A few years ago I stumbled upon the TV show “My 600 Pound Life.” I watched one episode, fast forwarding through some of the parts that warned of disturbing images, but cheered for the young woman who achieved success and a new chance at life. For those unfamiliar with the show, it follows the patients of a Texas doctor who does bariatric surgery on patients of that weight and greater.
Just recently with my new cable service offering “on demand”, there it was on the list.
Were they repeats? No! They are in season 9
I was born in 1947 when Jackie Gleason (top weight 280) and Vivian Vance (Ethel on I love Lucy – top weight 140) were the object of fat jokes, so while I was aware that there were people in the 600 pound category, I was shocked that there were enough candidates to produce multiple seasons of a TV show
Then I began watching. Yes, as before, it was tragic and tough to watch, like a documentary of destruction. In this case, self destruction. I should clarify that the doctor required candidates to prove they could follow the routine that would be necessary after the surgery by first losing a great amount of weight on their own following his prescription of diet and exercise.
I listened to the patients’ reasons for overeating – eating themselves into immobility, medical problems and even early death.
1) Food made them happy. It was an escape from the problems in their lives
It was an escape when they felt stressed
In extreme cases it was the only time they felt happy.
2) The food tasted good. Eating some and they wanted more.
3) All too often taking solace in food was a reaction to an earlier life of deprivation and abuse or a single horrific act of violence. That was the most tragic
The first 2 reasons made me think of the times I have used food in similar destructive ways. Fortunately, I have never endured the horrific circumstances described in #3.
After a stressful day at work, a bag of chocolate chip cookies made me forget it, especially if watching a sitcom on TV – Escape! Escape!
When a family member was ill, I always envisioned the worst outcome. I have an overactive anxiety gene. Diving into the container of ice cream helped blot it out. My kids still remember when I ate the whole pie.
Stop worrying, stop being anxious, just get over it.
Might was well advise someone to grow 2 inches to improve their BMI.
So why do some overcome difficulties and others fall into/continue along the path of self destruction?
Every episode includes the family members of the patient. So many are extremely overweight/obese themselves. So many enable the behavior of the patient by bringing them food and even denigrating their attempts to change. One horrific husband picked up his wife released from the hospital after her successful surgery and stopped at a drive thru of a fast food place to load up on burgers and fries.
The stories here on Spark people often describe similar toxic, sabotaging people in their lives. Even worse when it’s a family member who is supposed to love them.
The Texas doctor insists that the person seeking his help stop blaming others, making excuses and rationalizing their behavior. No surgery unless they are mentally and emotionally ready for the hard work in addition to losing a pre set amount of weight on their own. Therapy, both physical and emotional, are provided.
Several comments are common among the patients
I didn’t realize I weighed this much
How did I let it get to this point?
Why didn’t I do something earlier?
These are extreme cases, of course, but I have said those very things myself
I was prompted to write this by reading the recent blogs of 2 other sparkers.
If they could admit the similarities to their lives, so could I.
“My dirty little secret is that I watch 600 pound life. Now please do not judge me, I watch it because I feel for the people on the show”
“Just finished episode 1 of 1000 lb sisters. I'm addicted to that show as well as 600 lb life. It's a bit scary how similar their problems are to mine as far as food”
The last 2 decades have seen an explosion of reality TV shows. DH & I watch only one together – The Amazing Race. Our love of travel made it a favorite. We love seeing places we ourselves have been and those we would want to visit (although repelling off a cliff will never be part of our itinerary).
“My 600 pound Life” will not be a regular show on my list, but my brief time watching it has been a cautionary tale. “There but for fortune…?”
This song was written by Phil Ochs in 1963 in a different context.
I remember the Joan Baez (1964) version better.
Now that will be the song in my head as I seek to fan the flame of my somewhat flickering Spark.
Thank you, Sparkers for your comments on my last blog.
My “later” was somewhat in danger of becoming “why bother” or even “never”