10 Extreme Stories of Weight Challenges and Weight Loss


Many of us at Top Tenz have dealt with the modern problem of being overweight. We’ve counted calories by the thousands. We’ve endured a parade of diets and cleanses with only a few cheats for solace. Most of all, we’ve turned ourselves into sweat sprinklers at the gym. So we have some firsthand perspective on just how much of a strain carrying around extra pounds puts on a person, from their vital organs to their knees. We know just how much of a relief losing them is too… however briefly. Hopefully, we never come anywhere near having to know what it’s like to be in any of the following situations.

10. Most Weight Lost by a Living Person

By 2010, 49-year-old Paul Mason was a target of national mockery in the UK. At 980 pounds, he was known as the heaviest man in the nation. In his own words, he was as wide as he was tall — and naturally, bedridden — owing to being so addicted to eating that he would regularly consume as much food as 10 people. He claimed that by this point in his life, he had so given in to his addiction (which GQ magazine implied was at least partially attributable to some unhealthy treatment by his family during his upbringing) that he felt no embarrassment or connection with any other human being. It was mostly boredom that compelled him to take up the National Health Service’s offer to have bariatric surgery (often referred to as “stomach stapling”) performed for him as a cost-saving measure.

The high pressure surgery began a nearly miraculous turnaround. Six years later, he was down to a comparatively slim 280 pounds, and though he’d needed to have such additional surgeries as have dozens of pounds of loose skin removed, the fact he was able to talk around with a cane after years of immobility was a wonder. He presumably would be the posterboy for bariatric surgery if the operation hadn’t had a roughly 50% chance of killing him through such dangers as blood clots. Still, his was, naturally, an extreme case, and it would be best for the obese community if the stigma against the procedure went away.  

9. Heaviest Woman in the World

In 1993, Carol Yager, a 34-year-old resident of Beecher, Michigan was taken to the hospital, weighing over 1,200 pounds, well exceeding the previous female record holder. Her extreme addiction to eating and general apathy had left her completely dependant on a social worker and her 14-year-old daughter Heather. She would have gone to the hospital sooner for treatment, but at the time she was effectively uninsurable and certainly couldn’t afford to have what was considered an elective surgery performed. It wasn’t until she contracted cellulitis and came down with a fever that she had a condition that would be covered by Medicare.

In the hospital, Yager set a second record when she lost 500 pounds in three months, without having any surgery to remove the weight. Tragically, it was not enough to set her on the road to a healthy life. She died in 1994 at the age of 34 from kidney failure.

8. Most Weight Lost in a Single Day with a Regular Daily Workout

Doesn’t the idea of losing 25 pounds in a day without going under the knife sound like an impossible dream? Well, it won’t after you hear this surefire but torturous (and dangerous) method. In 2013 Ross Edgley was determined to make a point about the ineffectiveness of weight as a metric for health, so he decided to spend a day showing just how much he could lower his weight while doing no more than a completely normal workout.

He accomplished this by only drinking water that was filled with diuretics, taking a bath in epsom salt-filled water, eating only food with little water and carbs, and dressing in layers, including plastic. Naturally he felt awful and regained the lost pounds quickly when he rehydrated himself, but he did drain his body of enough water to have dropped 25 pounds by the end of the day.  

7. Most Weight Removed from a Person from a Single Operation

Your initial reaction might be that an extreme liposuction would remove the largest amount of spare tissue from a human being. But surgical guidelines dictate that the most that can be liposuctioned from a patient during a procedure is five liters (roughly 11 pounds). After all, liposuction is meant to be more about cosmetic sculpting than a weight loss technique.  

No, the most removed from a person was a tumor removal. It was performed in 1991 by Katherine O’Hanlan. The weight of this growth was a staggering 137 pounds, meaning that it had been well over a third of the patient’s total weight. It had grown on, of all things, one of the patient’s ovaries. Imagine what a relief it must have felt like after she recovered from having that removed!

6. Dramatic Weight Loss Time Lapse Video

There are doubtless some who feel it’s a sign of our narcissistic age, but it can be very pleasing and encouraging to watch progress videos of people committing to diets and exercise. One of the highest profile and most impressive was Hunter Hobbs, who in 12 weeks from January to April 2018, through a chicken, egg, and oatmeal diet and cardio exercise, shed 42 pounds while getting much better muscle definition, something Ross Edgley certainly never pulled off by dehydrating himself.

He was featured in such publications as People magazine, Mens Health, and even on The Today Show. If your reaction to that is, “Well, I think I could do that!” then that would be great! Please do! We all benefit when people make the effort to get in better shape.   

5. Most Weight Lost for a Film Role

Of all the ways actors and actresses indulge in “method acting” (i.e. altering their lifestyles to closer reflect the parts they’re playing), the most attention-grabbing seems to be if they commit to changing their weight for a role. What more physical, tangible way to approach it could there be, short of getting a major organ removed?

