Episode five of “Heavy” had the most ideal client pairing, Kevin, a 597 lb. 39-year-old father of three, and Flor, a 309 lb. 39-year-old mother of three. Besides being the same age, both had spouses and children who were also overweight. Both had families where food was an essential element of their bonding. And both had Type-2 diabetes. Kevin and Flor should have united over their commonalities, but from the beginning, they were on separate paths.
The episode began with Flor struggling to tie her shoes because her stomach, where she carried most of her weight, was so large. After giving birth to her three children and gaining more and more each time, she had reached a point where her day-to-day life was compromised. But it was a life Flor was comfortable with–she had accepted her fatness. Throughout her childhood, her mother constantly reminded her of it until Flor decided, “After hearing you’re fat so much, finally, it’s like, ‘Okay, okay I’m fat.’” She was molested by her stepfather as a young girl, driving her even closer to food, which became her source of comfort and safety. As a child, I felt the same as Flor. My father wasn’t in my life, and my mother, as a single mother, constantly worked, so when I needed someone, something, anything, there for me, it was food that filled the void. It became my best friend, my shoulder to cry on, my “corner man,” (Sorry to get all “Rocky” on you.), just as it had become for Flor. So, later in life, when her first marriage failed, food, again, was Flor’s support system. It was always there for her when she was most in need while simultaneously leading her down a road to a slow death, one she’d eventually have to walk with loose shoelaces. Now Flor was remarried and wanted to have another child with her husband, but her doctor strongly advised against it until she lost at least 70 lbs.
Like Flor, Kevin had always been fat. Throughout his childhood, he was called “Big Kev;” being big was who he was. It was part of his rep, something I can totally relate to as “a plate-cleaner” in my boyhood days–my plate and everyone else’s. Kevin’s weight was such a vital part of his identity that, according to his wife, he never really saw himself as overweight or obese. He just loved food and he didn’t know when to stop, but he knew his weight affected everyone in his family and was setting a bad example for his kids, who Kevin struggled to keep up with now. Kevin’s weight was also affecting his job as a high school sports coach. He couldn’t keep up there either and, again, was setting a bad example. He sweated profusely just barking out exercises to his team. As my overweight friend/personal trainer Carlos has told me many times, “Do what I say, not what I do.” Sometimes it just isn’t that easy though. Besides his weight, Kevin also had high blood pressure and sleep apnea, (And don’t forget that diabetes!) making it even more critical that he lose a significant amount of weight.
Despite all they had in common, Flor and Kevin never jelled. Flor was determined; like Ashley, she was in beast-mode. Her first few days she puked her brains out (During her first round of vomiting, Flor sounded like a pterodactyl in heat and then popped her head up from the trash can smiling.), but she couldn’t be stopped, losing weight steadily, like Jessica, and building her belief in herself. When Flor earned a reward of a movie or a phone call, Flor chose the flick. (I really hope it was “Mi Vida Loca” because she looked particularly gangster with her head shaved and the doo-rag.) She was there for herself and was going to take the month and focus on her goal. It wasn’t an easy decision, but David the trainer reminded her, “In order to help your family, you need to help yourself first.”
Kevin, on the other hand, wavered. When he first arrived at “the facility,” David searched his bags and found Butterfingers, Blow Pops and other candy, which incensed him. By now, you may have noticed I have a hetero man-crush on David. (I called him a country of muscle last week.) Do not fuck with him. “Big Kev” learned that quickly when David immediately pulled him out of his room for a quick work out, telling Kevin as he began sweating it up, “No more candy. No more chocolate. We’re here for your family. We’re here for your kids. We’re here for your life. We’re here to make a change.” Kevin saw the results fast, too. His weight loss was rapid initially (21 lbs. in the first week and another 15 the second week), but then slowed, which was when David and Britny did a surprise search of Kevin’s room and found contraband, cookies. They do not mess around at “the facility,” and Kevin had reached his breaking point, leading to my favorite moment in the short television history of “Heavy” (Sorry, Rickywayne.): Kevin crying and blubbering like an overgrown baby, telling David and Britny, “The salad is getting on my nerves. I’m not going to eat the salad.” If this is not an Internet meme yet, it should be, and if you make one, please send it my way.
After the first month, Flor and Kevin returned home and went in opposite directions. Kevin arrived home to pork chops–no more salad, or fish, which he didn’t eat either. He was eating less, but he wasn’t willing to give up the unhealthy food he always loved, leading to a first-week-away weight gain of 14 lbs. Britny visited immediately and couldn’t believe the reason Kevin gave her for his weight gain: “the Texas climate.” Yes, he blamed the humidity for his weight gain. Kevin began losing again, but it was clear that he was not completely committed to the regimen.
Flor struggled when coming home, too, gaining two lbs. in her first week. Her family wasn’t supportive of her weight loss, initially promising to go to the gym with Flor but not following through on it. Then beast-mode kicked in and she began tearing it up at the gym again–and at home, sitting her kids down and telling them they need to lose weight. My mother told me the same thing, but didn’t have Flor’s approach, constantly reminding me of my weight and then stuffing me with the wrong foods. Our vegetables came in cans or frozen boxes, and the crisper was where she stashed my two-liters of Sunkist, Coca-Cola, Mountain Dew and cream soda, which I went through at a one-bottle-per-day clip. Flor was straight-up with her kids though: “You have to make an effort of actually working out when we go as a family. Because I’m going to do it no matter if you guys do it or not.” Woah!
At the final weigh-in, Kevin walked in nervously. He had lost some weight, but he was the first client who didn’t look dramatically different than when he first arrived. When Kevin stepped on the scale, he weighed in at 507, a total of 90 lbs., which would have been a significant loss for anyone else; however, Kevin weighed in at 490 lbs., 17 lbs. lighter than his final weigh-in, only a month prior. David and Britny were supportive and encouraging, yet clearly disappointed. Losing 90 lbs. was a feat, though at Kevin’s weight, he should have lost more. I wouldn’t say he was a failure; however, Kevin was definitely the most likely client to gain the weight back. Like David told him, “You have a long way to go, and this is just the beginning.”
Flor was a different story; she waltzed in like a new woman with a stylish look and so much more energy. Her final weigh-in was 243, a total of 67 lbs. Although she lost less weight than Kevin, Flor had succeeded because she committed to a healthier lifestyle. She had become “a person who can accomplish anything [she] set [her] mind to.”
Flor and Kevin each represent exactly what can happen when a fat person attempts a significant weight loss. Like any addict, we reach rock bottom and make the commitment to change our lives. Sometimes, like in Flor’s case, we maintain that commitment for ourselves, or the pressure becomes too much, and we waver, like what happened with Kevin, losing a little here and there and then thinking we can cheat again.
People always say losing weight isn’t easy, but I disagree. Losing weight is easy. You eat less; you exercise more. Pretty simple. Keeping the weight off is the hard part. It requires a complete change in lifestyle. It means making time regularly for exercise, giving up some of the foods you love (You know my weakness for Haagen-Dazs already, but I should shout out my homies pizza, french fries and any sweets really except cheesecake.), and eating foods you might not love.
Brian McGuigan is a writer, performer and arts get-shit-done-er working on a one-man show about his own struggles with weight loss entitled “Fat Fuck.” He’ll be blogging weekly about A&E’s new docu-drama “Heavy” on his blog brianwithani.com.