The follow-up episode of “Heavy” had the feel-goodness you’d expect of a follow-up. There were hugs and smiles and tears, talk of life-changing experiences, healthy lifestyle choices, and overcoming grief, addiction and pain, both physical and emotional, but, most importantly–at least for “Heavy,” there were weigh-ins. In this episode, which is only a follow-up with some of the Texas “heavies,” we reunite with Tom, Sharon, Ashley and Rickywayne 10 months after they first arrived at “the facility” and began working with David and Britny–by now, you know I’ve missed these two very much.
The episode begins with Tom, who had lost 155 lbs. and was committed to continuing his weight loss when we last saw him six months ago. (You can read all about Tom in my post about Heavy: Episode 1 here.) Four months later, Tom looks younger and seems genuinely happy. His weight loss has had practical effects, too: When he drives, his seat belt fits him and the steering wheel doesn’t press against his stomach. He no longer breathes like a dying cat when he walks. Tom has found a job and now has his own place. He’s reunited with his good friend Jason, who Tom had quit hanging out with because he was so embarrassed by his size and couldn’t do what they enjoyed doing together: fishing. And, of course, Tom is still working-out, about four days a week, and has continued to lose weight, a total of 59 more lbs., giving him a total of 213 lbs. lost. He isn’t done though–he wants to lose another 200 and is on the look-out for a girlfriend. (Ladies, beware!) In the meantime, Tom volunteers at a clinic where he works with other “heavies” to make healthy choices and help to change their dysfunctional relationships with food. Best of all, Tom’s approach to life has changed: “I’ve had the taste of success, and I’m loving it.”
When we left Sharon, she had lost 110 lbs. and was truly a new person. Her confidence was soaring, and she wasn’t severely depressed, like she was when she arrived at “the facility.” (Read all about Sharon here. She’s also left comments here and here.) Four months later, Sharon, like Tom, looks even better than she did when we last saw her. Everything about her has changed, she says–her attitude, her relationships with her husband and daughter, even her ability to get up and down the stairs, something she had struggled with before she left for “the facility.” Sharon isn’t “the girl on the sideline” anymore. Physically, she’s able to do so much–Britny calls her a “rock star in the gym”–but she’s also helping other people heal by starting a support group dedicated to helping others make positive changes in their lives. The group will run a 5K the day before the anniversary of her son Landon’s death, putting Sharon in a position of leadership, something the woman we met 10 months ago wouldn’t have been able to do. At the weigh-in with Britny, Sharon has lost another 23 lbs. for a total of 133 lbs. Fighting back the tears, Sharon says, “It’s been good. Really good.” So simple and so true.
Sharon’s partner, Ashley, has been good, too. When we last saw her, Ashley was in beast-mode, having lost 91.3 lbs after six months. She quit drinking, something she’d had a problem with, and looked amazing. (Read about Ashley here.) Four months later, Ashley still looks great. She’s moved into a new apartment and has a boyfriend. She’s drinking again, but being sensible about it–not having 12 beers and a bunch of shots. She works out 3-4 days per week, has run two 5Ks and is now preparing for a 10K (which means Ashley knows all too well about the nipple-pain I’ve had). At the weigh-in, Ashley has lost about 10 lbs., a total of 100 lbs. Her weight loss has evened out, but the changes Ashley has made will stay with her forever, and now she’s inspired her father, too, who has quit smoking and drinking and walk-jogs with her regularly, which, in turn, has helped repair their strained relationship. Ashley is committed; “You have to do the work,” she says, “It’s not just a magical pill that takes it all off.”
And, finally, the episode closes with Rickywayne. When we left him, Rickywayne had lost 127.7 lbs. He had a new ‘do, a new attitude and had patched things up with David, who was on the receiving end of the now infamous “leave me alone” tirade. (Read about Rickywayne here.) Four months later, Rickywayne isn’t just helping himself–he’s also helping others. Since Rickywayne returned home after a month at “the facility,” his brother has gone from 268 lbs. to 190. His father went from 370 to 314. And the rest of his family is eating healthy and more aware of the food they put in their bodies. But Rickywayne hasn’t stopped with his family. He hosts a weekly boot camp class at his old high school, using his “Heavy” celebrity to encourage and motivate others to make healthy lifestyle changes. At the weigh-in, David is blown away by Rickywayne’s continued progress. He’s lost 63 more lbs., a total of 190 lbs. About Rickywayne, David says, “There’s no question about it–that guy is all in.”
But as great as it is to see Tom, Sharon, Ashley and Rickywayne succeed, what the follow-up episode is missing is what happened to Jodi, Jessica, Lindy, Travis, Kevin and Flor. We’re only left to assume that they weren’t “success stories,” either because they didn’t continue to lose weight or regressed. I understand why “Heavy” wouldn’t want to follow-up with “heavies” if they haven’t stuck to the regimen, but as someone who has lost 140 lbs. only to gain 80 back after hurting myself and getting depressed and then lose another 40, I think it’s important to convey the reality of what it is to lose weight. Jodi, Jessica, Lindy, Travis, Kevin and Flor may have “failed” the weight loss program; however, they’ve simply proved what most fat people who have tried and failed and tried and failed already know: losing weight is easy; keeping it off is the hard part. We can eat less. We can exercise. We can try all sorts of crazy diets, odd concoctions ordered off the Internet or info-mercials that promise “fast results.” But in the end, that lifestyle change isn’t easy, and it’s why each of the “heavies” were forced to go on TV and bravely put their entire lives on display for the world to see. (I’m embarrassed by my multi-chin work-out face when someone benching next to me sees it; putting that face on TV would really fuck me up.) I don’t think these “heavies” failed “Heavy”–or themselves; I think “Heavy” sort of failed us by not keeping it real and showing us the complete truth behind what it means to lose a profound amount of weight. There’s a good chance you’ll gain part–or all–of it back.
So, if you’re out there Jodi, Jessica, Lindy, Travis, Kevin and Flor, I’m sure you’ve received so much advice over the last 10 months, so I’m going to keep it simple: you can do it. That’s it–you can do it.
I believe in you.