What is “My 600-Lb Life”?
Since 2012, the TLC network has aired “My 600-lb Life”, with each episode following a morbidly obese person for a year, and chronicling the ups and downs of their weight loss (or weight gain) journey. A verifiable rollercoaster ride of emotions, meltdowns and occasional setbacks, “600-lb Life” pushes its participants to the limit to see how committed they are to turning their lives around.
Most of the participants weigh at least 600lbs at the beginning of the episode, while others weigh over 500. One or more patients are featured in the update episodes, entitled “Where Are They Now?”, which begin over a year after the original episodes air. Sadly, some of these follow-up episodes end in medical complications or death, although many have happy endings.
The Iranian-American surgeon Younan Nowzaradan, known as Dr. Now, oversees the patients’ weight loss journeys, and starts them off with a strict diet. In extreme cases, he offers sleeve gastrectomy surgery or gastric bypasses to help them shed the pounds, but patients will have to work even harder to maintain the results, with exercise and healthy eating.
“600-lb Life” started off as a miniseries with five parts and just four patients, but it was so popular that extra episodes and follow-ups were filmed. The first season followed patients from 2004 to 2011, whereas in season eight, some patients were only filmed for six months. Episode lengths also increased in season five, from one hour to two, and there are “Supersized” and “Extended” recap episodes, including unseen footage and additional facts.
As bariatric surgery is costly, American insurance doesn’t cover the procedure. Fans of the show wonder how Dr. Now is paid, and how the costs are addressed, as apparently, the doctor doesn’t charge patients for participating in the show. He told Houstonia magazine: “We don’t need to be rich. We do make a living, but we don’t need to worry about making a living out of every patient we see.”
“My 600-lb Life” actually pays participants $1,500 for appearing in the show. As many patients have to relocate to Texas to be closer to Dr. Now, they are also offered a $2,500 moving benefit by the network.
Dr. Now was born in Tehran, Iran, in October 1944. The doctor, author, and TV personality specializes in bariatric and vascular surgery, and shot to fame after helping dozens of people on “My 600-lb Life”, which has been his passionate project since 2012.
The doctor is of Assyrian heritage and graduated from the University of Tehran in 1970 with a Doctor of Medicine degree. He moved to the United States due to its ample work opportunities, and to participate in Saint Louis University’s Medical Orientation Program before doing a Rotating Surgical Internship in Michigan’s St. John Hospital. The mediatic professional is also a fellow of the American College of Surgeons.
Currently, Dr. Now is affiliated with the Texas-based Houston Obesity Surgery, and practices at various local hospitals. He’s published many reputable papers on laparoscopy and obesity, and has proven himself to be an expert in his field.
Apart from appearing in “My 600-lb Life”, Dr. Now has made cameos on “Body Shock”, specifically the episodes “Half Ton Mum”, “Half Ton Dad”, and “Half Ton Teen”. The two books he’s published to date between 2017 and 2019 are entitled “The Scale Does Not Lie, People Do”, and “Last Chance to Live”. Surprisingly, he used to go to Six Flags Astroworld and other Texan theme parks to promote healthy lifestyles amongst the youth.
Dr. Now is an elusive and reserved figure, whose personal life is an enigma to viewers. In 1975, he married Delores McRedmond, but divorced after almost three decades of union. The couple share three children: one of them, Jonathan, is working as producer and director for his dad’s TV show.
Shockingly, in April 2022 it was reported that the famous doctor had been fired from his own show, because of all the lawsuits piling up against him. This means that many patients who were approved for surgery are now stuck in a legal limbo, and they could be waiting for a while yet, because TLC has no plans to bring the doctor back to their network. But why?
The lawsuits Dr. Now is facing are pricey, and take a long time to resolve, whereas the insurance company that pays for the surgeon’s work and additional care are finding him a liability and have allegedly dropped him as well – also refusing to cover his latest patients.
Cast members were allegedly offered the chance to relocate, and be operated on by other TLC-associated physicians, or get surgery from the doctor currently working out of Dr. Now’s practice if they didn’t wish to move. The future of “600-lb Life” remains uncertain: only time will tell if TLC rebrands the series, cancels it, or replaces Dr. Now with a less offensive character.
Dr. Now has fared plenty of controversy over the years. In April 2021, it was revealed that he had been hit with numerous malpractice lawsuits, most of them coming from disgruntled “600-lb Life” patients. The doctor, who is known for his no-nonsense attitude, and rarely admits to being wrong, has had several verbal spats with patients while filming, due to his sharp tongue.
The doctor’s first lawsuit came in 2007 when he was sued by Colleen Shephard when her family member, Tina, died a year after gastric bypass surgery. Colleen claims that Dr. Now neglected following up on Tina, whereas he claims that he called for follow-up appointments, but she never showed up.
The year “600-lb Life” aired, Dr. Now had to navigate more bad press, as he was sued twice, although both suits were later dismissed. One patient claimed that her husband had been improperly diagnosed by the doctor; the other alleged that Dr. Now had punctured her colon by leaving a 6-inch piece of tubing inside her.
Yet another disgruntled patient claimed that Dr. Now had botched her abdominoplasty procedure, and sued him for $250 million, but was dismissed in 2018. Finally, Dr. Now is currently being sued by the family members of a 72-year-old woman who claim that he left a stainless steel connector and tubes inside her. The claim was filed a few years ago and is ongoing.
