Everyone has tried to lose a few extra pounds, but most of us are lucky in that we don't have to deal with hundreds of excess pounds on our body.
Unfortunately, this is a reality for many people around the world, especially in the United States. Our obsession with food and lack of exercise has caused obesity rates to skyrocket, and it doesn't look like that's changing any time soon.
If you needed more proof that obesity has become normal in our world, look no further than My 600lb Life, which seems to have endless amounts of content. People who are morbidly obese and often bedridden are documented as they try to lose massive amounts of weight. Through diet, exercise, and weight-loss surgery, these people are able to transform their lives.
Dr. Nowzaradan is the weight-loss surgeon who consults with all the patients and performs their procedures, but we are never really given a glimpse as to who he is, exactly. We know tons of personal information about the patients, but what about Dr. Now? Who is he?
Born and raised in Iran, Dr. Now received his medical degree from the University of Tehran in 1970. Just a year later, he completed his medical orientation at St. Louis University, and his rotating surgical internship at St. John's Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. Dr. Now also completed a four-year surgical residency at St. Thomas Hospital, and a Cardiovascular Fellowship in Texas.
Dr. Now also has an extensive list of medical memberships, including:
- Fellow of the American College of Surgery
- American Medical Association
- Texas Medical Association
- Harris County (Texas) Medical Association
- Denton Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society
- Society of American Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeons
- American Society for Bariatric Surgery (A.S.B.S.)
- Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (S.A.G.E.S.)
His experience has allowed him to create some groundbreaking procedures.
According to the Houston Obesity Surgery website, Dr. Now has brought many new techniques to the table when it comes to operating.
As a general and vascular surgeon he was the first doctor in Houston to propose, research and adopt the benefits of laparoscopic surgery for procedures previously unconsidered. His years of experience have seen him successfully spearhead surgical techniques that were once considered impossible, including many applications for laparoscopy, a surgical technique now predominantly used in bariatric surgery.
Because the show is not about Dr. Now, we rarely get to see into his personal and family life. The renowned surgeon married his wife Delories in 1975, and the two had three children together. Their son, Jonathan, became interested in the television industry and produced the show Half-Ton Mum, which sparked an influx in weight-loss shows.
Jonathan now produces My 600lb Life, meaning he and his dad spend a ton of time together. As for Delores, she and the doctor split in 2002 after 27 years of marriage.
If you've ever watched an episode of My 600lb Life, you'll know that Dr. Now is often harsh when it comes to his patients, but according to him, that's on purpose.
Every day, Dr. Now works with people who are at risk of dying due to their weight and eating habits. It becomes increasingly evident that some patients are unwilling to change, and that's when Dr. Now has to practice tough love. In an interview with PEOPLE, Dr. Now opened up about his experiences.
It's a daily challenge to work with some patients that can be self-destructive. "My job is not to get aggravated, but to find a way to motivate them to work hard to get to their goals. There are times where I think it's necessary for some tough love and I have to be stern with them, so I show some of my concern and frustration. Even during those times, my job is to find a way to work with them to get their weight to a healthy place. They are the patient because they need help and it's my job to help them no matter what.
But the doctor also acknowledges it's not just the physical act of eating that needs to be controlled, but also the emotions behind it.
Severe obesity is a complex physical and psychological condition with many components. Not realizing how much of their struggle is psychological and not just physical can be the biggest obstacle for change with patients. Many refuse to admit they have any emotional compulsions or compulsive psychological disorders driving them to overeat. However, once we removed the physical compulsion to eat with weight loss surgery, we have our best window to get them to see that and address those issues that will lead to long term success for them.
The patients are placed on a 1200 calories diet, which focuses on high-protein foods to keep them feeling full. However, not everyone is able to stick to this plan. Dr. Now says it's not just patients at fault when that happens, but also their families.
Families can either be enablers or encouragers. Having a supportive family for patients on a weight loss journey is an important component to their success. If they don't have that, it's almost impossible for them to be successful in the long term, unless they remove those people from their environment. So they either have to change their dynamic with those enablers or separate from them if they want to succeed.
So what exactly does this diet look like?
