• Octavia Nichelle was chosen as the participant for the first episode of the show’s seventh season in 202•
• Octavia blamed her extreme weight on her rough childhood and the trauma she carried with her into adulthood.
• She was evaluated by Dr. Now over a conference call, who put her on a strict diet and some exercises to do from her bed.
• After the program, she had lost 236 lbs in total and kept the weight off with a total lifestyle change.
• She is now a content creator and entrepreneur, has a positive relationship with food, is physically active, and is helping others through her weight loss journey.
In 2012, TLC introduced “My 600-lb Life,” an American reality television series that would document the weight loss journeys of participants weighing over 600 pounds. The show promised to link up severely obese participants with Younan Nowzaradan, a Houston-based surgeon known as Dr. Now, who places contestants on a strict diet, observes their progress, and performs a gastric bypass surgery or sleeve gastrectomy as necessary to further aid in their weight loss. The show then follows up with the patient a year later, to check where they are on their weight loss journey. Since its first episode aired in 2021, the show has run consistently for 10 seasons, despite facing backlash for purportedly exploiting its participants’ trauma, and shaming them for their weight.
Octavia Nichelle was chosen as the participant for the first episode of the show’s seventh season, which aired on 2 January 2019. When the show introduced Nichelle, she’d been bound to her bed for a year, and hadn’t moved about beyond her home for years. She’d gone for more than 12 months without any form of movement beyond sitting up for her meals, rolling over to use the bed pad to relieve herself, and rolling back to the other side of the bed to sleep. Nichelle was a 42-year-old woman living in Kansas City, Missouri, and weighed 692. pounds (314kgs). Having not moved for a long time, she couldn’t get out of bed by herself and relied on her roommate, Tyesha, and sister Desire, who were also obese at close to 300-lbs, and friend who weighed over 450 lbs to bring her food and run other errands for her.
Octavia blamed her extreme weight on her rough childhood. Her parents separated when she was a young girl, after which her mother had a string of relationships which came with a fair share of problems, to which Octavia and her siblings were exposed while growing up. When her mother remarried, the family lived with her new husband, who became the children’s stepfather, but who was violent towards Octavia’s mother, and abusive towards the children – Octavia alleged that the man molested her. Without any support, Octavia turned to food for comfort and solace, beginning her struggle with food and weight. The more problems she experienced at home, the more Octavia ate, leading to progressive weight gain throughout her teenage years – at 13, Octavia weighed 300 lbs, gained 100 pounds in three years and weighed 400 lbs when she was 16, and when she was 20 she weighed 500 pounds.
The unresolved childhood trauma that Octavia carried into adulthood was compounded by the loss of her mother, who passed away when Octavia was 25 years old, leaving Octavia with the responsibility of taking care of her younger sister, Desire, but who later married. Desire remained part of Octavia’s life, and was one of the three women who ensured that Octavia had food supplies, a clean house, and good personal hygiene when she was immobilized due to her weight. After a year of being confined to her bed, Octavia accepted that it was time for her to do something about her weight, and sent in her application to be featured in “My 600-Lb Life”, and so benefit from Dr. Now’s expertise.
Since she was immobilized, Octavia couldn’t travel to Houston for a physical evaluation with Dr. Now, so had it over a conference call. In his typical candor, Dr. Now told Octavia that she was extremely unhealthy, was probably close to death and deduced that her friends and sister were enabling her weight and food problem. In his evaluation, the doctor considered two things – first, Octavia’s diet was highly unhealthy. She would have a large plate of nachos with sour cream for breakfast, a huge plate of ribs and French fries for lunch, and an equally large plate for dinner. Second, after ingesting the high-calorie meals, she would remain immobile, day and night. Her unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle prevented her from burning calories, compounding her weight problem.
After the initial evaluation, Dr. Now put Octavia on a strict diet that was high in protein and low in carbs, and recommended some exercises that she could do without leaving her bed. His advice was based on his belief that the weight loss journey requires commitment, which any potential patient must show by following a strict diet and exercise regimen to prove that they are willing to endure the physically and mentally trying steps of his one-year program. Therefore, Octavia’s adherence to the diet and exercises would determine whether the doctor would accept Octavia into the program. An eager Octavia didn’t adhere to the instructions of the doctor, who would evaluate her on a future date to determine whether he would accept her into his program. Rather, she jumped the gun, and planned to move with her friend Nichelle to Houston, without Dr. Now’s authorization.
Since Octavia couldn’t walk, hadn’t left the house in over a year, and couldn’t fit in any regular car seat, she needed the help of the fire department to move her. When her friends and sister were done packing what she would need during her one-year stay in Houston, they called the fire department to help move her from the bed to a van that would take her to Houston. The EMTs put her on a stretcher, rolled her out of the house, and placed her on a mattress in the back of the van. An irate Dr. Now was caught off guard by Octavia’s decision, which had been unsanctioned and put her in danger, since she didn’t have any medical personnel with her on the journey to Houston. Fortunately he softened, drawn to the patient’s commitment to losing enough weight to qualify her for weight loss surgery, and had Octavia taken straight to the hospital for a check-up, before she began the program officially.
