Cynthia Wells became known around the world in 2016, at which point she was featured in the fifth season of TLC’s hit reality TV series entitled “My 600-lb Life.” At the time of her appearance, Cynthia weighed a mind-boggling 610lbs (277kgs).
Her massively excess weight posed significant challenges in even the most basic day-to-day activities, made all the worse by the fact that she was raising a young daughter who required her mother to be present in matters of great importance to her, such as school activities and other events.
Escaping a living hell
Just how bad the situation had been was well summarized in the video by TLC entitled “This Mom’s Motivation for Weight Loss: Getting To Watch Her Daughter Dance.” With over 700,000 views, this footage illustrates just how defeated Cynthia must’ve felt pretty much every single day upon having to refuse attendance at her daughter’s performances.
Her 11-year-old daughter Ukiah is seen talking about the upcoming dance class that had her pretty excited. However, her face filled with disappointment as her mother explained that she would try to watch her that day, without any guarantees that she would actually be able to enter the building and walk to where she needs to sit, as even that is a rather grueling endeavor considering Cynthia’s weight.
They also briefly mention an upcoming dance festival, which her daughter had been frequenting for a few years. Cynthia explained that it would probably have to be like last time, in which case she would just drop Ukiah off and let her have fun, all the while waiting in the car or even driving back home until it’s time to pick her up, as walking around the festival grounds is simply too much effort for her ailing body.
Wells began explaining to the camera crew just how devastating her condition was, as it pretty much rendered her unable to attend most of her daughter’s events during her upbringing. She admitted that a parent simply has to be around to watch their child grow, as it was both their duty and joy to see the life they brought into the world flourish.
Cynthia said she was sure that her daughter performs admirably, but lamented being unable to see her do so, and stated that observing a simple dance session is definitely something any mother should be able to accomplish. This is potentially the leading reason for Cynthia’s accession to the show, and desire to fundamentally change her life, as it was evident during her admission that she began crying while reflecting upon her lack of motherly duties.
She was seen moving around with a walking stick, watching her daughter rehearse through a window from the outside with tears in her eyes, while Ukiah proceeded as normal, unaware of her mother’s presence. This seemed to be the breaking point for the ailing mother.
Cynthia moved away from the window and began crying even harder, explaining that she had never seen her daughter dance, in spite of the fact that she had been attending dance classes since kindergarten. Wells admitted to recognizing the fact that she was harming her family just as much as herself, simply by holding them back from their true potential, as her debilitating condition required constant care and attention.
She also pointed out the fact that not one of her household members has anything negative to say about the extra effort they have to put in every day, just to help Cynthia live a semblance of a normal life, but that she herself was sick and tired of it, ready for the massive change that participating in TLC’s hit TV series would eventually bring.
A loving 11-year-old daughter’s sacrifice
In yet another hard-to-watch video of Cynthia, recorded prior to the appropriate medical intervention she received throughout the year of her episode, she is seen detailing the daily and weekly obligations of her little daughter, without which she could possibly even have died in the long run.
One of the most unappealing tasks that Ukiah had to undertake was to wipe the many folds in her naked mother’s skin after she takes a shower, as they are pressed together so tightly by the drooping weight of Cynthia’s body that water is unable to reach their airtight middle.
11-year-old takes care of 610-lb mother | My 600-lb Life
Cynthia is struggling so much with her 610-lb weight that her 11-year-old has to take are of her. Dr Now gives Cynthia some hard truths to make her realise how dangerous her weight is and what her death would mean for her children… #My600lbLife
Posted by tlc uk on Wednesday, February 22, 2023
To have this accomplished, Wells lays down on the bed mostly naked, with only a towel covering her torso, while Ukiah proceeds to stick a wet piece of cloth in each and every fold, hydrating the skin and wiping off any excess bacteria that may have begun to fester, as such instances are fairly common among overweight individuals, generally brought on by the constant rubbing and chafing of skin folds against one another.
One common skin condition that occurs in people like Cynthia is intertrigo, which can appear in any skin areas that are in close contact with each other and are often moist, such as skin folds. According to Cleveland Clinic, intertrigo usually occurs in the crease of the neck, armpits, beneath or between breasts, and between belly folds and buttocks.
When skin folds are moist and warm, they create the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and fungi, which can lead to infections. Obesity increases the risk of skin issues in adults due to impaired mobility, excessive adipose tissue, skin folds, and malnourishment. Excessive adipose tissue has a poor blood supply, causing a general lack of oxygen in the area, which can severely impact the speed at which wounds heal.
This means that if a person with obesity gets an infection in their skin folds, it may take longer to heal, and even cause much more serious complications down the line if left untreated. In the case of many people like Cynthia, such infections can be hard to notice if they don’t have someone like Ukiah taking proper care of the many areas of skin that they’re normally unable to reach.
Wells herself explains in the video that her arms are simply too short to allow her to take care of most of her lower body, requiring her little daughter to do the work instead. Aside from this rather common and generally harmless condition, Ukiah’s aid to her mother pretty much keeps the home tragedy-free, as way more complicated medical issues tend to emerge on the skin of obese individuals without proper care.
