When Ashley Reyes was first introduced on My 600-lb Life‘s Wednesday, January 11, her outlook was fairly bleak. The 30-year-old, who weighed 668 pounds, needed help showering, couldn’t sit in a car for long because of cramps and didn’t have a life expectancy of more than a few years.
“My body is in constant pain,” Reyes said about the weight, adding that she was at her heaviest ever. “It’s a nightmare.” Reyes said she felt like “a monster,” and didn’t “resemble a human form.” Crying through admissions of worry and regret for inconveniencing her family, Ashley started to fully realize her situation when her doctor and family members told her she won’t live much longer unless she makes drastic changes.
“If I give up, I’m not going to live to grow old with my husband,” Ashley said in an interview. “You just have to give up on more and more of your life. I don’t give him the experience of a wife.”
Ashley did power through, with mental therapy, to mount a miraculous 255-pound weight loss (or more than 30 percent of her body weight) in less than a year to come out refreshed and renewed. Her eyes even sparkled, said her husband, Daniel.
Here’s what we learned from Ashley’s story:
1. Ashley initially resisted visiting a therapist to work out emotional issues, despite her doctor telling her it was a necessity (in addition to gastric bypass surgery, walking and a 1,200-1,600 calorie/day diet). The doctor suggested Ashley needed an emotional adjustment to go beyond the weight-loss plateau she reached.
It seemed to work. Ashley claimed that much of her emotional turmoil spiraled out of control after she was sexually abused by an uncle at age 12. Ashley reached a crying breakthrough when her therapist suggested that she equated deprival of food with deprival of love. “I know there is a lot from my past I’m going to have to face if I want to get my anxiety under control,” she said.
2. Daniel was a bit of saint to help Ashley work through an intense period of recovery over almost a year. Ashley said she wanted to resuscitate their marriage by losing weight. Previously, she had been uncomfortable with her body in intimate situations, she said in an interview.
Daniel, who appeared to be around 200 pounds, said he wasn’t turned off by her size. “What I really loved was her sense of humor, her charisma, her eyes,” Daniel said. He helped tend to his wife when she couldn’t walk and was fearing the worst. She told him, “I don’t know what I would have done without you.”
3. Before losing the weight, Ashley had several unique challenges working around her body, one of which was being unable to get out of the driver’s seat in a car without her stomach honking the horn. When the pounds fall off into the 400s, Ashley’s belly no longer honked the horn as she left the car, thrilling Daniel and herself. Ashley also needed help tending to the skin under the fat folds, as her mother, Bianca, applied liquid to her body.
4. Ashley was supported emotionally by a large family of close loved ones, including a group of sisters, a concerned mom and a hard-working dad, Alan. Ashley and her husband moved from her family’s home in California to her temporary pad in Houston, where she was in weight-loss mode. While she initially suffered from separation anxiety, the experience of losing the weight opened Ashley’s eyes to living with Daniel apart from her family. “I’m starting to feel like I have a marriage,” Ashley said.
5) The weight loss for Ashley was an up-and-down process where, after she had the gastric bypass surgery, she was experiencing psychosomatic symptoms reflective, in her doctor’s words, of her emotional stresses. She was hospitalized for an endoscopy after the surgery, but nothing was structurally wrong. Ashley was stunned at how messy the process was, she said several times. “It was harder than I could have imagined, but I’m glad I stuck with it,” Ashley explained, writhing in what she called “excessive amounts of pain.”
Tell Us: What did you think of Ashley’s story? Do you think she will keep the weight off?
My 600-lb Life airs on TLC Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET.