TLC's long-running docuseries My 600-lb Life is arguably one of the most exploitative and depressing shows on television. Perhaps we're being bleak, but we hope that the popular series at least pays the people it documents, who are making last-ditch efforts to turn their lives around. For those who don't know, My 600-lb Life showcases the trials, tribulations, and life-saving weight-loss journeys of severely obese people across the United States.
Considering these people bare their souls, spongebathe on camera, and reveal their medical history to the world, they should be making bank. While we've learned plenty from TLC series (sometimes more than we bargained for), we were happy to learn that there is some money given to My 600-lb Life participants.
How much do TLC's 'My 600-lb Life' subjects get paid to be on the show?
TVOvermind reported that subjects are paid a flat rate with their initial contract, which has also been deemed a "talent fee," of a measly $1,500 to be on the show. When you consider that filming takes place over the course of a solid year, the flat rate is barely enough to buy a week's worth of Daily Harvest meals (just kidding).
With that being said, the show does pay for the participants' surgeries, doctor’s appointments, and hospital stays over the course of a year, which would typically cost them an arm and a leg. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, weight-loss surgery can cost between $15,000 and $25,000, sometimes more. Obviously, it all depends on what kind of bariatric surgery is needed. Whether it be gastric bypass, adjustable gastric banding, or sleeve gastrectomy, it's all expensive.
However, skin removal surgeries following substantial weight loss are not paid for by My 600-lb Life. Surgeries pertaining to saggy skin and body contouring are technically considered to be cosmetic procedures.
Are 'My 600-lb Life' participants compensated for moving fees?
The series' trusted (and sometimes sassy) weight-loss surgeon and author of The Scale Does Not Lie, People Do, Dr. Younan Nowzaradan — nicknamed Dr. Now — resides in Houston, Texas.
Many My 600-lb Life subjects have undergone surgery at Dr. Now's office, including Zsalynn (Season 2), Doug (Season 5), and Lindsey (Season 8). But since not all cast members live close enough to 77-year-old Dr. Now to attend frequent follow-up appointments, many pack up and move across the country, gambling on the world-famous doctor's life-saving gift.
Those who temporarily move their lives to Houston receive an additional $2,500 stipend to pay for moving fees. This is obviously a microscopic number considering filming and moving interfere with work. According to Starcasm, some participants and their families — like the late Season 6 participant Robert Buchel's fiancée, Kathryn Lemanski — have even set up GoFundMe pages to aid with the cost of living during and after filming.
However, certain cast members have been granted housing owned either by production company Megalomedia or TLC in Houston. It's not entirely clear whether or not this is free housing.
In the end, participants don't receive a large chunk of change. But, hey, you do what you have to do to save your own life. Dr. Now's miraculous services aren't exactly easy to come by.
Season 10 of My 600-Lb. Life premieres Nov. 10, 2021, at 8:00 p.m. EST on TLC.