People with excess weight are at a higher risk of skin infections such as candidiasis, folliculitis, erythrasma, tinea cruris, and furunculosis as a result of obesity, and comorbid conditions such as diabetes and impaired circulation. These infections often occur in and around skin folds of the lower genital region and around the breasts. Furthermore, the physiology of the skin changes in obese individuals, which may lead to a thickened layer of subcutaneous fat, larger skin folds, and hyperhidrosis.
Cynthia described her daughter as a grown woman in a child’s body, referring to just how responsible she is in taking care of her mother. Indeed, in the video, it seems that Ukiah is the woman of the house, taking on most of the daily chores, which only serve to worsen the overall guilt-ridden mental state of her mother.
The cause of Cynthia’s downfall
There are a myriad of reasons why people may turn to overeating and become obese, when faced with difficult life circumstances. While it’s generally easy to assume that over-eating stems purely from a lack of self-control or a lack of willpower, the truth is far more complicated. Psychological and emotional factors, in addition to physical ones, play a significant role in the development of obesity as severe as the case of Wells.
Regarding Cynthia’s particular situation, emotional eating is a common phenomenon that often involves ingesting vast amounts of food, especially of the unhealthy type, which draws on more dopamine but incurs significant issues over time, to distract oneself from feelings of anxiety, depression, or stress.
When facing difficulties in life, many people may turn to food as a means of coping with these negative emotions. Consuming unhealthy products can provide a temporary sense of pleasure and satisfaction that often helps dull the pain of difficult experiences. Over time, this behavior tends to become habitual, and lead to excessive weight gain.
Cynthia’s problem also stemmed from the wallet, as for many people living in low-income areas, access to fresh fruits and vegetables can be limited or non-existent, and processed or high-calorie foods may be more readily available and affordable.
Finally, there’s the issue of inherited traits. In addition to these psychological and physical factors, genetics and physiology can also play a role in the development of obesity. Studies have shown that certain genetic factors can make some individuals more susceptible to obesity than others. Additionally, hormonal imbalances and metabolic disorders can also contribute to weight gain and further related complications.
As she mentioned in the video, Wells was teased at school due to her size, and it didn’t help that her parents failed to act appropriately and prevent their daughter’s further weight gain. As a result, Cynthia grew up almost immobilized by all the stacked-up excess calories, making her eat for emotional comfort in even greater quantities.
Another factor was that with two children of her own, Cynthia had become a single mother of five when she ended up needing to also take on her sister’s children following their mother’s passing, who were either to be left with their abusive father or Wells herself.
😨📺💰😊PHOTOS MY 600 LB LIFE Cynthia Wells today: 'Feels like a failure,' has 'lost all motivation' to keep losing weight -🐧 https://t.co/w1JWovJyrQ https://t.co/OlAfmGmEg1 via @starcasm
— Judy g. armes (@judy_armes) July 12, 2019
The long-awaited change
Upon consulting with the show’s resident bariatric surgeon Dr. ‘Now’ Nowzaradan, who is one of the world’s most renowned experts in the field of weight-related medicine, she took on the difficult task of sticking to a very strict diet, so as to ultimately be able to undergo life-changing surgery that would likely fix most of her issues.
Cynthia did everything in her power to stay off the high-calorie snacks and processed foods that bloated her to that weight in the first place, using her children as inspiration for what would probably be the hardest thing she had ever done up to that point. After mostly sticking to the plan for a while, she had attained the physical specifications required for the planned medical procedure.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing, though, since Dr. Nowzaradan is famous for his harsh and strict ethics when it comes to dealing with patients, causing him to not cede any ground to Cynthia in their regular conversations about her eating regimes. Wells found this aspect of participating in the TV series to be the most difficult one to handle, almost dropping out of the program altogether.
She did, however, manage to push through, and had eventually get Now’s green light for the medical procedure Cynthia awaited pretty much her entire life. Gastric sleeve surgery, which she received, involves removing most of the stomach, even up to 80%, and replacing it with a tube-like structure that resembles a banana in shape and size.
After a brief healing process, this object becomes the patient’s new stomach, able to take a lot less food than its biological counterpart, in turn causing the person having it to feel full after eating much less, and even sick to the point of vomiting if they don’t stop eating.
It’s worth noting that, in spite of Cynthia’s best efforts, this type of surgery is the last resort for doctors like Now, undertaken when there’s simply no hope for any other, less invasive solution. Regardless of that, the medical procedure did the trick, and Wells ended her year-long episode filming at over 150lbs (68kgs) less than she started with.
However, that seemed to be only the beginning of her transformation, as she was then able to follow even stricter diets and ultimately drop yet another 150lbs (68kgs) since leaving the show, and it’s believed that she won’t stop working on her weight until she’s reached a very satisfactory scale digit, consistent with what is considered healthy for her height.
Looper has reported that Cynthia regularly updates her Facebook page with fresh selfies, which display an almost unbelievable change in weight, and that there’s no sign of her wishing to stop anytime soon. Being among some of the most fascinating success stories that originated from “My 600-lb Life,” Cynthia Wells is sure to be remembered by many.