My 600-Lb Life: Marla McCants' Stunning Weight Loss Transformation

This article discusses sexual abuse and domestic violence.

The popular TLC show "My 600-lb Life" has seen many morbidly obese people get a new lease on life. Marla McCants made an appearance on the show's season 3 run, but her journey was a complicated one. From not believing in herself to becoming discouraged and frustrated with the process, McCants had to go through numerous ups and downs before she finally started seeing changes in her body.

It might not have seemed possible at the time, but McCants, despite her difficult journey on the series, became one of its most successful participants, eventually losing a whopping 560 pounds and clocking the second-largest weight loss since the show's inception. McCants weighed around 800 pounds when she began her journey and was bedbound because of her weight. "I had seen a TV show where there was a woman or a man that was trapped inside a house, and I didn't want to be like that," McCants shared during an interview with Sister Circle in 2019. Armed with her Christian faith and determination to cease being a burden to her children, McCants set out on a life-changing odyssey that has since been an inspiration to many. Join us as we take a closer look at McCants' stunning weight loss transformation.

Marla's weight gain started after experiencing traumatic incidents in her youth

Like so many others who have appeared on "My 600-lb Life," Marla McCants' weight gain started after she turned to food for comfort in the aftermath of surviving some pretty traumatic events. While chatting to Rickey Smiley, McCants revealed where everything went wrong for her. "It started a long time ago. I was molested by my father as an infant up to six years old. It started there," she said.

As if navigating her traumatic childhood wasn't enough, McCants dealt with yet another terrible ordeal later in life, when her then-boyfriend kidnapped her at gunpoint after refusing to accept her breaking up with him. McCants' boyfriend shot two police officers who tried to come to her rescue while she was held hostage. After surviving this horrific incident, McCants found herself feeling anxious and scared all the time and became homebound. "I didn't want to endanger anybody, I didn't want anyone to come over," she admitted. "He was on the run for a year before they caught him," McCants told Smiley, saying that she turned to food to soothe her trauma. Her weight quickly picked up, and by the time her ex-boyfriend was behind bars, McCants weighed 700 pounds. "The kidnapping changed my life forever, and I wish I could take that day back," she said while appearing on "My 600-lb Life."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

She realized she was in trouble when she could no longer walk

Marla McCants realized she needed help — and fast — when her weight started hampering her mobility, and as a result, her independence. It happened suddenly, she told Rickey Smiley. "I got out of bed one day to use the bathroom and couldn't put any pressure on my feet. That was it for me," she said. McCants became bedbound and fully dependent on her children after this unhealthy milestone. "I have no life. My legs can't even hold my weight anymore," she said while appearing on "My 600-lb Life." McCants could no longer clean or bathe herself — her children had to help her with these daily tasks and anything else that needed doing around the house.

Aside from being morbidly obese at this point, McCants also suffered from chronic pain and other health issues like diabetes, arthritis, swollen joints, and gout. She soon started to realize that her health was in jeopardy because of her weight, and the very real fear that her obesity might lead to her death started to creep in. This is eventually what led her to start taking steps to make changes. "I contacted the show, one of my caretakers told me about the show, and I filled out an application [...] I took a video of myself, submitted it back and they came [to make a video of me] and I moved down there [to Houston]," McCants told Smiley.

Marla almost died from being morbidly obese

After deciding to take the necessary steps to address her obesity, Marla McCants had to travel to Houston, Texas, to see Dr. Younan Nowzaradan, who is a weight loss expert and works with "My 600-lb Life" to help patients lose weight. Because of her immobility, McCants had to call for an ambulance to help her into her daughter's car for the trip, which was set to be a 13-hour drive from her Nashville home.

While McCants made it to Houston, she almost died shortly after arriving, thanks to a dislodged blood clot that made its way into her lung during the trip. Nowzaradan, who has seen just about everything, was very worried about McCants upon her arrival and didn't mince his words. "She is in the worst condition health-wise that I have ever seen," he said on the show, adding that McCants' weight loss surgery was the last thing on his mind at that moment. "[I am about] making sure she will survive the next 24 hours. This is [a] very dangerous situation. She is at the end of her life if we can't do anything," he said.

