The producers of the long-running reality television series, “My 600-lb Life,” have always warned the viewers that in the world of super-morbidly obese people who were trying to lose weight, less than five percent of them would have the chance to be successful in the long term. Death, while a sore subject, was a foregone conclusion for those who can’t stop consuming an excessive amount of food, even after undergoing a weight-loss program including a gastric bypass or bariatric surgery. Ever since the TV series was launched in 2012, over 100 people weighing over 600lbs have been featured in the show. While there were many amazing life-changing weight-loss journeys, sadly, over 10 of them have died, mostly from ‘natural causes’, but there have been a few who apparently took their own lives.
- 1 The premise of the “My 600-lb Life”
- 2 The 11 known tragic deaths in “My 600-lb Life”
- 2.1 Henry Foots (May 2013)
- 2.2 Rob Buchel (November 2017)
- 2.3 James LB Bonner (August 2018)
- 2.4 Lisa Fleming (August 2018)
- 2.5 Kelly Mason (February 2019)
- 2.6 Sean Milliken (February 2019)
- 2.7 James King (April 2020)
- 2.8 Coliesa McMillian (2020)
- 2.9 Renee Biran (2021)
- 2.10 Gina Krasley (2021)
- 2.11 Ashley Randall (2021)
The premise of the “My 600-lb Life”
TLC has been airing the reality-TV series, “My 600-lb Life,” for a decade now, and has received many complaints about how they’ve presented its subject.
Some critics called it a freak show of people eating themselves to death, but “My 600-lb Life” was as real as it can get, so that it became uncomfortable for some to watch. According to an article from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, about 500 million adults in the world are obese. In the US alone, on average, one out of three adults is obese. The average weight of an individual reflects a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 to 24.9, the overweight fall between 25 to 29.9 BM, while anyone with a BMI of over 30 are in the obese classification. However, what the TV show focused on were those individuals who were way beyond this category, those with a BMI of 40 or more, which falls into the morbidly obese with a weight of over 600lbs, about 270kgs, hence the title.
Each episode of the TV series featured a super-morbidly obese individual, who confessed that he or she needed medical intervention to prevent early death. A consultation with the renowned bariatric surgeon and weight-loss specialist Dr. Younan Nowzaradan, more popularly known as Dr. Now, was the first step in the journey.
The no-nonsense Iranian doctor would cut through the excuses of the patient, and wouldn’t give any concessions to victimhood. He emphasized accountability, and that the weight-loss program would only be successful if the patient was serious about losing weight. He was not only giving the patients a way out of their health problems but al,so teaching them how to wrestle back control over their lives. To qualify for the weight-loss surgery, each patient must lose a required number of pounds through a restrictive low carb, low-calorie diet, to reduce the risk of surgery complications.
The 11 known tragic deaths in “My 600-lb Life”
The main reason that “My 600-lb Life” has been a huge hit for the past 10 years is that it actually gave hope to people afflicted with obesity. However, not all of the cases tackled in the show ended successfully. The individuals featured were already on borrowed time, due to their complicated health issues – here are their stories.
Henry Foots (May 2013)
The first person who reportedly passed away had successful weight-loss surgery, and the viewers witnessed his transformation from his initial weight of 715lbs to 275lbs during the first season of “My 600-lb Life.”
Dr. Now was immensely proud of the way Henry followed his diet, as it wasn’t an easy journey; Henry was quite serious about losing weight. There was even a time when his heart stopped beating during one of his excess skin removal operations. After his stint with the TV show, he was presumably living a normal life once again, even returning to his regular job of being a shuttle bus driver. However, in November 2012, it was reported that he passed out while driving the bus, ran into another vehicle, and killed a bystander. About six months after the accident, news came that he’d died, but details about the cause of death were quite sparse, except that it wasn’t connected to his weight-loss issues.
Rob Buchel (November 2017)
During the sixth season, a few participants reportedly died, and Rob Buchel’s death was the first to be featured, as it occurred while filming the TV show. While viewers along with his mother and girlfriend were hopeful for a successful result, most of them weren’t that shocked about the unfortunate outcome.