Therapy and Follow-Up
Initially, Octavia’s weight loss journey was smooth. Her determination was evident, as she kept up with her physical therapy, followed the prescribed diet, and showed up for all appointments with Dr. Now. In the first month she spent in Houston with the support of her friend Nichelle, Octavia lost 108 pounds, bringing her weight down to 584 pounds from an initial 692lbs. The fast weight loss sent Octavia to complacency, and she started missing some sessions, two psychotherapy appointments, and one session with the doctor. She gained back 62lbs as a result, and an additional 38 pounds the following month.
God is Amazing! 🙌🏽 #crayonsandchains #KC #weightlossjourney #my600poundlife #TLC #Houston #vsg #ssbbw…
Posted by The Life Of Octavia on Saturday, December 7, 2019
Dr. Now gave Octavia one last chance; the realization that she could lose the life-changing opportunity forced Octavia to commit to the program. Her renewed commitment was evident in her actions, such as volunteering to walk unassisted for the first time in years, accepting Dr. Now’s decision to hire a personal care aide for her, when it became evident that her friend couldn’t keep her accountable and self-awareness when she owned up to the part she played in her relapse.
Weight Loss Transformation
Octavia’s determination paid off. After seven months of therapy and diets, she’d lost 107lbs and weighed 585lbs. At nine months, she weighed 527 pounds, then att 11 months she had surgery, which brought her weight down to 456 pounds, so losing a total of 236 lbs in the show.
After completing the program, the responsibility of maintaining the diet, physical activity, and commitment to continuing her weight loss journey lay solely on Octavia’s shoulders, although she had the support of her friends and her sister. After leaving the show, some past patients had gained back the weight they lost through surgery, but determined not to turn out like them, Octavia committed to a total lifestyle change, and managed to not only keep the weight she lost in the show off, but also double it by losing the same amount of weight in the year after she completed the program. Octavia was featured on the show’s “Where Are They Now” segment, weighing 236 pounds (107kgs).
Beyond “My 600-LB Life”
Octavia has cultivated an image as a public figure and content creator. She is active on several social media platforms which she uses to keep her fans and followers updated on the progress she’s making in all aspects of her life. She runs a popular Facebook page called “The Life of Octavia”, through which she interacts with her 12,000 followers, on which she shares snippets of her moments in the show, videos of herself spending time with her family, and pictures of herself in different outfits, to encourage people struggling with excess weight not to lose hope in their weight loss journeys.
Everything I tried to accomplish today failed. Jesus please put the right people in my life. I’m so frustrated 😭
— Octavia Nichelle (@NichelleOctavia) June 28, 2020
Besides Facebook, Octavia keeps her fans and followers updated on her life on Instagram, on which she has 11,000 followers, identifying herself as a digital creator, and sharing pictures and videos of herself and her family. Her most recent posts include a picture of her sister in her graduation gown and cap after graduating with her Bachelor of Science degree in Health Administration, pictures of herself wearing jewelry from her business, and a sad update that her best friend had passed on. Occasionally,
Octavia shares encouraging messages for people who are struggling with obesity, advising her followers to stop making excuses, which she refers to as “pulling an Octavia,” and get to work on their eating habits. She recommends therapy for people on their weight loss journey, and posts pictures of filling and delicious yet low-calorie food for people who are trying to lose or manage their weight.
Octavia has taken her content creation journey to TikTok and YouTube. On the former, she creates and posts videos for her followers, sharing life updates, videos of herself spending time with her family, and resources that people can use to lose weight such as videos of healthy dinners she makes. On YouTube, she shares shorts of her TikTok videos, and on all her social media pages, Octavia constantly lets her fans know that she is doing well, enjoying her life post-weight loss, and working hard to maintain a healthy weight, a healthy relationship with food, and a determination to educate people on sustainable ways of losing weight without relapsing and gaining it back.
In addition to cultivating an image as a content creator and public figure, Octavia is an entrepreneur. She started a jewelry business in Houston, where she decided to live, to be close to the doctor after staying in the city for over a year while taking part in the weight loss program with Dr. Now. She named her business “Crayons and Chains”, making and selling custom jewelry, which she promotes on her social media pages.
Quality of Life
Since being on “My 600-Lb Life,” Octavia’s quality of life has improved significantly. She went from being bedridden and unable to walk to living a physically active life to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. The ability to leave her bed, walk around her house, pick up her deliveries without needing help from her friends and sister, and go out for walks improved her sense of independence, which gave her the courage to start her jewelry business.
After years of therapy, she developed a positive relationship with food, and managed to regulate her eating as evident on her social media where she posts videos of herself making and choosing healthy meals over take-out. Her overall health is better now and Octavia Nichelle is happier, more confident, and ready to educate more people on weight loss by cautioning them from doing unhealthy things for fast weight loss, using her mantra “Slow and steady wins the race.”