Thankfully, McCants pulled through, but Nowzaradan was very clear about the dire condition of her health and told her that she had been mere weeks away from dying before she made it to the hospital in Houston. At this point, McCants was treated to prevent future blood clots and put on a strict diet plan.

Marla underwent gastric bypass surgery

While on "My 600-lb Life," Marla McCants eventually underwent gastric bypass surgery. This surgical procedure helps patients lose weight by making changes to the digestive system, specifically the stomach and small intestine, Cleveland Clinic explains. The stomach is made smaller and the small intestine is shortened during the procedure, which leads to decreased food consumption and calorie absorption, which results in extreme weight loss — patients often lose around 70% in excess weight after the surgery. This surgery is often recommended for people who have class III obesity, or in other words, a BMI of 40 or higher. McCants qualified, but she had to recover from the blood clot first, and doctors were trying to convince her to attempt to stand up and move her body before performing the surgery. McCants, however, didn't give in to their demands initially, refusing to get up and not allowing her physical therapists to work with her. McCants' daughter, Sierra, eventually told her to "work on your attitude."

After concluding that forgoing the gastric bypass surgery would result in McCants' death, bariatric surgeon Dr. Younan Nowzaradan performed the surgery despite McCants' initial lack of cooperation. McCants told Rickey Smiley that she lost 70 lbs within the first month after undergoing the surgery, and it was only the beginning of what would become a major weight loss journey.

Marla faced plenty of criticism after her weight loss surgery

While many criticized Marla McCants for her lack of apparent cooperation on "My 600-lb Life" after she underwent gastric bypass surgery, she told Rickey Smiley that viewers didn't see the whole story on the show. In one scene, McCants could be seen refusing to get up even though doctors told her she had to. "Y'all don't know why I didn't get up," she said, revealing that the show warped the timeline, making it seem as if this scene occurred much longer after the surgery when in reality, it happened one month after the procedure. "I was [dealing with] malnutrition, I was in the hospital, and he [the doctor] wanted me to get up. Seriously? I'm bleeding on a bed and you want me to get up? He didn't even look at my cuts and sores and bed sores," she said.

In one scene, McCants' doctor, Younan Nowzaradan, could be seen losing his temper with her because of what he saw as a lack of cooperation. He told her she had a bad attitude toward the hospital staff and her daughter who were just trying to help her. McCants, however, was confident she could improve on her own without the help of the hospital and doctors. "I can make healthy choices on my own. I can do this better," she said. She was eventually discharged but still had a long road ahead of her.

After the gastric bypass surgery, Marla managed to stand up for the first time in years

Nine months after her gastric bypass surgery, Marla McCants was steadily losing weight, but she hadn't managed to get up and move around. Her daughter, Sierra, was starting to become frustrated with her mother. "I really think you need to start getting your life together," Sierra told her mom in one of the episodes. In this same episode, McCants said that life post-surgery had been challenging. "A couple of months ago, I was kind of depressed because things weren't going as I thought they would go," she confessed. "But it's getting better, I've gotten stronger. The next big goal I have is to get up and walk," she added.

This goal eventually became a reality after her doctor, Younan Nowzaradan, paid McCants a home visit to help her stand up for the first time in years. "This is Marla's last chance," Nowzaradan explained in the episode. "If she doesn't stand up now, she will be in this bed until she dies." Needless to say, the pressure was on, but McCants succeeded in standing for a few seconds. "I didn't think I could get up," she said with a big smile. When Dr. Now asked her if she wanted to try it again, she responded with an enthusiastic yes. "Getting up and standing is one of the most encouraging things I've done, and now, I don't want to stop," she said after achieving this great feat.

