“None of my sadness or fear has been enough to stop me from eating,” – Joyce
Joyce Del Viscovo, who appeared on Episode 7 of Season 8 of My 600-lb Life in 2020, is one of the heaviest people to be featured on the show. Her highest weight was 758 lbs, and she suffered from severe mobility and self-care issues. Joyce is only 4 ft. 11 in. tall, making her 758 lb weight even more taxing on her body.
Joyce’s typical day
At the beginning of the episode, Joyce says she wakes up in the morning in disgust of what her life is now but also in shock that she was able to make it another day.
Joyce was 44 years old, the same age her dad was when he died of a heart attack, and had not left her house in three years. She says she feels like a prisoner and cannot get out of bed on her own. She pays her friend Dawn to take care of her, and Dawn helps her use the bathroom in her potty chair, and washes her. She has to use a blow dryer to make sure she’s dry and put zinc oxide cream in all of Joyce’s folds to prevent sores from developing.
Joyce says her first bite of food is the best part of the day because she has no worries when she’s eating. Joyce lives to eat, and does nothing but eat all day while she sits in a recliner.
She was a normal-sized child. Her parents got divorced when she was three, and her dad wasn’t really in her life.
When she was seven, her mom met her stepdad, who had three sons. Her mom moved in with him and sent Joyce to live with her grandmother, which made Joyce feel abandoned.
While Joyce was with her grandmother she put on 40-50 pounds and by age 8 she was 90-100 pounds.
When her mom, who is also named Joyce, came to take Joyce back, she was shocked at how big she had gotten. She put her on a strict diet, and Joyce was very upset because he had her coping mechanism taken away. Joyce later reveals that around this time she was sexually assaulted by one of her stepbrothers.
When she was 12, her mom and stepdad got a divorce, and Joyce was relieved to be out of his house. Still, Joyce’s mom kept her on diets that Joyce found to be “abusive.” She wouldn’t adhere to the diets, and always found a way to get food anyway.
At 16, Joyce got a job at a fast food place, which allowed her to have better access to the food she craved.
In order to get her daughter away from working in fast food, Joyce’s mom opened up a daycare center where Joyce could work. Joyce loved working at the daycare but still continued to binge on food.
At age 18 Joyce was 350 pounds. By 20 she was over 400 pounds.
Memories of abuse
At age 21 she started dating, which triggered the memory of SA that happened with a stepbrother when she was eight.
She kept having dreams of fighting him off, and she didn’t know if they were dreams or memories. She went to a community counseling center to get help, but she kept it all to herself. Instead of telling her boyfriend, she broke up with him.
She didn’t bring it up to her mother for a long time, and then let it slip during an argument, which was not the best time to bring it up.
Joyce’s life and weight continued to spiral out of control
Then, her father died of a heart attack at 44. Joyce feared she would end up like him, but she was stressed from running the daycare and didn’t make herself a priority. She used food to cope with her stressful life.
Joyce hired her friend Dawn at the daycare shortly after they met. When Dawn first started Joyce was still mobile but her situation declined.
By her mid-thirties, Joyce was around 550 lbs and was having mobility problems. Eventually, she got too big to work and had to close the daycare. A few later she developed bad lymphedema on her lower body, which caused her to be bedbound. At that time, she hired Dawn to give her constant personal care.
How is Joyce enabled?
Both Dawn and Joyce’s mom help her get access to food. She feels judged by her mom, but her mom is so afraid of upsetting her that she makes the kinds and amounts of food that Joyce demands. Joyce feels like if her caretakers have a problem with what she wants to eat they should, “Shut up and give me the food, and then leave if you have a problem with it.”
Joyce’s mom cries about Joyce dying, but doesn’t know what to do about it. Dawn and Joyce also acknowledge that if nothing changes, Joyce likely doesn’t have much time left.
Joyce’s move to Houston
Joyce moved from Kansas to Houston with her caregiver Dawn to get life-saving weight loss surgery. However, the pre-surgery weight loss program proved to be a huge challenge for her.
When Dr. Nowzaradan first met with Joyce as she arrived at the hospital, he noted that her condition was already “severely deteriorated” and worried that she had already passed a critical point that the medical professionals wouldn’t be able to pull her back from.
As he examines her he asks if she has any other concerns. She replies that she’s hungry because she hasn’t eaten all day, and he retorts in a jovial, but still serious, manner, “Don’t worry, you have eaten the food that belongs to the next three years ahead of time, okay?”
Joyce agrees and tells the doctor it’s probably more than three years.
Unlike many My 600 lb. Life patients, Joyce is unable to live on her own during the start of the weight loss journey process. Instead, she’s checked in to St. Joseph Medical Center in Houston to receive around-the-clock care.
Early signs of trouble
After one month, Dr. Now reports that Joyce has made some much-needed progress. However, she hates the food program they have her on and is resistant to her physical therapy. Dr. Now is concerned about her respiratory system and getting her stamina up, so physical therapy is extra important not just for weight loss, but also for physical health.
During her first weight check, Joyce struggled to get on the scale and asked to skip trying for a second time. Dr. Nowzaradan let Joyce know that her situation was dire and weight loss and improving her physical fitness was a matter of life and death to her.
Joyce is discharged after a couple of months in the hospital even though she is still unable to walk very well. She moves into a Houston apartment and has physical therapy three times a week, which Joyce doesn’t like doing. She thinks they push her too hard.
