My 600-lb Life is a popular docu-series on TLC that follows morbidly obese patients as they begin their journey to lose weight. Someone is considered morbidly obese when they are "100 pounds over" their "ideal" body mass index (BMI), as determined "by the ratio of an individual’s height to his or her weight," according to Highland Hospital. Participants in My 600-lb Life typically weigh about 600 pounds or above when we are introduced to them.
The series’ subjects are patients of Dr. Younan Nowzaradan, or Dr. Now for short. They’re seeking bariatric surgery to help with weight loss, but they have to qualify for it by following Dr. Now’s diet plan and losing some weight on their own first. Dr. Now’s patients have individual diet plans, but must adhere to some basic rules, per Noom. Patients follow a 1200 calorie diet and eat only low-carb, low-fat, and high-protein foods. All sugar, most fruit, and most carbs are off-limits. High-protein, lean meats, vegetables, and water are the staples of this plan.
Most of the time, if people are determined to lose weight, the plan works well when combined with weight-loss surgery and Dr. Now’s guidance. But someone who weighs 600 pounds or more is at high risk for health problems, even after surgery. Several of the people who appeared on the show have sadly died, some from weight-related conditions. Here’s what we know about these late My 600-lb Life stars.
Henry Foots appeared on Season 1 of My 600-lb Life. At the beginning of his episode, he weighed 715 pounds. By the end of his seven-year journey, he weighed 275 pounds for a total weight loss of 440 pounds. The jovial man is one of Dr. Now’s biggest success stories, but the rest of his story is tragic.
Foots had personal setbacks as he tried to lose weight on the show, like the death of his father and losing his job after he put so much effort into rejoining the workforce. Additionally, Foots’ heart stopped amid one of his excess skin removal surgeries, and he had to be resuscitated. "I saw a white light," the TV star revealed during his episode (via Starcasm). "It was just like having an out-of-body experience. There was the light to take me to Heaven, [but] I wasn’t ready for it." Noting that he had more to do, like marry his longtime girlfriend, the duo wed at the end of the episode.
After filming, however, Foots sadly faced more hardship. In November 2012, he suffered a "medical episode" while driving a commercial bus, and lost control of the vehicle at an intersection, killing a pedestrian, according to Click2Houston.com. Foots died less than a year later on May 16, 2013, at age 54. His obituary stated that he "went home to be with the Lord." While Foots’ cause of death is unknown, The Cinemaholic reports that it was unrelated to the accident or his weight.
Sean Milliken was introduced in Season 4 of My 600-lb Life as a young man who was dependent on his mother, Renee, and who weighed 1003 pounds at his highest, per The Cinemaholic. "I am a prisoner, all I want is out," Milliken said of his body during his episode (via the Daily Mail), explaining that he began over-eating as a child in order to cope with his parents’ divorce. This, combined with Milliken suffering a "debilitating leg injury" in high school, according to Us Weekly, led to him becoming bedridden.
Reluctant to join Dr. Now’s weight loss program, Milliken’s attitude — and the fact that his mother enabled him not to follow his strict diet — caused the doctor to hospitalize him. Eventually approved for weight loss surgery, Milliken got down to 548 pounds, but started gaining weight again, per his My 600-lb Life: Where Are They Now? episode.
In 2017, Milliken’s mother died of renal failure. "I’m devastated," he said in his follow-up episode (via The Cinemaholic). "And I don’t know what to do now, because my mom was everything to me." Soon after, he lost his home in Hurricane Harvey, but had "continu[ed] in his quest to live a healthier and happier life," per TLC Me. In February 2019, TMZ reported that Milliken died "due to complications from an infection." Per the outlet, his father revealed on Facebook, "[Sean] was having problems with his breathing, they were able to resuscitate him and a short time later his heart stopped." He was 29.
My 600-lb Life star James King appeared on Season 5 of the TLC series. According to his episode, King revealed that food became his "joy and safety" throughout his difficult childhood. In addition to his family struggling financially, King barely knew his mother, who wasn’t around as she battled alcoholism. Shortly after reconnecting with her, the then-15-year-old’s mother died of liver cancer. During her funeral, the family’s home burned down. "I just lost about everything I had in a single day," said King, whose struggle with overeating began to get out of control.
Although King sought Dr. Now’s help, he actually gained weight throughout the process, beginning the show at 735 pounds and weighing in at 788 pounds at the end of his documented journey, per The Cinemaholic. When King appeared on the My 600-lb Life: Where Are They Now? spinoff, he weighed 840 pounds, before going down to 600. However, he is also one of a handful of patients who Dr. Now discharged — TLC stopped filming King, because he apparently wasn’t cooperating with the process.
