• “My 600lb Life” is a TLC series which focuses on the weight loss journey of morbidly obese people, typically one person per episode.
• Participants typically weigh between 500 and 600 lbs, with some weighing more, at the start of each episode.
• Dr. Now – birth name Younan Nowzaradan – is the star of the show and helps patients with their weight loss journey through diet, exercise, and therapy sessions.
• Dr. Now has been hit with numerous lawsuits, mostly by “My 600-lb Life” participants, and Megalomedia, the production company behind the show, has also been sued.
• Success stories from the show include Melissa Morris, Donald Shelton, and Zsalynn Whitworth.
About “My 600lb Life”
The TLC series “My 600lb Life” first aired in 2012, and since then has shown the weight loss journey of hundreds of morbidly obese people, typically focusing on one person per episode. The participants of the show must juggle their food addictions with therapy sessions, dieting, a sometimes grueling exercise regimen, and much more over the course of a year.
At the beginning of each episode, most participants weigh between 500 and 600 pounds, well over 200kgs, with some weighing much more. A year after the original episodes are broadcast, filming begins for “Where Are They Now?” follow-up episodes. Despite most of these stories having happy endings, some participants have been known to die or suffer from health issues after their time on the show.
Dr. Now – birth name Younan Nowzaradan – is known for being the star of the show. The Iranian-American surgeon helps patients throughout their difficult weight loss journey, and in some cases, recommends them for sleeve gastrectomy or gastric bypass surgery. Dr. Now also stresses the importance of mental health, and is known to send his patients to counselling and therapy sessions to figure out the root causes of their food addiction, and other self-destructive behaviors.
“My 600lb Life” was originally intended to be a five-episode miniseries, focused on just four patients. However, the show was so popular and well-received that more episodes and then follow-ups were ordered. The format also underwent important changes; season one of the series was filmed from 2004 to 2011, whereas episodes of later seasons took between six and twelve months to film. Episodes doubled in length to two hours from season five onwards, and “Supersized” and “Extended” recap episodes allow viewers to enjoy unseen footage and behind-the-scenes info.
As bariatric surgery is so costly, American health insurance doesn’t cover the expenses. However, Dr. Now doesn’t charge his patients either; instead, TLC pays them $1,500 for appearing in the show, and offers them a further $2,500 to cover moving expenses if they need to relocate to Texas, where Dr. Now resides. Some fans of the show wonder how Dr. Now earns a living if he doesn’t charge patients anything, but as it happens, most of the costs are covered by TLC.
Samantha Mason was one of the most memorable participants of “My 600lb Life”; her episode aired between late 2020 and early 2021, and has been viewed millions of times. Samantha had spent years working as a fetish model, and was paid handsomely to actually eat on camera; however, she turned to TLC for help when her weight gain spiraled out of control.
Figures for Samantha’s exact weight at the start of the episode vary, with some sources claiming that the TV personality weighed over 800lbs. Samantha’s TikTok bio reveals that she allegedly weighed 950 pounds: in October 2020, she confirmed that she had lost 320 pounds (145 kilos) in just five months.
In another TikTok, which Samantha recorded from her hospital bed after undergoing weight-loss surgery, she added that she would be entering rehab to cope with her food addiction. “I’m taking advantage of everything that I possibly can in here while I’m trying to heal,” Samantha said. When asked whether her experience on “My 600-lb Life” was positive or negative, Samantha was scornful of the show, accusing its creators of maltreatment, and describing it as “being ridiculed on national TV”. The TikTok star also sensationally claimed that her “candid” conversations with Dr. Now were scripted.
Since appearing in “My 600-lb Life”, Samantha has been the victim of online trolling and abuse, with many detractors disagreeing with her lifestyle. “What you watched on that show is me shooting up my heroin,” Samantha eloquently explained. “That fork was my crack pipe, and that cake was my crack, and you watched me do it.”
Apparently, Samantha ‘didn’t think the show was as horrible as it is’ when she signed up to be one of Dr. Now’s patients. Nevertheless, every cloud has a silver lining, as the social media sensation is currently making slow but steady progress on her weight loss journey.
The well-known doctor, author, and TV personality Dr. Now, was born in October 1944 and hails from Tehran, Iran. Specializing in bariatric and vascular surgery, Dr. Now shot to fame thanks to his passion project, “My 600-lb Life”.
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Dr. Now graduated from the University of Tehran with a Doctor of Medicine degree in 1970. He soon moved to the US due to the shortage of jobs in his home country, and began by participating in Saint Louis University’s Medical Orientation Program. He also did a Rotating Surgical Internship at St. John Hospital.
As of 2022, Dr. Now worked with Houston Obesity Surgery and practiced at local hospitals. Being an expert in the field of laparoscopy and obesity, he has also published many papers on the topics, which have been cited hundreds of times.
“My 600-lb Life” may be Dr. Now’s best-known series, but he’s also appeared in three episodes of “Body Shock”: namely, “Half Ton Teen”, “Half Ton Mum”, and “Half Ton Dad”. He’s also a bestselling author, who’s published two works to date: “The Scale Does Not Lie, People Do” and “Last Chance to Live”. Prior to becoming a household name, Dr. Now would visit Six Flags Astroworld and other theme parks in Texas, giving speeches to young audiences with the aim of promoting healthy lifestyles.