Robert Buchel's fiancée Kathryn Lemanski reflects on 'My 600-lb Life' star's death: "I've been called a murderer." 💔 —> https://bit.ly/2A5qBVC
Posted by Life & Style Weekly on Thursday, October 11, 2018
He was in a quite dire situation when he entered Dr. Now’s program, as he was about 850lbs-heavy, about 400kgs, and was suffering from painkiller addiction as well. Despite his initial struggles, he did well and lost about 350 pounds before, during and after his bariatric surgery. However, the weight-loss journey was not only exhausting physically but also mentally, and Rob went into depression. This mental health problem coupled with the removal of a lymphedema mass made him return to his painkiller dependency, and in the process of trying to get the pills, he tore some of his stitches. Dr. Now was frustrated with the medical system, as he believed that it had somehow enabled his patient’s re-addiction. Rob eventually suffered a heart attack, and died in November 2017.
James LB Bonner (August 2018)
His story was supposedly one of the successful journeys in “My 600-lb Life”, and he easily became one of the fan favorites in the sixth season of the TV show. James LB Bonner was an adopted child, as his parents wanted a son after having three daughters.
Even as a kid, LB found extra comfort in food, and started gaining excess weight when he was around five years old. He lost his foot during an ATV accident in 2013, and gained more weight. His mother then brought him to participate in a few weight-loss programs, but he got worse when he sought solace in alcohol. Things changed when he got into Dr. Now’s weight-loss program, and his weight scaled down from 650lbs to 270lbs, or from almost 120t 300kgs to about. Everybody around him was happy about his progress, including the fans, as he was starting to become a social media star at that time. His family thought he was doing great until on 2 August 2018, when he was found with a self-inflicted single bullet gunshot to his head. It left his family perplexed, because the day before he died, he even prepped his meals for that week. After what happened to LB, his family encouraged others via social media to seek help before it’s too late.
Lisa Fleming (August 2018)
A lot of people were frustrated about Lisa Fleming’s story, because they were reminded that real change must come from within.
When her daughter found maggots inside the folded parts of her skin, it persuaded Lisa to follow Dr. Now’s strict diet and regimen. She was about 700lbs, 320kgs when medical professionals came to take her from her house. Lisa initially did well, and lost some weight, but only when she was under the watchful eyes of the medical team. The moment she was back at home, her old habits kicked in, manipulating everyone around her so that she could return to her food addiction. Eventually, Dr. Now booted her out of the program, as he didn’t want to waste time and effort on people who were unwilling to change. It was reported that she died in August 2018, a year after she was last seen on “My 600-lb Life.” Lisa was the third person who passed away from the sixth season of the series.
Kelly Mason (February 2019)
When Kelly Mason was featured in the seventh season of the show, fans rooted for her. From the get-go, everyone knew including Kelly herself that it would take a lot before she became a weight-loss success story.
She had many health problems to begin with, such as congestive heart issues, high blood pressure, blood clots, and diabetes along with arthritis. However, she was dedicated to seeking a better life with Dr. Now’s help. In her initial weigh-in, she was over 700lbs, 320kgs, but she eventually lost about 320lbs or 150kgs after her bariatric surgery, and she was in the process of losing more, as she was following the doctor’s orders. However, on 15 February 2019, she passed away in her sleep, captured on camera since she was filming when it happened. Her heart had eventually given up after years of food addiction.
Sean Milliken (February 2019)
Sean Milliken was one of the heaviest to participate in the weight-loss program of Dr. Now. His initial weight was close to 900lbs, over 420kgs, but the guy who loved to crochet eventually lost hundreds of pounds, and inspired many people. Despite his initial struggles, Sean worked on his issues and had regained his mobility control after losing about 400lbs, and was one of the success stories featured in the fourth season.
However, in 2018 his mother died due to renal failure, and he was devastated; he was forced to evacuate his Houston apartment since his mother was no longer around, having only moved to that apartment to be nearer to Dr. Now in 2017. It didn’t take long for Sean to encounter many issues, such as complications from an infection that led him to be confined to a hospital, and he eventually just stopped breathing in February 2019.
James King (April 2020)
One of the tragic stories highlighted in the fifth season of “My 600-lb Life” was the unsuccessful weight-loss journey of James King. Dr. Now repeatedly reminded everyone that the only way for anyone to lose weight was when they decide to change their habits. James weighed close to 850lbs, over 400kgs when he first visited Dr. Now’s clinic. His father refinanced his home just so he could bring James to Dr. Now. His daughter eventually dropped out of school to assist him every day since he was already immobile.
