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Watching My 600-lb Life teaches you about self-control, patience and forgiveness

Having been bullied for her weight loss, Kuli Roberts says there are often emotional factors that lead to weight loss or the kind of weight gain we see on My 600-lb Life, a show that teaches empathy and respect
Thu, Feb 18, 2021

I'm not a huge fan of eating and I get cyberbullied on social media for it, but I'd rather take the bullying as I would never want to be as invaded as the women on the reality show on TLC, My 600-lb Life. It is an American reality series that follows the lives and challenges of obese people who want to lose weight, as weight loss is definitely difficult when you are that large and have had little discipline.

I can relate to the story of weight and cyberbullying as it's been a daily occurrence and being called "thin" is hardly an insult in my reality, but the sight of Dr Younan Nowzaradan's disappointed and mostly perplexed expression as his patient puts on weight inside a hospital while there to lose it, makes me cringe and definitely glues me to my chair. I remain glued hopes that the patient wins the battle with their weight and Nowzaradan succeeds in his quest for a healthier America.

I feel so frustrated and sorry for Nowzaradan whose disappointment is as obvious as Table Mountain on a sunny day. Unlike chef Gordon Ramsay's over-the-top rage for TV, the doctor is patient, kind, honest, supporting and genuinely looks like he cares about his patients' wellbeing, and not just for TV.

Most of the stories the women share are of abuse and neglect, both which could have been mitigated had someone else intervened. It's heartbreaking watching adult humans with all their limbs but still unable to use a bathroom and confined to sitting in their beds, in their own stools until assisted by mostly children who are exposed to cleaning private parts instead of being children. Where was society to help them before things got that bad?

Why are there so many enablers of such a dangerous and life-changing disease? Yes, we watch how their family members eat super-sized meals around a person who's meant to be dieting. Sometimes the enablers cook very large portions when there are only three people having the meal, and all I want to do is grab them out of the TV screen and tell them to stop.

But thankfully many of the people who appear on the show do lose the weight and you end up beaming with Nowzaradan as his face lights up under those thick eyebrows. You see that he is not only happy because they have lost the weight and are active, but they have also found a renewed zest for life.

As kind as he is, there are many challenges along the way, and you can always see the sadness and frustration as patients use every excuse in the book to explain why they gained weight while on his diet. The excuses are always accompanied by tears and mostly lies. But the good doctor never raises his voice and makes them understand without being condescending how much they are delaying their own progress.

Patients tend to take so much advantage of Nowzaradan that one even had the audacity to order fast food to be delivered into the hospital. I sometimes believe he should use fear and tell them they will have to lose the weight or possibly risk death. But not the cuddly-looking doctor who sports some bling around his neck these days. I can almost imagine him having a wicked sense of humour at home too.

Nowzaradan's goal seems to be as gentle as possible, to stand by the patient through weight loss and surgery without judgement and hostility. This is a man who listens to all the childhood trauma, a man who plays many roles, and not just of a surgeon but to 'reverse' all the years of abusive trauma. He takes each story with a quiet respect as if hearing it for the first time and is wise enough to call in psychologists when he thinks the patient could benefit from further help.

Watching My 600-lb Life teaches you about self-control, patience and forgiveness. Yes, I get cyberbullied for being too skinny, but I would rather we focused on the reasons people become too thin or too large as that might reflect a mental state. I'm fine but generally, stress resulted in me eating less, while being stress-free led to weight gain, to the delight of my children.

The women on the show are not to be ridiculed and must also realise that the obesity was caused by years of erosion cannot be lost in a few weeks. They are definitely fortunate to have Nowzaradan who is the perfect choice for much needed guidance and surgery. He reminds them that they you are worth it, and as I tuck into my fried onions and potatoes, I will remember his moderation and kindness.

  • My 600-lb Life is on TLC (DStv 135) at various times