Penny’s story on last night’s show, “My 600-lb Life” provoked strong reactions. The TLC reality series chronicles the tale of one person an episode and takes viewers through a year in the life of someone struggling on a daily basis, at a size that keeps some of them off their feet. Penny, 46 is one of those who has been unable to walk for four years.
What brought out the anger in viewers who posted on social media sites was Penny’s insistence that she wanted to rejoin life as most of know it, while refusing to follow medical advice to get there. Her husband Edgar came under fire as well for seeming clueless about what part he played in his wife’s life threatening condition.
She began the show at 530 lbs (not her highest weight) and was not significantly less at the end of the one-hour program.
Penny could not even stand up without enormous help and only for a brief period, despite gastric bypass surgery, a more balanced diet and months of physical therapy.
Her feet and legs had yet to become accustomed to bearing her weight to enable her to stand without two people holding her steady as she held on to something in front of her. Walking was out of the question.
As Penny’s doctor, Younan Nowzaradan learned, she was not ready to work at getting stronger or to deny herself the amount of food and the type of food she demanded.
The enormity of the task got the best of her. We watched as she traveled from her home to Houston for treatment and surgery. What it took to get Penny out of her home and into a van for the trip was shocking. A link to a video clip about that struggle is posted below.
Because her husband couldn’t leave her alone in the vehicle it would mean that he was auto-bound as well, getting sleep as he could in the car.
She lost 40 lbs. in one month of hospitalization being fed a 1,200 calorie per day diet. She underwent the surgery and had high hopes that all would be different because of the severe reduction in the size of her stomach.
Penny’s inability to stick to it, even in the hospital was maddening to viewers as well as her own doctor. She inexplicably refused to try to walk or some days even sit up, then there was the bad food that found its back into her diet. She was depressed and let it get the best of her.
She and Edgar had years of practice of him wanting to make her happy and supplying her with food that helped keep her a prisoner in her own body. Dr. Nowzaradan called Edgar an enabler. When Penny hadn’t lost another pound during a long hospitalization, the doctor released her, thinking that her own environment could be a help.
Edgar rented an apartment in Houston so she could remain close to the facility, but the eating began again. She gained weight, missed appointments and ended up back in the hospital where she refused to believe the scales were correct. She fell into despair.
The cycle continued until she was discharged for good, when a very patient and kind Dr. Nowzaradan called a spade a spade. Penny was not ready to do the work necessary to recover and reduce her body size, and Edgar was not up to the task of being an enforcer, rather than an enabler.
There was hope at the show’s conclusion after Edgar and Penny decided that they could manage to eat better and less, just not at the level recommended for her. Penny even set a goal to leave the house and sit in an auditorium to watch Liam graduate from kindergarten.
That never happened, but the couple believed it could at some point in the future.
What was a bit surprising was that Penny was never seen speaking with a psychiatrist/psychologist during the entire year chronicled on the show. Perhaps she was treated for her depression and mental health issues and TLC did not include that in the edited video footage. After all, it was a year’s overview condensed to a one-hour TV show.
What did you think of Penny’s story? There will be others as TLC airs “My 600 lb. Life” each Tuesday night at 9:00 p.m. ET