James King from ‘My 600-lb Life’ dies at age 49: what happened?

April 18, 2024
6 mins read

Patients in “My 600-lb Life” suffer from various emotional and physical disorders, addictions, or serious illnesses that result in their weight reaching the dreaded 600lb or 272kg mark on the special scale. While Dr. Younan Nowzaradan – Dr. Now – tries his best to help them, he cannot always keep them self-accountable and motivated. While he knew his health was at risk, James King, featured in the fifth season, struggled to keep his staggeringly high weight number in check during and after the show. Nonetheless, he inspired many, and his untimely death still broke the heart of his family members and fans among the viewers. We analyze how James reached the rare morbid obesity level, and what caused his untimely passing.

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Not all patients lose or keep the weight off

While the show usually features individuals who genuinely want help and will do the work to qualify for the intervention Dr. Now suggests, not all succeed. Even if individuals become an example of a success story and have a weight loss operation, their habits may creep back as soon as they relax and the weight returns. Some, such as James King, were extreme cases – he joined the show as the heaviest patient up to that point, and eventually weighed more than 200lb or over 80kg above the show’s approximate minimum value for patients to qualify for surgery.

Therefore, no one, not even James himself, was surprised that his body couldn’t sustain so much pressure on organs, and that his skin was prone to infections. Viewers may remember that his daughter dropped out of school to treat his ulcerations, and help him stay clean and fed. Therefore, James had a big family cheering him on, a proven diet plan, and was getting therapy for his childhood trauma and abandonment issues. Unfortunately, his food and drink cravings and years of health issues caused his untimely death at 49.


He had childhood trauma

When James King, whom the audience remembers as “James K” debuted in “My 600-lb Life” in 2017, viewers could guess that he would have a rough go at weight loss. Right off the bat, the Kentucky native was dubbed the largest patient in the show at 791lbs or 360kgs. He explained that his complicated relationship with food started in childhood, meaning he’d struggled for over three decades. His mother, Virginia Carol Stone King, seems to be the primary problem since he ‘saw her three times as a kid, and even then, she was drunk.’

Therefore, his father Donald singlehandedly raised him and his brother, also named Donald. As if having an absent parent wasn’t troubling enough for a child, he revealed that though he made amends with his mother later in life, she passed away on the same day his family lost nearly all their possessions in a house fire.


Instead of feeling the drive to rebuild and start anew, James felt powerful sadness and depression, which made him want to avoid social activities, including working on his education. Consequently, he became a shut-in who as a coping mechanism, only wanted to eat. Overeating, combined with lack of physical activity, having a wife, children,and grandchildren to bring him food, saw his weight balloon out of control, eventually resulting in him becoming bedbound.

James gave all kinds of excuses

Being stuck in bed with food cravings and unable to perform basic functions without his wife, Lisa, and the youngest daughter, was already risky. To make matters worse, James started developing infections and ulcerations across his body, then started suffering from sleep apnea, forcing him to wear a CPAP machine every night. Finally, he wasn’t the one who wanted help; his father, Donald, suggested he apply for the show, and James only reached out to Dr. Now with the family’s persistent encouragement.


That unsurprisingly became a problem; his heart was not in it when Dr. Now gave him a diet plan to help him lose 200lbs or about 80kgs to qualify for a bariatric operation. Therefore, he blamed all kinds of things for straying from his diet, and consuming high-calorie, unhealthy food, including car breakdown, and swelling because of excess fluid build-up. His wife Lisa also made excuses for him, only worsening his situation. Dr. Now, who has heard ridiculous explanations for patients’ behaviors, didn’t buy it. Additionally, the camera crew caught James rejecting the healthy food his wife brought him, citing that ‘he did not want that crap and was tired of eating the same old stuff.’

At the end of his episode, James King failed to lose the weight the doctor asked him to, and so qualify for the gastric bypass operation. Nonetheless, viewers were hopeful because Dr. Now didn’t drop him from his weight loss program, and James received all the food diet and exercise-related instructions he needed to succeed.

He gained even more weight in the spin-off series

Viewers were saddened when James returned to TV screens in the special “My 600-lb Life: Where Are They Now?”, aired in the summer of 2018, because his weight was unchanged. Even worse, despite ending up in hospital and only consuming the Dr.Now-approved diet on paper, his weight peaked at 840lbs or about 380kgs.