Marla found it challenging to adapt to her new diet after the surgery

Once a patient undergoes gastric bypass surgery, their diet has to change to ensure the procedure's continued success. Cleveland Clinic explains that, aside from drinking at least 64 ounces of liquids a day, patients also need to follow a diet that provides them with a minimum of 100 grams of protein daily. Additionally, vitamin and mineral supplements are a must to prevent deficiencies. The most challenging change, however, is cutting out foods that are rich in starch and sugar. These foods can negatively affect digestion and blood sugar and lead to weight gain when consumed in excess. For Marla McCants, adapting to these new diet changes after years of overeating was a challenge. Even though the surgery makes the stomach much smaller, continued overeating will stretch it once again, rendering the procedure useless.

"It's been hard sticking to the diet that the doctor wants me on; I can't keep anything down," McCants revealed in an episode of "My 600-lb Life." Cleveland Clinic notes that nausea is a common side effect of the surgery, but it usually resolves with time. When McCants did have an appetite, choosing the right foods was challenging. "I still have cravings," she admitted, saying that she especially missed eating fried chicken. "I was trying to find a way I can eat that. I tried using olive oil, but it doesn't taste the same, and just eating meat is a little frustrating," she said.

Marla admitted to herself that she was addicted to food

While making an appearance on Sister Circle in 2019, Marla McCants was asked how she keeps herself from slipping back into old habits when the going gets tough, and she was perfectly candid about how she keeps herself from turning to food for comfort again. "I first want to get out there that food is an addiction," she said, explaining that many don't see it that way, but for her, it had been. "I'm always going to have that mindset," she said, explaining that food was something she struggled with like any other addict does with substance abuse.

McCants knows that she needs to have a very strong 'why' when it comes to steering clear of turning to food as a drug once again, and her biggest reason for not falling back into old habits is that she never wants to feel the way she did when she appeared on "My 600-lb Life" ever again. "I never want to go back to that place," she said. "The way I was treated, you never want to go back there. It's lonely," she explained.

Marla has become a motivational speaker addressing issues like lymphedema after her weight loss

After successfully dropping hundreds of pounds and turning her whole life around, Marla McCants decided to use her new lease on life to give back to others, and she did so by becoming a motivational speaker and discussing lymphedema, a health issue that's particularly close to her heart because she deals with it too.

Lymphedema, Cleveland Clinic explains, is a condition that occurs when the body's lymphatic system isn't functioning optimally, which hinders the drainage of toxins, fluids, and proteins from the body, leaving the limbs swollen. There is no cure, but medication to ease symptoms does exist.

In 2019, McCants shared a series of posts on her Instagram feed, letting her followers know that she would be hosting a talk about lymphedema in an attempt to help people gain a better understanding of the disease. She did these talks in collaboration with L.O.S.S. (Lending Our Shared Stories) Events. She joined the organization after changing her life for the better, and on her member's page, McCants explains that she's passionate about helping others live healthier lives. "I want people to know and understand the truth about surgery and their health. How important it is to maintain good health and exercise," her bio reads.

Marla has continued to lose weight long after her time on the show ended

Marla McCants didn't give up on her weight loss journey as soon as the cameras stopped rolling. She kept on hustling, working hard to ensure she reaped all the benefits of her gastric bypass surgery, and she continued to steadily lose weight. McCants appeared on "My 600-lb Life" in 2015, and four years later, she was unrecognizable. One glance at her Instagram page shows just how far she's come, and her fans continued to cheer her on over the years. "I love you! You look awesome you inspire me so much," one fan commented on one of McCants' posts about lymphedema. "I am so proud of you as if you were my own mom! I'm wishing you so much light and love and peace," another gushed on a post McCants shared in 2020. "Thank you so much for being so brave," another follower added on a 2020 post.

With people across the globe encouraging her, it's no surprise that McCants continued to lose weight after the show. She ended up shedding a total of 560 pounds by 2019. When her time on the show ended, she weighed 532 pounds after initially weighing in at around 800 pounds. McCants is living proof that anything is possible, but weight loss surgery isn't a magical fix — you still have to do your part to make it work.