Mega News! We've been nominated for a Broadcast Digital Award for Selfie Shootout on CBBC!
— Megalomedia (@Megalomedia_Ltd) May 19, 2017
Megalomedia, the production company behind “My 600-lb Life”, has also received complaints and faced legal action. The family of participant L.B Bonner accused the company of gross negligence, claiming that Megalomedia pressured L.B into filming, and didn’t provide adequate mental health follow-up after his stint on the show.
David Bolton also claims that Megalomedia failed to provide mental health assistance, and has an ongoing lawsuit with the production company. The families of both participants also say that Megalomedia and the show didn’t cover all the medical expenses they promised to. David’s lawsuit read: “Defendants co-ordinated the handling of billing for the surgery and post-surgical care… Defendants did not [pay for all charges], forcing Plaintiff to pay and for Plaintiff to be subjected to bill collection efforts, adding to his mental distress.”
The Assanti Brothers
The Assanti brothers are some of the show’s most controversial participants. When their episode aired in 2017, they became known for all the drama and tension they caused, most of it unnecessary. Justin was the calmer brother; weighing 600 pounds, he was keen to lose weight and followed his diet and exercise plan diligently – whereas Steven, who threw several tantrums and stole the show for the worst of reasons, weighed almost 800.
Surprisingly, the brothers stayed out of the spotlight after their episode aired, but retain a moderate following. They have also updated fans on their progress via social media; both of them are doing well on their separate health journeys, but don’t seem to be on the best of terms right now, which is unsurprising given how many times they clashed during their episode.
In 2018, Steven tied the knot with his long-time girlfriend Stephanie. In an interview given the same year, she explained that he was nothing like his bad-tempered on-screen persona. “He has a heart of gold,” she said. “Steven is nothing like how was perceived on the TV show at all… He’s a gentleman and a fantastic lover, and lover of life in general.”
Steven also spoke to Nicki Swift two years later, and claimed that the producers deliberately left out his good qualities. “They filmed me and my family doing good things too, but they chose to just show the bad things,” he griped. During his episode, Steven was often seen lashing out at people, taking copious amounts of painkillers, and generally acting insufferably.
Stephanie and Steven’s blissful union was short-lived, as she separated and moved into her own place 90 minutes away, as she was unable to cope with the spotlight and scrutiny. “I love her with all my heart and she loves me. We’re just in two different households right now,” Steven told Nicki Swift. Fans will also be interested in knowing that Steven has maintained his figure since undergoing gastric bypass surgery.
His brother, Justin, has been faring considerably better. The mellower Assanti sibling’s store, named Hobby Haven, is thriving, and helps him get out of the house and cope with his crippling social anxiety. The downside is that since Steven married, the rest of the family have barely heard from him. So, does Justin agree that the show’s producers exaggerated aspects of their story? Yes, but he also concurred that Steven was a nightmare during filming.
“Steven on the show is Steven in real life,” Justin confirmed in a now-deleted Reddit AMA. “It’s one of the few things not scripted.” It’s been a while since his last TV appearance, and Justin seems to have no desire to return to the public eye, though since his episode aired, we’re pleased to confirm he’s lost another 200 pounds, and is working on many more to go.
If you enjoy morbidly fascinating shows such as “My 600-lb Life”, TLC has a whole host of similar reality TV offerings, with one of them being “One Big Happy Family”. The Cole family – made up of husband and wife Norris and Tameka, and their teen kids Amber and Shayne who were aged 14 and 16 at the time – all weighed over 300 pounds and were on the verge of developing diabetes and other conditions, unless they made drastic lifestyle changes.
Amber and Shayne were the ones to encourage their parents to shed the necessary weight back in 2009; the show aired in the same year. The Cole family resided in Charlotte, North Carolina, home of soul food and hundreds of fast food restaurants, so it wasn’t an easy feat for them – but thanks to a combination of diet, exercise, and plenty of willpower, they managed to get the situation under control before it was too late.
However, the show didn’t go down well with everyone. As one acid-penned journalist of Michigan Daily said: “Having finally wrung every possible dollar out of the Gosselin clan, TLC has moved on to exploiting people with more pressing problems than an overabundance of sickeningly sweet toddlers… While the show’s predictability simply makes it boring, its offensiveness makes it downright uncomfortable to watch.”
The ladies are off to Florida!☀️🥂 Watch their vacation on #1000lbBestFriends.
Posted by TLC on Friday, March 4, 2022
“One Big Happy Family” was criticized for its scripted conflict – which was always magically resolved by the end of the episode – and the caricatural ways the Cole family were depicted. From pouring hot grease on calorie-laden turkey burgers, and living sedentary lifestyles, to developing superhuman willpower overnight and refusing to discuss anything not related to weight loss, the Coles veered from one dangerous extreme to another, and viewers were never able to glimpse their real personalities.
Unsurprisingly, “One Big Happy Family” wasn’t renewed for a second season. The Coles faded into relative obscurity when the show was quietly pulled, and there are no public updates regarding their health as of 2022. However, TLC recently announced a new show named “1000-lb Best Friends”, clearly capitalizing on the success of the 1000-lb Dalton sisters: it has been speculated that the show will replace Dr. Now and “My 600-lb Life”.