Joyce’s goal was to be able to visit Dr. Nowzaradan’s office without the help of a medical transport vehicle. Even though Joyce hates physical therapy, it has still helped her be able to increase the amount she’s able to walk.
Joyce thinks the 1,200 calorie diet doesn’t work, Dr. Now calls her delusional
Joyce says she’s been sticking with her 1,200 calories a day diet, but still hasn’t lost much weight. She thinks that her body isn’t allowing her to lose weight on a 1,200 calorie diet. Her mobility hasn’t improved enough to go to Dr. Nowzaradan’s office, and he refused to send Joyce a medical transport vehicle. Instead, Dr. Now asked to set up a video call.
On the call, Dr. Nowzaradan confronts Joyce about her lack of weight loss. Joyce insisted that she was only eating 1,200 calories and suggested that maybe she should go lower. Dr. Now, however, didn’t believe that she was actually eating 1,200 and estimated that she was eating five or six times more food that she should be eating. He thought she looked like she had gained weight instead of losing it.
He suggested that maybe food was more important to Joyce than saving her life. Joyce insisted that this wasn’t the case. Joyce says she knows that she has lost weight because her clothes fit better.
“You’re delusional if you believe that,” Dr. Now says.
Dr. Now and Joyce also argue about her use of oxygen. Joyce says that she’s made progress because she no longer needs oxygen, but Dr. Now thinks that she hasn’t needed oxygen for a while. “So, the only progress with that is you are no longer pretending that you cannot breath on your own,” Dr. Now says.
Joyce feels the program is failing her, not the other way around
Dr. Now demanded that Joyce find a way to get to his office in two days without medical transport. She also didn’t take accountability for not losing weight. “It’s the program that’s failing, not me,” Joyce says.
Dawn got Joyce a scooter, and they hired a taxi that she could ride her scooter into so she could make it to Dr. Now’s office. She considered Dr. Now asking her to come inside the office no matter what as “abusive” and insisted that her lack of weight loss wasn’t her fault.
Weight gain instead of weight loss
Joyce thought she didn’t have enough energy to get on the scale this time. Once she is weighed it’s revealed that she has actually gained 58 pounds from the last time she was weighed two months ago. Over all, she has still lost a net 147 pounds, but this is a big step back for her. Dr. Now was correct, Joyce had gained 58 pounds instead of losing the 100 pounds she should have lost. Still, Joyce blames the program, not herself, for her recent weight gain.
She later tells Dr. Now that she believes she put on water weight because of her lymphedema. Dr. Now tells her that she’s “kidding herself” by telling herself whatever she wants.
Joyce says that the car ride was already too much for her, and she doesn’t think she can make it back. “I’m very dizzy, and I think I’m having a heart attack,” she says.
Dr. Now eventually agrees to get Joyce checked into the hospital to see if she’s okay. He’s majorly concerned by the fact that Joyce is convinced that she’s following the diet when she clearly seems to not be doing so.
At the hospital, they were unable to find any emergency medical issues with Joyce, and Dr. Now considered her insistence to go to the hospital “manipulative behavior.” Dr. Now asked her to get therapy and offered to arrange medical transport to get to her appointments.
However, he wanted her to come back to the office in one month without medical transport, and to have lost 50 pounds by that time.
Joyce doubts that therapy will help her
Later, Joyce uses medical transport to go to therapy but doesn’t feel the need to go because she had been to therapy in the past. She says the only reason she’s going is because Dr. Now is requiring it of her.
At therapy with Lola Clay, Joyce talks about how her mother often comes at her with anger, and she meets her mom’s anger with even more anger. She also opens up about the sexual abuse she suffered as a child. She feels like her mother ignored her SA. The therapist asked Joyce to come back with her mother.
At the end of the session, Joyce was surprised that the session actually helped her some. She realized that she loved her mother, but her mother has done things that have hurt her. A later session with Joyce and her mom, who is also named Joyce, goes pretty well, but Joyce didn’t open up enough about how she felt about how her mother dealt with her past sexual abuse.
Joyce didn’t come back to see Dr. Now after one month, so he extended the deadline to three months. She begged him for medical transport, and he finally agreed to allow her to get medical transport to see him.
Joyce’s future is still uncertain
Joyce believes that her last weigh-in at 611 lbs. (that showed a 58 lb. gain) was due to a scale malfunction. She expects to see a huge weight loss at this weigh-in. Because it’s been three months, Dr. Now expected her to lose 150 lbs. at this appointment. Instead, Joyce had gained 12 lbs., which Joyce takes as evidence that Dr. Now’s scale is definitely broken.
Dr. Now was very firm with Joyce that from now on she would need to lose 50 pounds a month, and if she doesn’t he won’t be able to help her. After a year home from the hospital, Joyce hasn’t lost anything.
Joyce counters that Dr. Now doesn’t understand how hard she’s been working every single day. Dr. Now goes on to say that nothing will change unless she starts to make better choices.
Three months later, Joyce still has trouble walking and says she can’t make it to his office for her appointment without medical transport. She’s decided to keep living in Houston even though she couldn’t make it to Dr. Now’s office, and continue trying to lose weight.
Since Joyce’s episode aired in 2020 there have been no updates on her progress or condition.