What a 600 Pound Person Can Teach Us About Change

Recently wife and I were watching a show about a 625 pound woman (sneak peak in the video). She was a single mother of six who’s bad eating habits over many years led her to that weight.

She lives in Haiti and has been a prisoner in her own home for nearly twenty years. Her daughters do everything for her since she obviously can’t move.

She felt that gastric bypass surgery would save her, but it wasn’t that simple.

The show followed her journey as she tried to lose enough weight so a doctor would be comfortable enough to the surgery. He needed her at 500 pounds because at her current weight, too many risks were involved.

Another doctor worked with her to come up with a weight loss program. He really wanted her to succeed. He periodically came to the house to check up on her. He told her daughters to take turns preparing meals for her.

I thought she had everything she needed to succeed. She had cameras documenting her. I thought it would keep her accountable for her actions. She had a doctor checking up on her. She had another doctor waiting for her so he could do the surgery. I am assuming they were doing it for free or the show was paying for it.

Despite all these resources available to her, it was a struggle to lose the weight.

As I was watching the show I felt her journey was the same as many of us who are or have felt stuck in life. We aren’t 600 pounds and trapped at home on the outside, but we do feel like that on the inside. So many years of doubt, failures, poor choices, and lack of inaction have made us feel like we’re stuck in life and don’t know how to change.

We want a new life. We want freedom. Her freedom was to just be able to walk and feel human again.

Because she eventually ballooned to 689 pounds and her life was in danger, her doctor found a surgeon who would perform the surgery. It was the last hope. The clock was ticking on her life.

She had the surgery and all was good right? Nope she didn’t want to stay in rehab after the surgery. She actually called an ambulance one night to pick her up from rehab. She got transported to the hospital where clearly nothing was wrong. She just didn’t want to be at rehab. They took her back to rehab anyways.

Sadly she passed away not too long after the surgery. The surgery came too late. Who knows if she got to 500 pounds and had the surgery if she would still be alive. The chances would be much higher though.

We were shocked that she died. Usually shows like this have a happy ending.

While watching it, I could see the old me making the same mistakes she was making. I wasn’t obese, but I tried for many years to turn my life around.

The reason I didn’t find change and always failed was why she couldn’t lose the weight.

She wanted a quick fix

She felt like if she had the gastric bypass surgery, her life would change. She wanted the surgery right away. I don’t know too much about it, but I know it does shrink your stomach, making you feel fuller with less food.

However I do know that the surgery does not fix everything. To lose the weight after the surgery it still takes eating healthy and exercise. You can’t eat a large pizza, watch TV and expect the weight to melt off.

It takes time and effort. A lifetime of gaining weight doesn’t just all come off in months.

She needed to lose about 125 pounds just to qualify for the surgery. There was no quick fix to get there and for her it was a struggle.

At one point she actually gained weight over a four month period! The doctor wanted to know how that was possible if she was suppose to follow his diet program.

She said she used this powder she saw on TV and sprinkled it on her food. It was suppose to burn more calories or suppress your appetite. So she often ate her favorite Haitian food, sprinkled lots of that stuff, thinking she would be fine.

It’s a shame she fell for a product that sounded too good to be true, but it fit with her mindset of wanting instant results.

Instant gratification won

*It wasn’t a one time slip-up it was a systematic assassination of her weight loss program.*

That’s what her doctor said was the reason she couldn’t lose weight.

There were times when she ate only a bowl of oatmeal or whatever one of her daughters prepared. That’s great.

But there were also many times when the doctor came over to check on her when he would find a bottle of soda or some food item clearly not allowed. She would make some excuse why she had it. She told the cameras she was hungry and tired of eating bland food. At times she’d make her daughters feel guilty and they’d get her food she shouldn’t be eating.

One time she wanted fried foods and the daughters said no. She called the police to have her daughters kicked out of the house.

Also the daughters told the doctor when they weren’t home the mom would get neighbors to go buy her food. How did the neighbors get into the house? From her bedroom she would throw the key out the window and the neighbor would let themselves in.

I’m sure it felt good to eat her favorite foods, but it moved her further and further away from her goal.

She didn’t want it badly enough

We think we just need enough willpower and we can achieve anything. Willpower is not enough.

It about digging deeper and finding why you want to do something.

She wanted to walk again and be able to be free. I felt that was enough motivation to lose weight. Her actions didn’t show it.

