After blogging about “Heavy” for the last two months, I cannot deny that I’m looking forward to the end of the season in a couple of weeks. If you couldn’t already tell from my posts, I’m far less enthused about the new format and really hope the producers bring back David, Britny and the old format, where the heavies spend one month at “the facility” and five months on their own integrating their old, fat lifestyles with their new, healthy livings. Either way, I’ll be blogging about “Heavy” next season, too (You heard that A&E? You need to contact me. Really.), but the season isn’t over yet. This week, we have two heavies, Mark, a 39 year-old 517 lb. soon-to-be-father, and Patty, a 59 year-old 312.8 lb. grandmother, who need all the help “the facility” can offer.
Mark began gaining weight when he was in the Army and was medically discharged because he was too fat. Now he’s married, and his wife is about to have a baby girl, but Mark is so fat he has to adjust his stomach “in order to do stuff,” which will make chasing around after a baby even more of a challenge. He is hard on himself, and his wife is hard on him, too, yet very supportive. Her father passed away a few years ago, and she doesn’t want the baby inside of her to grow up without a father. Mark’s wife wants him to be there to walk their daughter down the aisle, an experience she didn’t have, but she’s afraid her husband is going to die. Despite how much he weighs, Mark seems like he’s entering beast-mode before he even arrives at “the facility,” pledging, “I don’t want my child to know about fat dad. I want my child to know about healthy dad.”
Like Mark, Patty wasn’t always fat. When she married at 17, she was 88 lbs., but the weight came on after her son Nick died at 23. Since then, eating has become everything for her. “Food is comfort. Food is love. Food is always there. Food never ever lets you down. But… I have eaten myself into a chair.” Patty hasn’t eaten herself into any old chair though. She rides around in a motorized scooter and walks with a cane because she can’t stand for long periods of time without immense pain. All she wants is to be able to take walks with her grandkids, like normal grandma’s do, yet her weight has become such a problem that one of her sons doesn’t visit often because he can’t bear to see her in such shape. Patty is ashamed of the person she’s become and knows she needs to do something in order to improve her health. She puts it blankly, “I want my independence back.”
Mark arrives at “the facility” and warns Beverly that he has a goal: in six months he plans to run a half-marathon, his hometown’s very first. Beverly thinks he’s absolutely crazy, but Mark doesn’t waver, despite being shocked by his starting weight. He thought he was well under 500 lbs.; however, the realization of how far gone he is officially puts him in beast mode, and he loses 30 lbs. in his first week. Mark gets excited about the weight loss (There are a few great scenes of him infectiously pumped about his accomplishments.) and lets the momentum build. While Patty rides around on a bicycle, Mark is running faster than she can peddle. He’s running harder than you’d expect a 500 lb. man to run, and he doesn’t give up when his weight slows him down. Mark isn’t discouraged; he just works harder. Then Mark’s wife goes into labor, and he finally sees the reason why he’s been exercising–his newborn baby daughter named Tilly Claire. Twelve days later, Mark returns to “the facility,” but he’s a mess, breaking down in front of Johanna the therapist because he’s carrying so much guilt for having to leave his wife and newborn. But she quickly snaps him into focus by posing the honest question, “Do you think these weeks that you’re going to spend here before you go home are an investment in your daughter’s life?” Despite his struggles with feeling disconnected from his new family, Mark buckles down and continues to fight.
When arriving at “the facility,” Patty’s reaction to her weigh-in is the exact opposite of Mark’s. Rather than being inspired to lose it, she’s overwhelmed by the amount of weight she has to lose. (“How am I going to do this?,” Patty says.) When Patty first steps on the treadmill, she waddles like a duck–barely taking full steps as the tread goes slow. And I mean slow. But Adam the fitness director, who I called a porn store clerk several posts ago, broke the exercises down simply and made Patty feel at ease–and changed my view of him as a person. (Certainly, no easy feat, believe me.) It reminded me of the first time I stepped into a gym and how overwhelmed I was by the experience, too. I was 19 and almost 350 lbs. I had never lifted a weight in my life, so when I saw the meatheads pumping iron, I knew I couldn’t keep up. I ended up on a treadmill, walked for an hour and when I got off I could barely keep my balance. Soon after, I enrolled in a weight training class; during my first week, I vomited after every work-out. Patty’s struggles are completely understandable to me, so when she breaks down and says, “I’m scared,” I want to tell her–you’re not the only one. But Patty’s down on herself, only losing 15.8 lbs. after 70 days. She’s feeling hopeless, “like a failure,” she tells Beth the therapist. She carries so much guilt over how unhealthy her children are, though it all stems from losing one son to drugs and having a 41 year-old in rehab. That son, Mike, visits during her stay because he wants to make amends and feels he can help Patty with her own addiction, food, which Patty admits filled the void in her life due to the absence of her son. Having Mike at “the facility” helps her turn the corner and she begins dropping weight at larger increments. Within a couple of months, Patty ditches her scooter and begins walking without her cane.
At the final weigh-in, Mark’s face has clearly shrunk, making him look a little bit like Kenny Powers in a bandana, and when he steps on the scale, the number says it all: Mark weighs 357.4 lbs., a total of 159.6 lbs. lost. Though Patty started slow, the results are visible when she steps on the scale, too, weighing-in at 247 lbs., a total loss of 65.8 lbs. Patty feels “awesome” and is armed with knowledge about nutrition and exercise and is ready to take it into the real world. “I didn’t want to live the way I was living and now I don’t have to anymore.”
I don’t normally write about “the big reveals” since “Heavy” went to the new format, but I’m making an exception for this episode because Mark’s big reveal was doing a half-marathon, and as a fellow fatty preparing to run a race, I think he deserves to have his story told all the way through. While he doesn’t run the whole way (There’s some walking and jogging.), Mark completes a half-marathon, 13.1 miles, a distance a lot of skinny fats couldn’t walk, and after he completes the race, Mark puts the last six months in perspective saying, “It’s not the end at all; it’s just the beginning.”
At the four-month follow-up, Mark has lost an additional 30 lbs. and has run another half-marathon. Patty, on the other hand, has struggled to maintain her weight loss, making her the first heavy in the new format to not at least keep the lost weight off.
Sounds like Patty needs a visit from David Robertson.