it was always a treat to see them naked.
then youtube recommended a mysterious and illicit channel called my600lblifefullepisodes, which contained full episodes of every season for free. (youtube’s only goal is to keep me watching, and demonstrates willingness to forgo its relationship with TLC so long as i continue to do so. i blush when i think about various cabals competing against each other to keep me entertained…it makes me feel like this show was created especially for me.)
like pokemon, every episode follows the same format: one year in the life of a super morbidly obese person as they attempt to lose weight. the producer provides the main character with an inspirational quote, which they read over footage of their hometown as intro music plays. then, in an interview setting, the main character talks about how much they hate themselves and their life, giving detail of the unnecessary pain that accompanies everyday living. the camera then cuts to the main character shitting in a bedpan if they are bedridden, and bathing themselves using the rag-on-a-stick method if they can stand. usually the family lifts the folds of fat that the main character cannot reach, and shakes talcum powder across this vast stretch of hidden skin, the rubbing of which causes calluses. (at that point its like putting a band-aid on a bullet wound.) when the main character is nice and clean they are then fed by their families. this mealtime coincides with the main character crying over their weight and their food addiction as the show cuts back to the interview.
all of a sudden the main character decides to lose weight, and suddenly has an appointment in houston with gastric bypass surgeon dr. now. because the only cure for super morbid obesity is diet and exercise, the initial doctor’s meeting is always the same: dr. now needs his patient to prove they are committed to losing weight before he can perform his famous gastric bypass surgery on them. the surgery shrinks their stomach, making them fuller faster. it is not foolproof however, as they must still portion their strict diet or risk reversing the surgery.
they lose the weight. dr. now schedules the surgery. he is successful. the characters struggle with their weight in different ways and dr. now gauges their progress, remaining stoic in his straightforward counsel. the show ends and the viewer wonders, “where are they now?”
ranging from horrific sob stories of child molestation to harmless, ‘i’ve always been big’ statements, each character gives their excuse for their size and eating habits. but these super morbidly obese characters are finally taking responsibility for their actions. by making the assertions of “getting their lives back” they are fighting to prove that they are no longer in denial about the harm these excuses have done to their mental and physical health. they are eschewing the imagery of an obese united states for the trope of determination often associated with the american dream.
my 600-lb life never shames any individual’s past or present, and remains completely objective regardless of an individual’s success. it is meant to be a heartwarming show that vouchsafes compassion to its viewers via formerly demonized and secluded shut-ins, (and it can get quite tearful when these characters lose a hefty sum of weight and beam to their formerly enabling family as the reserved dr. now schedules them for a skin removal procedure) but it also promotes mental health and a positive attitude for a fulfilling life. i actually think it is more inspirational when an individual does not lose weight.
i have a color image of pauline pinned to my motivation board as a reminder of what not to do: complain and make excuses. pauline was the largest woman on the show, and effectively held her 21-year-old son hostage as a caretaker. although she claimed that she wanted to lose the weight, she constantly made excuses not to exercise, saying that she pulled a muscle in her stomach and that it hurt her to walk five days after the surgery. (patients typically leave the hospital on day 2.) “the doctor doesn’t know my body the way i do,” pauline said as an excuse not to stand up to prevent a fatal blood clot from forming immediately after surgery. pauline lost no weight after the surgery, and decided to take her weight loss at her own pace, continuing the lifestyle she lived before the surgery.
my 600-lb life has motivated me for the moment. if i keep a photo of pauline in my wallet maybe i can stretch this feeling out a little longer. this show comes highly recommended as an example of finding inspiration where you least expect it, and for watching fat and naked people on cable.