Last night’s episode of A&E’s Heavy featured a participant with a particularly disturbing set of life circumstances. Chad, a project manager from Decatur, Georgia, weighed in on day one at 509 pounds. On a typical day, Chad eats 5,000 calories. (But that number will decrease to 1,500 daily at Hilton Head Health.) Chad has sleep apnea. He breaks chairs and beds just by sitting on them. He has major abandonment issues surrounding his abusive, alcoholic father. (So does his fellow participant, Sallie, who wasn’t in much better shape; at just 29 years old, her blood pressure is so high that she requires daily medication for it.) Chad’s BMI is supposed to be between 19 and 25. It’s actually 71. Chad is just 28 years old.
But the morbid obesity, boot-camp fitness regimens, and drastic weight loss aren’t what hit me about Chad’s personal story on Heavy. Chad has been dating Laina for a while (pictured above), and considers her to be the love of his life. Laina, who visits Chad at Hilton Head Health, clearly cares about him. But Chad reluctantly admits that Laina doesn’t want to be with or marry someone who could easily die in a year. And I don’t blame her.
Frankly, I appreciated the fact that Laina would honestly own up to this difficult, complex feeling that could potentially humiliate her partner and end her relationship. And I wondered: What would I do in her position? Would I stay with my partner even if I knew his serious health problems would mean he’d be gone in a year or less?
It’s easy to say that if you really loved someone and they had a year left to live, you’d obviously want to spend every waking moment with them. But we’re not talking about being stricken with cancer or any other type of disease here; we’re specifically talking about a level of obesity where doctors have given your partner a year to live — obesity that your partner may or may not have helped propel along the way.
Don’t get me wrong: I know how precious being able to spend 365 consecutive days with someone can be (I have some experience with good friends and family members dying before their time), but what if you knew that the quality of that final year was going to be compromised by your partner’s morbid obesity? Why should you have to put yourself through the wrenching emotional trauma of living through the premature death of the person you love, especially if you might feel resentful of them for not doing anything to decrease or stop their obesity in the first place? Well, I don’t think you should have to.
I know what you might be thinking: Anyone can die at any time for any reason. You can’t let that stop you from being with the person you love. But I don’t buy that. Relationships (good or bad) are all about choices (good or bad). If my partner chose to become obese (yes, I acknowledge that genetics, environmental factors, emotional traumas, eating disorders, and substance abuse can play a role in developing obesity), then I would need to make my own choice: And, as hard as that would be, my choice would be to end the relationship in the hopes of sparing myself (and my partner) more emotional wreckage later.
Of course, I wouldn’t want to leave my partner, just as I’m sure my partner wouldn’t want to leave me in a year by dying. But, for different reasons, the choices would have been made.
So, in the end, I have to agree with Laina’s original line of skepticism. (Though she and Chad eventually did end up getting married after he lost 141 pounds, and I wish them both good times and even better health.) I think the only thing potentially more difficult than staying with an obese partner if they only had a year to live would be actually breaking off the relationship at the start of that end year. But, as callous as it may sound (and I really don’t mean for it to sound callous), that’s exactly what I would do.
What about you? Sound off in our comments section, below.
photo: A&E’s Heavy