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The Tragic Real-Life Story Of James King From My 600-Lb Life

Every reality series has an episode that's so memorable, so indelible, that it becomes a cultural signpost that defines the show in memory to its general viewing audience and the public at large. For a lot of fans of "My 600-lb Life," James King — referred to as "James K" during the show — arguably provided that defining moment for the entirety of the franchise's existence.

Fair or unfair as that may be, a lot of fans of the show remember the sound of King crying out "my leg!" when he was transferred between beds during his first episode — or the long list of excuses he gave Younan "Dr. Now" Nowzaradan, preventing him from losing pounds during the process he underwent while on the weight loss doctor's program. King had a short but troubled life that partly played out before the cameras, and his story ended in tragic circumstances.

James King had a rough childhood

Kentucky native King explained his childhood trauma during his first episode. Describing his mother as an absentee parent, he claimed that he "only saw [his] mother three times during [his] childhood, and she was drunk every time." This required his father to take care of him and his brother, Donald. He would reconnect with his mother later in life, but the scar of this early abandonment, combined with his mother passing away on the same day that his family lost everything in a house fire, apparently caused deep sadness to take over his life. "I lost just about everything I had in a single day," he said during his episode, according to Deadline.

Depression set in and caused his weight to balloon, keeping him away from school and other social activities. "It seems like all I wanted to do was eat," he said on the show. But hope appeared to be on the horizon. 

Dr. Now offers to help

By the time King would appear on the fifth episode of the fifth season of "My 600-lb Life" in 2017, he was completely bedbound. He weighed in at 791 pounds during his initial appearance and he relied upon his wife, Lisa, and his children to keep his body clean and fed as he was unable to stand unassisted. His youngest daughter had, in fact, dropped out of school to take care of him, according to the episode. He had developed ulcerations on his legs and multiple health problems, including having to use a CPAP machine at night.

It was his father, Donald, who urged James to take part in the TLC reality show.  With the encouragement of his family, King applied to the show, but it was clear only minutes into the first few minutes of his first episode that his cravings were going to be a major issue for him. 

Food cravings led to conflicts

Right from the very start of his journey, James King was depicted on the show as becoming argumentative when forced to follow Dr. Now's diet or exercise. He was frequently prone to cravings, which made sticking to the plan set before him difficult. King had already experienced heart failure once, along with sepsis and cirrhosis of the liver, according to TMZ, and the stress of the situation made him even more vulnerable to his cravings. 

Though Dr. Now placed him on an eating plan guaranteed to make him lose the 200 or so pounds he needed to drop to qualify for bariatric surgery, King's first episode ended in disappointment — he failed to make the weigh-in requirement, gaining weight instead of losing it.  

James and Lisa King put forth multiple excuses for their reliance on high-calorie, high-fat take-out food, including the breakdown of one of their vehicles and fluid-related swelling. But footage from the show indicates that he only wanted food that pleased his palate, even if Dr. Now forbade it. "I don't want that s***," James says when Lisa offers him some fish for dinner during his episode. "I'm tired of that same old stuff."

King brought a lot of drama with him to his second My 600-lb Life appearance

James King appeared on the "My 600-lb Life" spin-off series "My 600-lb Life: Where Are They Now?" in 2018. The episode continued to track his attempt at losing weight, but as it turned out, he packed on the pounds instead. By the end of the episode, he had gained more weight, peaking at 840 pounds while hospitalized and supposedly on a Dr. Now-approved diet.

On the show, Dr. Now would accuse Lisa King of overfeeding James on purpose by bringing in food from the outside world, though she insisted she wasn't sneaking him anything. Dr. Now called adult protective services after James gained weight, and when they failed to intervene, he threatened to ban Lisa from the hospital, blaming her for the weight gain and saying that if Lisa was banned from the hospital, her husband would easily lose 30 to 50 pounds on his prescribed diet. 

James was outraged by the very suggestion. "I've been with her 25 years," he said. "You just want to blame it on her." 

"No, both of you!" Dr. Now said. 

When James refused to bar his wife from his bedside for five days and Dr. Now refused to accept his excuses, he was dropped from the doctor's program.

A sad ending

Unfortunately for James King, his weight loss journey did not have a happy ending, as he died on April 3, 2020, at the age of 49.  The Sun reported that before his passing, he had lost 340 pounds since his 2018 "Where Are They Now" appearance. However, a family member told TMZ that King's heart gave out months after he experienced liver and kidney failure due to his weight. According to The Wrap, James was survived by his wife, Lisa Raisor King, his father, three brothers, four daughters, two sons, and 19 grandchildren.

According to his obituary published on the Milner and Orr Funeral Home website, "James loved sports, especially wrestling, hockey and baseball. James' favorite team to cheer for was the Chicago Cubs. His other hobbies included fishing and communicating to friends across the country on his CB Radio under the handle 'Cracker Jack.'"

TLC confirmed King's death in a tweet, stating, "TLC was deeply saddened by the loss of James King, who shared his weight-loss journey on My 600lb Life. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time."