In April 2020, The U.S. Sun reported that King died of "kidney failure" caused by septic shock, with a source revealing, "He weighed about 500 pounds when he passed away. He would have been proud of himself." He was 49. At the time, TLC released a statement on Twitter: "TLC was deeply saddened by the loss of James King … Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time."
Robert Buchel was sadly the first of three participants featured on Season 6 of My 600-lb Life to die. The Cinemaholic reported that Buchel grew up around fattening food, as his family owned a fried chicken restaurant, but later used food to cope with trauma beginning at age 9, when he was sexually assaulted by a neighbor. However, Buchel’s eating habits were at their worst after his brother died, because he felt guilty for being alive.
Buchel was 842 pounds when he began his weight loss journey with Dr. Now. He was determined to lose weight so that he could meet his fiancée, Kathryn, halfway down the aisle at their wedding. Buchel’s body was in such bad shape that he couldn’t undergo weight loss surgery right away, but he did have lymphedema removal surgery. While he eventually lost 340 pounds, per Starcasm, Buchel — who also had a history of abusing pain medication — got depressed post-surgery, and started refusing to exercise and comply with the program. He sadly died of a heart attack at age 41 in November 2017.
"Robert continued to struggle to stay active as his body deteriorated further. Unfortunately, he couldn’t overcome how fast his body was failing and he suffered a heart attack," TLC reported during his episode. "He was rushed to the hospital, but there was nothing they could do. He did not survive." Dr. Nowzaradan expressed condolences to Buchel’s mother and fiancée.
James ‘LB’ Bonner
James "LB" Bonner has one of the most tragic stories in My 600-lb Life history, but his weight loss journey appeared to be a successful one. Bonner weighed 642 pounds when we met him, and his last weigh-in on the show he was 326 pounds, as reported by The Cinemaholic.
Bonner had previously started overeating as a child to cope with the death of a beloved aunt who would always give him snacks, but following his Season 6 episode, the star continued to eat healthily, as seen on his Instagram account. But the seemingly positive Bonner might have been hiding an inner struggle. According to TMZ, he was found dead of a gunshot head wound by police, who were doing a welfare check on him, in a Lexington, S.C. park in August 2018. The 30-year-old’s death was later ruled a suicide.
"I just want to say thank you to everyone who has shown me love and support throughout my journey … I’ve realized a few things over the last few days and its time that, I face my demons head on," Bonner wrote in a disturbing Facebook post prior to his death. "No matter what you change or the efforts you put forth in life, sometimes you just have to take it on the chin and deal with things your own way … Again, thank y’all so much … Please don’t ever let people you care about not know how you feel."
Lisa Fleming’s story was told on Season 6 of My 600-lb Life. She was also one of the most difficult patients we’ve seen Dr. Now deal with on camera. The Cinemaholic reported that Fleming had developed eating issues early on in life, in part because her mother had used food as a "form of punishment." When we met her, Fleming, who was bed-bound and sleeping in the same bed her mother had died in due to obesity-related issues, explained that she also used food to cope with her parents’ divorce, as well as "witness[ing] her brother’s murder."
Fleming was 704 pounds when she started Dr. Now’s program, per The Cinemaholic. However, when she failed to make much progress on her own without a hospital-controlled diet after six months, Dr. Now had to drop her as a patient.
Fleming’s daughter, Danielle, later told TMZ that her mom allegedly lost 200 pounds following her TLC episode, but died at her home from other health issues in August 2018. "At the end she was sick and her body was tired and her body just gave out," Danielle told the outlet. Fleming was 50 years old.
Kelly Mason appeared on Season 7 of My 600-lb Life. With an extensive history of health issues, including type 2 diabetes and congestive heart failure, per The Cinemaholic, she weighed in at 726 pounds. According to Monsters & Critics, Mason’s already poor eating habits — she essentially grew up on fast food and found comfort in eating amid her troubled childhood — got even worse after she was raped by a neighbor at nine years old. After witnessing her abuser die in a car accident, she ate even more due to her guilt for feeling relief over their death. She later overate to cope with a miscarriage when she was 19.
Mason was one of Dr. Now’s hardest-working patients. She eventually qualified for surgery after hospital and rehab stays, and her weight got down to 383 pounds. Unfortunately, Mason’s weight loss didn’t prevent her heart from failing, and she died in her sleep during the tenth month of her filmed journey in February 2019, according to Distractify. She was 41.
"I was still very hopeful that we would be able to get [Kelly] out of [the] state of heart failure," Dr. Now explained during Mason’s episode. "At Kelly’s appointment with me a few weeks ago, her weight loss was on track. So, [her death] was not a result of her starting to go back to her old habits. She was working hard and doing what she needed [to do]. But despite that, the damage to her heart up to this point was just too severe."