Despite the many opportunities that the doctor gave James to enter his program, he failed to qualify because he wasn’t committed to it, and actually gained more weight. The doctor discovered that James’ girlfriend was an enabler to his food addiction, as she would bring food while James was already in the hospital. Dr. Now even called the Adult Protection Services to report the girlfriend. Eventually, he was dismissed from the program, and without any medical supervision, he died on 3 April 2020 from organ failure.
Coliesa McMillian (2020)
Coliesa McMillan died in September 2020. In one of her interviews, she said that her heart was a ticking time bomb, and knew that she wouldn’t survive another attack unless she fixed herself. On the day she went to Dr. Now’s clinic, she was anxious that she wouldn’t make it to the weigh-in as her legs were quite swollen, but she did – her initial weigh-in was 650lbs, over 300kgs.
She was required to lose 100lbs, about 45kgs to be admitted to the program, and her heart problems also needed to be addressed, as Dr. Now said that it was too weak to handle the weight-loss surgery.
Coliesa worked on it, and she was eventually cleared by the cardiologist for surgery. The operation was successful and she lost a total of 150lbs by the end of the episode. However, the doctor told her that she still had a long journey ahead of her, to reach her ultimate goal, but Coliesa said she was feeling so much better. Unfortunately, six months after her episode was aired in the eighth season of the TV show, she reportedly died due to acute kidney failure, along with complications related to her past surgeries.
Renee Biran (2021)
Renee Biran was the fourth individual from the sixth season who died. She was a plus-sized model, and was extremely proud of it. However, when she started to have problems because of her weight, which ballooned close to 650lbs, over 300kgs, she sought treatment from Dr. Now. Her case was quite memorable, because even before she made it to the doctor’s clinic, she had breathing problems while driving her car, and called the doctor for advice. Renee was told to proceed to the nearest emergency room.
Later on, she shed the necessary pounds to qualify for gastric bypass surgery. She lost a total of 250lbs or 110kgs, and during her last weigh-in in 2018, she was down to 380lbs. Renee was determined to lose more, and was in the process of trying to get more surgery for the removal of her excess skin. However, she was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome in early 2019, and it wasn’t known if she was able to withstand surgery. Based on her social media posts back then, she was still trying to achieve her weight goal, and was rumored to have married in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, her family informed everyone through a Facebook post that Renee passed away on 14 May 2021; no cause of death was mentioned.
Gina Krasley (2021)
Not all who went to consult with Dr. Now were admitted to his weight-loss program and, that was the case with Gina Krasley – her story was included in the eighth season of the TV show aired in 2020. When she started to have problems in taking care of herself, and relied too much on her wife, Beth, she went to Dr. Now to undergo bariatric surgery.
However, she couldn’t shed the required number of pounds to qualify for it – her initial weigh-in result was over 600lbs, and the doctor told her to get rid of 50lbs. On her next appointment, instead of losing weight, she had gained more, though claiming that she’d tried so hard. The doctor gave her another chance, and told her wife to stop being her enabler.
The couple went to therapy, and on Gina’s next appointment, she lost five pounds and then 20lbs after that. The doctor was happy that she was making progress, most especially when she lost close to 50lbs which qualified her to do the surgery. Unfortunately, during the final weigh-in before her scheduled surgery, it was found out that she’d gained more weight, so her surgery was canceled. She couldn’t change her eating habits, so lost the chance to get the help that she needed. In August 2021, news came that she’d passed away, but for some reason, her family didn’t disclose the cause of her death.
Ashley Randall (2021)
Ashley Randall’s story was the fourth to be featured in the first season of “My 600-lb Life.”
My 600-lb Life star Ashley Randall dead at 40 https://soapdirt.com/my-600-lb-life-ashley-randall-dead-at-40/
Posted by My 600-Lb Life News on Sunday, October 3, 2021
She wasn’t the biggest, as her weight was around 620lbs nearly 300kgs when she entered Dr. Now’s weight-loss program. Her case was documented on the TV show for seven years, and viewers witnessed her lose weight through surgeries, including gastric bypass and excess skin removal. She kept on working hard to reach her weight goal, and while her progress was slow as compared to the others, her weight eventually went down to 215lbs, less than 100kgs. She went back to school, and later worked as a coach to kids playing baseball. There were times she would gain weight, but she worked on her issues so she would lose it again.
Ashley was one of the early success stories in the TV show, and it inspired many viewers to make that change. The last time she was on screen, she said that there was one thing she wasn’t able to remove, and that was the excess skin in her legs along with the excess fluid in them. It was quite sad that in October 2021, it was reported that she died battling pneumonia.