Even when she did have the gastric bypass surgery, she didn’t want to be in rehab where they were monitoring her diet and doing daily exercises in bed. She called an ambulance to take her out!

She would have rather satisfied her food cravings instead of imagining one day walking freely again with her daughters.

That’s just not trying hard enough to turn her life around. Wouldn’t the high risk of dying be enough to make a change? I guess not.

She didn’t believe she could

She never said she didn’t believe it, but I’m willing to guess she doubted herself because all the results we get in life start from our beliefs.

If we believe we will succeed, we will act in a way that aligns with our beliefs. If we believe we will fail, we’re going to not try hard, and have no confidence that it’s possible to succeed.

In that case, why bother right? Why even try if we will just fail? If we do try, we just barely try.

If our results come from our beliefs, her beliefs must have been it wasn’t possible to lose over 100 pounds. She believed she just needed gastric bypass surgery, yet didn’t realize she wasn’t going to get it unless she could get to 500 pounds.

Despite having resources around her to help, I think her belief that change was not possibly contributed to her not losing weight.

Don’t make the same mistakes

I’ve made these same mistakes. I know many others have as well. Making the same mistakes should be avoided when wanting to go from where you are now to where you want to be.

Her actions to create positive change didn’t work and it won’t for you. Here’s what you should do instead.

Change takes time

There are no quick fixes for the big aspirations you have. Money doesn’t grow on trees. Pigs don’t fly. There is no overnight success.

When you see others making a lot of money, losing a lot of weight, or in a place where they are finally happy in life, it took a lot work behind the scenes.

We live in a time when things get faster and faster like our computers, cars, planes, and fast food. We expect the same to happen with our results.

There is no quick fix. Yes you can do some hacking like Tim Ferris and get results quicker like being fluent in Spanish in three months, or increase your productivity by following the 80/20 rule, but you still have to do the work.

Enjoy the process and just focus on taking one step at a time. I know it’s cliched, but that’s what it takes to succeed.

You can’t hire people to do your pushups

Creating the change you want in life isn’t going to happen unless you do the work. Ask anyone who has had success. You can outsource the work, like I do with my iPhone apps, but you need to do the work to get it started.

You can hire the best performance coaches to help you on a weekly basis, but it’s up to you to take massive action.

Consistency will get you what you want

The doctor said it wasn’t one slip up, but a bunch of them that caused her to gain weight. It makes total sense. Consistent behavior over time will always give you the results you’ve created. It can be good or bad.

It’s not one large pizza that’s going to make you gain weight. You’ll hardly notice the next day. Instead it’s two pizzas a week for a year that makes your clothes feel a bit tighter.

So whatever you’re trying to achieve whether it’s losing weight, starting an online business, creating an app, or finding love, one screw up isn’t the end of the world.

You can still recover from it. It’s what you do the majority of the time that will determine your results.

When I trained for my first half marathon, I had to skip two or three running days. I just picked up with where I left off the next day. In the end missing a few days didn’t affect me finishing the race. I felt great when I finished.

Had I went from running six days a week, to four days a week, to only running two days a week, I would have been poorly prepared for the race.

I know the approach of slow and steady is hard because the actions we take won’t give us any visible results. Without seeing results, we believe what we’re doing isn’t working.

Believe in the power of compounding. One day all those little steps you take is going to turn into a huge leap in life.

Find your why

When we were a baby and we were just learning to walk, we fell a bunch. Yet we got up every time and kept on trying. With each passing day we got better and better.

Why didn’t we just give up and cry forever?

I bet our reason why we wanted to walk was so strong. We wanted to be able to run around the house. We wanted to move freely and not depend on our parents. We wanted to be like everyone else who could walk.

Of course we don’t remember that, but the same determination that we had to learn to walk is the same that can get you to achieve anything you want. We fell down and we got up.

If you want it badly enough, you will do whatever it takes. If it means eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to save money, not taking a vacation for five years to grow your business, skipping a nights out with friends to stay home and work, or whatever it is, you’re willing to make those sacrifices.

I’ll be honest at times I get frustrated with my progress. I push myself, but sometimes not hard enough. I feel like I’m not where I wanted to be by now. Sure I get thoughts of quitting when I get frustrated, but I remember my reasons why I’m doing what I’m doing. It reminds me to keep putting one foot in front of the other even though I don’t see any progress.

I know it’ll all pay off sooner than later.

