Zsalynn Whitworth once weighed over 600 pounds, but has lost a total of 316 pounds since undergoing weight loss surgery last year…along with losing her husband. According to Zsalynn, her husband, Gareth, has been completely non-supportive in her weight loss journey, which began when Zsalynn realized how her obesity was affecting her daughter, Hannah, and the realization that her days with her daughter would be cut short if she didn’t shed some weight.
In fact, Gareth wasn’t just unhappy when Zsalynn had the surgery — he actively tried to sabotage her efforts to commit to a healthy lifestyle afterward. His first stop after picking Zsalynn up after her surgery was a drive-thru joint, where he promptly ordered a burger.
And once, while out at a restaurant, Zsalynn ordered a salad, to which her husband responded, “I’m not buying you a salad. If you want to eat grass, you can go in the garden and graze.”
Gareth said, both before and after the surgery, that he would find his wife repulsive to him if she lost the weight, because Gareth says he fell in love with Zsalynn because of her size, not in spite of it.
Zsalynn met her husband while she was an active member of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) and while socializing in what is known as the BBW (big beautiful woman) scene. Zsalynn says the community fostered an atmosphere of acceptance, and although she had always been “the fat girl with the pretty face,” in NAAFA, she was meeting men who loved her body because of its size.
“I got out and I met this whole world of men, really good-looking men, really well-off men, who liked fat women, I was like a kid in a candy store. I would travel to the NAAFA conventions, and I would meet people there who would fly me places,” explained Zsalynn, who, at the time of joining NAAFA, weighed about 400 pounds and says that she felt good about her body.
“There was a time in my life when I was absolutely happy with it, when I was fine with it. When I looked in the mirror, I saw someone that I loved and that I found was a good person and was attractive.”
Through the internet, she talked to these men who loved big women, and these men, in turn, would fly her across the country and out of it, to Germany, Spain, and London. And it was in London that she met her husband, Gareth, who is British. They married, and had daughter Hannah in 2004.
But as the weight piled on, Zsalynn no longer loved her body, especially because it was preventing her from being the type of mother she wanted to be to her daughter. Desperate for weight loss surgery, which her insurance would not provide, Zsalynn began to raise money through modeling for provocative pictures tailored to men who are attracted to obese women and on “fat-fetish” sites. When she saw TLC was casting for the show My 600-lb Life, which would pay for gastric bypass surgery, Zsalynn sent in a picture of herself in a pink, ruffled bikini and was ultimately cast for the show.
And she has certainly been a success, losing more than half her body weight and gaining the support and admiration of many, even while losing the support and admiration of her husband.
Months before coming to the decision to separate, Zsalynn said in an interview, “I know a lot of people have had questions about if my husband is really as awful in real life or if it was just editing, but to be honest, editing made him look like an angel. It’s hard for me to speak for him. I feel like he loves me in the only way he knows how. I feel like I probably deserve a different kind of love. And maybe someday he can change or I can change.”
But it seems as though Gareth not only hasn’t changed, but has continued to resent the changes he sees in his wife.
“Gareth hasn’t found much good in my changes. It’s time for us to admit it’s over,” said Zsalynn.
And so she made the final decision and asked him to leave. According to Zsalynn, though, the best part of her weight loss journey is her ability to be a better mom to Hannah, and she doesn’t want to miss a single day with her daughter.
Weight-loss surgery often is seen as a cop-out, says Dr. John Pilcher, a bariatric surgeon, but it’s not reasonable to expect morbidly obese people to lose a tremendous amount of weight through diet and exercise alone.
“Let’s say someone starts at 600 pounds, and you want to get them down to 200 pounds,” he said. “The 400 pounds they need to lose, that’s 1.4 million calories. How do you lose 1.4 million calories?”
Weight loss surgery can literally be a life-saver for some people — even, in some circumstances, children. Read about the little girl who was able to recover her childhood through bariatric surgery here.
[Images via ABC News and mysanantonio.com]