Although little is known about the doctor’s personal life, we know that he married Delores McRedmond in 1975, but they divorced in the early 2000s. The former couple share three children; one of them, Jonathan, works as a producer and director of “My 600-lb Life”, but his siblings have shown no interest in working in the entertainment industry.
At the 2016 ObesityHelp National Conference, Dr. Now explained of his work: “We continue to try to provide education for everyone. That’s the reason I started the television series, to make an impression on the medical community that they should take care of these patients.” He also stressed the importance of a show which would help change biased opinions about morbidly obese people.
Despite being a public figure, Dr. Now isn’t a fan of giving interviews. After being fired by TLC in April 2022 due to numerous lawsuits – a situation which has left many of his patients in a legal limbo, as they await the surgery they were previously approved for – news outlets sought him out to hear his side of the story. However, Dr. Now has maintained a dignified silence throughout.
Dr. Now’s legal woes began years ago, and he has since been hit with a staggering number of lawsuits that can take years to resolve. Reliable sources also confirm that he’s been dropped by his insurance company, which refuses to cover his newest patients, which paid for Dr. Now’s work and additional care, was the backbone of “600-lb Life”. As they stopped covering Dr. Now’s expenses, TLC realized that having the surgeon on their show would no longer be profitable for the network.
It’s been claimed that participants were given two options: stay in Texas and be operated on by a different doctor of Dr. Now’s practice, or move to another state to be operated on by physicians associated with the network. Even if these patients find a solution, it’ll be a challenge for TLC to replace Dr. Now, as he’s become synonymous with the show after so many years.
Dr. Now has been sued for malpractice various times over the years, mostly by “My 600-lb Life” participants who appeared in the show and were dissatisfied with the results. The surgeon, who is also known for being a blunt and controversial figure, has often berated patients, and even stopped working with them for failing to adhere to his strict rules.
One of the first lawsuits Dr. Now was hit with came in 2007. Colleen Shephard sued the doctor when her family member, Tina, died a year after being operated on by the surgeon. Colleen claimed that Dr. Now failed to follow up on Tina’s health or provide her with the necessary aftercare; Dr. Now refuted the claims, alleging that Tina failed to attend the mandatory follow-up appointments.
When “My 600-lb Life” premiered in 2012, Dr. Now was sued by two patients. One claimed that he had misdiagnosed her husband, whereas the other alleged that the surgeon punctured her colon after leaving a 6-inch piece of tubing inside her following an operation; both lawsuits were dismissed.
Years later, another patient sued for $250 million, claiming that Dr. Now’s negligence had negatively impacted her abdominoplasty procedure; the case was thrown out of court in 2018. Dr. Now has an ongoing lawsuit as of 2022, filed by the family members of one of his older patients, who claim that he left a stainless steel connector and tubes inside the 72-year-old woman.
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Megalomedia, the production company behind “My 600-lb Life”, has also been sued on at least two occasions: once by family members of participant L.B Bonner, who claim that he was pressured into filming, and not provided with adequate mental health aftercare, and once by David Bolton.
The lawsuit between Megalomedia and David Bolton is ongoing, as the latter also claims that the production company failed to provide him the necessary mental health assistance after filming for the show. According to the families of both participants, Megalomedia didn’t cover all the expenses that they had promised to pay. David has also cited mental distress after allegedly being forced to pay for his surgery and post-surgical care.
Where Are They Now?
Samantha is far from the only star to emerge from “600-lb Life”. Season one alum Melissa Morris weighed a staggering 653lbs before her gastric bypass surgery, and became unrecognizable after shedding over 80% of her body weight in a matter of months. Motherhood was the next thing on the cards for her, despite it hindering her progress somewhat.
In a “Where Are They Now?” special episode, Melissa confessed: “I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be when you have kids and have food for them around you all day long… it’s hard to stick to a diet.” Despite her weight fluctuating a few times over the years, Melissa remains dedicated to her wellbeing, and is raising her children to develop and maintain healthy habits.
Donald Shelton, who also appeared in the show’s first season, weighed just 295 pounds after being operated on, compared to his original 675. Sadly, he was diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder Guillain-Barré syndrome, which causes the immune system to damage the nerves. In little time, Donald had put 200 pounds back on, but worked hard to lose them again – and keep them off. These days, Donald is wheelchair-bound but tries to do as many activities as possible, for the benefit of his mental and physical health.
Last on the list is Zsalynn Whitworth, who initially weighed over 600lbs in her episode, which aired in 2014. After having gastric bypass surgery, Zsalynn lost almost half her body weight, and her life would continue to undergo many changes. In a special episode that aired the following year, the bubbly blonde revealed that she and her husband had divorced, as he “hadn’t found much good in [her] changes.”
Zsalynn, who is currently a single mother residing in Texas, has shown no intention of getting back out into the dating world. With that said, many viewers were glad to learn that she and her husband had divorced, as they were of the opinion that he wished to control her via her food addiction and keep her solely dependent on him. Whatever the case, Zsalynn’s quality of life has definitely improved since her brief stint on the small screen and she is one of the many success stories of “My 600lb Life”.
Despite reports of Dr. Now being fired by TLC, the show has been renewed for an eleventh season which will air in February 2023, and it appears that the surgeon will be returning to screens for the newest episodes. It remains unclear whether these episodes were filmed before he was fired in April 2022, or if he’s reached an agreement with the network and his insurance company.