Asking You

What mistakes have you made in the past that you’ve learned from?

If you’ve been able to create positive change, what helped you?

Please share in the comments below cause it’ll be helpful for others who seek guidance and advice!



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16 responses to What a 600 Pound Person Can Teach Us About Change

  1. those extreme weight loss stories enthrall me but sometimes it’s mentally too hard for them to overcome. it really is a sickness 🙁 and yes, i do find a piece of us in all these stories, too!

    • It is a mental battle, but I thought she had everything else she needed. But I think a lot of her problems started from her mind.

  2. wow… That is really sad. The opportunity was in front of her but she was too scared to give it her all. I hope her family is ok and that they can learn from her mistakes and live now. I hope they don’t blame themselves for her death. This story is so important for people to know, so that they will make a better decision or it can cost them their lives… thanks for sharing.

    • You’re welcome Karen. Thanks for reading. Yeah it was sad she lost her life. I thought because she was on the show she would succeed, but it takes much more than that.

  3. Hey Benny,

    My wife and I watched the same show — just a few days ago. What a wonderful way of taking such a sad story and transforming it into a life lesson, so universally applicable.

    You really nailed it. The two points you make that I think are most significant are her desire for a quick fix and her willingness to sacrifice what was best for what was instantly gratifying. We do that too, just usually on a much smaller scale with less immediately life-threatening consequences. But how many of us pick up a bag of chips instead of an apple or sit in front of the TV instead of picking up a book?

    Thanks for the inspiration here, Benny. Well done.

  4. my honest answer December 13, 2012 at 9:49 am

    That’s such a sad story. For her kids more than anything else. And a good kick up the butt for us all with the New Year coming.

  5. It’s sad she didn’t make it. Shame she didn’t made that sacrifice when she had every means to succeed. Despite that it’s a great lesson for us all and thanks for showing it like that and for the additional hints. I’ll definitely remind this woman in a lack of motivation.

  6. What mistakes have you made in the past that you’ve learned from?
    — I often make the mistake of under acknowledging my successes. I focus too much on what I want and how far away it is, vs how much progress I’ve made towards my goal. Eventually I feel like “ive been grinding at this forever and havent come close enough” and give up. I need to keep my goals fixed, square in view ~all with~ my progress.

    If you’ve been able to create positive change, what helped you?
    Automation has been big, almost all challenging things i’ve done have come down to make a plan that makes it automatic, follow the plan. Eg, completing my first ironman was easy because I followed my coach’s plan (he has decades of triathlon experience). Losing weight has been easy since I’ve fixed my meals (each week i aim to have the exact same meal each day for breakfast and for lunch, i get variety in dinner).

  7. I think key in a change to better for me personally has been getting some good influences. Also that inner drive for a change for the better as well as taking complete personal responsibility if something was wrong helped.

    Discipline & creating positive habits have been the things that led to the change in day-to-day life. There’s still lot to learn though.

  8. Well life has to be end one day but this one is sad bad habit of eating can took anyone at this point.
    But we are or some of us you can say are actually want every thing very fast and quick but nothing happen like this. Every thing need time and hard working what every you do also you need to make yourself strong so that you can fight with your needs and wishes. We need to believe our self. Here i remember a quote that some one said if one can do than you can do that too but if now one can then you definitely can do that.its all about the believe and the potential.

  9. Very inspirational article. Thank you very much for sharing this. Sometime we need help to get going. Glad she finally saw the light

  10. All too often we want change but we want the easy way out. The honest truth is that real success does not include a “quick fix.” She gained weight because she cheated. Making real change requires real attitude adjustment. In order to change, we have to get to the behavior BEHIND the change – the real EMOTION. Thanks for a well-written piece.

  11. Brilliant thought provoking post Benny. It all boils down to making the decision no matter what the external factors are. This applies to every area of our lives.

  12. I think we all know now that there is no quick fix not only for weight loss but for anything in life it comes down to the more you are willing to put in to something the more hopefully you will get back out. There is no substitute for hard work.

    Great post thanks lee

  13. Hi Benny

    What a terribly sad story. With so many tools and positive things available, she still chose the negative path.

    We all suffer the same things in life, regardless of what it is we are trying to change. You made some great points here and the one that really resonates with me is “find your WHY.” That is what drives you to step out of the comfort in pursuit of your goal.

    Thanks for the inspiration!