Eat. Move. Hack. obtained a copy of Dr. Now's diet from a former patient, and it looks pretty intense. Everything is broken down for the patient, and each menu is personalized depending on who it's for.
Dr. Now also provides a list of nutrition tips on his website, which include:
- Men should have six or seven one-ounce servings of grains per day, while women should eat five or six of the same serving
- Men and women should consume three cups of low fat or no fat dairy products per day
- Men need six to eight ounces of protein per day, while women need six
- Men and women both need healthy fats every day, such as fish, nuts, olive oil, or seeds
- Men and women both need five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day
- Men need 25 to 35 grams of fiber in a day, while women need 20 to 25 grams
- Men and women should be consuming less than 2300mg of sodium per day.
This diet is followed by patients before they undergo weight-loss surgery, but the same rules still apply after it's been completed. Dr. Now wants to make sure patients are developing healthy eating habits and not just eating to fill a void.
Not every patient follows through, however.
On a recent episode of My 600lb Life, 714lb Lee Sutton approached Dr. Now for help with his weight. He underwent gastric bypass surgery, and found himself down 168lbs. However, as months went on, Lee stopped following his doctor's orders. Two months after his initial drop, Lee had only lost 9lbs, which is almost unheard of after gastric bypass.
During a visit with Dr. Now, Lee admitted that he is still overeating despite the surgery, something the doctor didn't take kindly to.
"What in the world is going on with you? You're choosing to overeat and you think it's okay?" Dr. Now asked his patient.
Lee's response was that he doesn't consider it overeating, because he "throws up constantly," so he's not really consuming the food.
"That's how it works," the doctor said. "You throw up constantly because the surgery forces you to when you overeat now."
Lee started to get defensive, saying he thought his body was actually retaining water and that he was worried about getting malnourished.
"Do you look like you're malnourished?" Dr. Nowzaradan responded. "You're overeating, and whatever you're overeating you're throwing up. It means the surgery is working to hold you back when you make bad choices, and it's the only reason that you didn't gain 100 lbs. these last two months."
Lee walked out on the appointment.
But a person who walks out is the least of Dr. Now's concerns when it comes to disgruntled patients.
Not one, but two patients have sued Dr. Now and his clinic for medical malpractice, both times claiming "foreign objects" were left inside of them.
The most recent lawsuit came in September of 2017, from a former patient who had undergone laparoscopic surgery to remove her gastric banding and port.
"Within days of the procedure, plaintiff developed persistent extreme abdominal pain and pressure to her lower abdomen inconsistent with post-operative pain," the court papers read. "Plaintiff sough follow-up evaluation, treatment and prognosis from two physicians and discussion began for the removal of the stainless steel connector and tubing."
The tubing was allegedly left inside the patient for two years. The plaintiff is suing the doctor for "improperly treating and failing to completely remove all of the components of the gastric band system and by failing to recognize that he left behind a portion of the stainless steel connector and a 29 cm portion of tubing."
"As a direct result of the negligence and breach of standard of care by defendants, plaintiff suffered complications including, but not limited to, pain, suffering, pelvic pain, and increase adhesions requiring an additional surgery and general anesthesia for removal," the lawsuit states.
The plaintiff is suing for damages over $200,000, but not more than $1,000,000.
Then, there's Michelle Park's case from 2012, when she sued Dr. Now for a very similar issue.
Park and her lawyers claimed that Dr. Now had left a 6.69 inch piece of tubing inside her body after gastric sleeve surgery. According to Park, the tubing was not found until 22 months after the procedure.
"The tube punctured Mrs. Park's colon," the lawsuit alleged, "requiring the surgical removal of a part of her colon."
Park claimed that the malpractice caused her physical pain, mental anguish, physical impairment, disfigurement, and a loss of earning capacity. She also asked for her medical and hospital expenses to be covered.
This case was dismissed in 2013, and there were rumblings that it was settled in a top-secret mediation setting. Dr. Now himself said it was pretty straightforward.
"The lawsuit against me was dismissed because I was not the one who left the tube," he told RadarOnline.
Considering he's been practicing medicine for over 40 years, having only two public cases of malpractice seems pretty minimal. Dr. Now has saved the lives of countless people through his surgical abilities, and I'm sure they are eternally grateful.