Christian Bale is a particularly noted believer in this. He gained significant muscle mass to star in American Psycho and the Dark Knight films (Bale claims he put on 20 more pounds of muscle mass than Christopher Nolan wanted for Batman Begins). He was also willing to put on weight for American Hustle and to play Dick Cheney in the upcoming film Vice. On the other end of the spectrum, he shed 55 pounds to play starving prisoner of war Dieter Dengler for Rescue Dawn. But even that was completely overshadowed when he lost 65 pounds to play the dangerously skinny insomniac industrial worker Trevor Reznik in The Machinist. He was only eating an apple and a can of tuna each day for that part, and he is truly uncomfortable to look at when he takes his shirt off in that film. It’s enough to make you wonder if it’s really so much about the craft of acting, or just a disorder.  

4. Most Weight Gained for a Film Role

Probably the most famous case of an actor putting on weight for a role is Robert De Niro gaining 56 pounds to transition between Jake LaMotta’s time as a champion boxer and when he had gone to seed in the 1980 classic Raging Bull. That record amount actually didn’t stand for very long. As early as 1986, Vincent D’Onofrio outdid him by gaining 70 pounds to play Pyle in Full Metal Jacket. Considering D’Onofrio had been a bouncer when he was cast, it seems odd that it would occur to someone to have him play the out-of-his-depth, bumbling recruit.

D’Onofrio found that while he was heavier, people wouldn’t just actively avoid him, but would tend to talk down to him. No doubt this contributed to his decision to not act in any films for a year until he lost all the weight. Unfortunately, he never seemed to get the acclaim for it that De Niro did. The audience doesn’t ever see a thinner Pyle in the movie, so the change in weight for the role couldn’t help but have less impact if the viewers couldn’t see that it wasn’t his usual shape.   

3. Most Weight a Person had Placed on Them for a Sustained Time

For some variety, this is the story of a man who, in 2010, decided to go on Italian TV with a curious hook for setting a world record, to say nothing of an uncomfortable one. He would place 71 cement blocks and four people on himself, a combined weight of roughly 3,270 pounds. Eduardo Armallo Lasaga left the weight on for a prolonged period, as cement blocks were gradually placed across his body before the four people stepped on top of him for a five second count.

Watching the video, everyone who removes the weight is moving with considerable urgency, but it still took more than a minute for the many blocks to be removed. It’s little wonder that his vital signs were monitored the entire time he was undergoing his ordeal. It’s also a bit of a relief that he was able to stand under his own power right after he set his record.  

2. Most Weight a Person has Ever Lifted

We’re going to stick with crazy achievements for these final two entries. Despite even 3,270 pounds being placed on a person sounding like enough to kill them, it’s actually considerably less than the most a human being has ever used only their physical strength to lift. The confirmed record was achieved by 32-year-old Gregg Ernst in 1993, while following all Guinness World Record requirements in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. The culmination of 15 years of intense strongman training, he lifted all of 5,340 pounds in the form of two Ford vehicles with drivers and passengers at a fair on a rainy night. His lifting method was a backlift, meaning that the weight was balanced across his back and shoulders.

As it happened, there was a bit of prolonged drama before he was given his honor. For 21 years, Guinness insisted that the actual record had been set by Olympic gold medalist Paul Anderson in 1954, with 6,270 pounds. It wasn’t until 2014 that Dr. Terry Todd consulted with the Stark Center — the people who were maintaining the records for strongman achievements. Or, as it happened, not really maintaining them, because it turned out Paul Anderson hadn’t provided a shred of evidence that he’d really lifted the largest amount of weight in human history. So it was easy to make the case that Gregg Ernst’s procedure-following lift was the real champion. A slip-up like that really should have been enough to call many Guinness records into question.  

1. Most a Person has Lifted with Their Mouth

Let’s end this on a relatively light note. Now, we’ve all been told that it’s very bad to open any kind of bottle, bag, and so forth with our teeth. It’s not just bad for the gums; it’s the sort of activity that is prone to rub away the enamel. No one has defied that advice in such a flamboyant manner as Walter Arfeuille on March 31, 1990 in the city of Paris. He’d already made a name for himself, performing such stunts with his mouth as pulling a train car for three meters in 1981, a record which would stand for 22 years. But that time there had been the assistance of tracks.

For his later stunt, Arfeuille had nothing but sheer jaw strength to rely on as he lifted 281.7 kilograms in weights for a distance of 17 centimeters. That’s 621 pounds that he lifted two and three quarters of an inch, for those using the imperial system. It’s something where even the thought of training to try and beat his record will make some wince.

Dustin Koski is also the author of A Tale of Magic Gone Wrong, which is about fairies that have turned into monsters.

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