That outcome made no sense, and Dr. Now hired adult protective services to monitor his situation. After they failed to intervene, he had to tell James his life was at risk if he did not follow the prescribed diet that would make him lose 30lb to 50lb or 13,5kg to 22,5kg during the hospital stay.


His wife secretly overfed him

Dr. Now knew that his wife was the only person who could have hindered his weight loss, and accused her of sneaking him food into the hospital and overfeeding him; pizzas and other take-out food were brought up. However, she denied it, and James seemed insulted by the claim, telling the doctor, ‘I’ve been with her 25 years. You just want to blame it on her.’ He even claimed it was all ‘muscle weight or water weight,’ and Dr. Now suggested banning Lisa from visiting him for five days to prove that was untrue. James refused to do so, so the doctor dropped him from his program.

James died in the hospital two years later

Some never beat their demons, while others struggle with issues caused by their previous weight or food and drink intake, even after approved nutrition and suitable workouts. James had the traits of both types of patients, and they affected his life negatively. That became evident when the news broke that James King passed away on 3 April 2020 in Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital Midtown, in Nashville, Tennessee. Why and when he moved from Paducah, Kentucky, to another state is undetermined. Still, we can assume it was because the hospital specializes in life-saving operations, and has a 24/7 emergency team.

The family didn’t reveal the cause of death in his obituary. However, viewers already knew that he was hospitalized for kidney failure, cirrhosis, and sepsis in December 2017, so at least one of those problems likely returned. An insider told The Sun that he suffered an infection, went into septic shock, and died from kidney failure. While it’s unclear how long he stayed, James likely had no choice but to consume hospital food, based on how weary and pale he looked in the pictures his family took, posted before his death. Information that supports that fact is the insider’s claim that James had reached a ‘weight of 500lbs or 227kgs at the time of death, and would have been proud of himself.’

His funeral was closed to the public, since the coronavirus pandemic spread rapidly around that time. However, the family told those who sympathize with them to either donate to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, or The American Cancer Society in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. That may suggest he or a family member had a form of cancer.


He didn’t take responsibility for his situation

James’ story reminds us that no amount of support and expertise can make someone change their ways unless they wish to do so – the old adage that ‘you can’t help those who don’t help themselves’ was never truer. He found ridiculous excuses for his food addiction, and clashed with the doctor and his family instead of accepting help and changing his diet.

His story also showed that the overwhelming love his wife gave him had a serious negative effect on him; his earlier hospital stay could have saved his life. Instead, James denied Dr. Now’s accusations, refused to take responsibility for his and his wife’s actions, and lost the only knowledgeable person willing to help.

He left the show heavier than when he entered, and his fans knew that he couldn’t continue down that path if he wanted to be there for his father, three brothers, four daughters and two sons, and 19 grandchildren. Although James made improvements, it was not enough for him to bounce back from the abuse his body had suffered for decades.

He never lived to return to his passions

It was obvious after he died that his kidneys had reached breaking point, but viewers still wondered if earlier weight loss would have given him a higher chance of recovery, or more medical options. Nonetheless, his 340lb or 154kg weight loss in the early two years between 2018 and 2020 gave his family hope. They saw him slimmer, happier, and more energized, judging by the pictures posted by his stepdaughter, Krystle Langston, daughter Courtney, and youngest daughter Bayley, his primary caretaker for a time.

Additionally, his family revealed that James loved baseball, hockey and wrestling. His favorite team was the Chicago Cubs, and he communicated with friends and fans as Cracker Jack on his CB Radio. James was the seventh patient featured in “My 600-lb Life” to die, and a dozen passed away by March 2023. His family and fans were also happy that he at least lived to see his 19th grandson, Aydan J’Mason Crumble, born on 21 August 2019.

Olivia Wilson

As the Freelance Writer at Net Worth Post, I steer producing riveting stories about the lives and triumphs of influencers. With an unwavering commitment to precision and a flair for weaving compelling tales, I guide our content creation, from the depths of research to the pinnacle of narrative excellence. My responsibilities encompass the full spectrum of editorial management, including the meticulous investigation, narrative development, and upholding the integrity and high standard of our output.

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