LB Bonner Killed Himself After Filming 'My 600 Lb Life' On TLC — Why His Family's Suing The Show

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LB Bonner Killed Himself After Filming 'My 600 Lb Life' On TLC — Why His Family's Suing The Show
Entertainment And News

For the patients who star on My 600 Lb Life, the show can seem like their last chance to lose weight and resume a normal life. Many of them successfully get weight loss surgery, regain their mobility, and open a new, more hopeful chapter of their life.

For others, the show creates as many problems as it solves. 

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That was the case for James "LB" Bonner, who appeared during season six of the TLC reality program. Bonner's weight had peaked at almost 650 pounds and his mobility was further compromised by the loss of his leg due to an ATV accident. He went on the show hoping to get surgery that would save him from dying due to weight-related conditions. He succeeded in qualifying for surgery and even lost hundreds of pounds afterward.

But the period following the show was emotionally draining for the South Carolina man and eventually, he took his own life. Now his family is suing the production company that filmed his story. Why did LB Bonner kill himself? Keeping reading for all the tragic details. 

1. What happens on My 600 Lb Life?

My 600 Lb Life is a popular show on TLC that follows bariatric surgery patients for a year of their lives. The people on the show are all patients of Dr. Younan Nowzardan, a Texas physician who is one of the only doctors in America who will perform weight loss surgery on patients as heavy at the ones featured on the program.

However, the stories are never as simple as a person walking into the office and asking for the procedure. Dr. Now, as his patients call him, demands that they all follow a weight loss program to demonstrate they can commit to the post-surgical diet and exercise requirements. He sends many of the patients to therapy to manage their emotional histories, as well.

Moreover, the process of filming strains personal relationships that patients have with spouses and other family members. The show ends up being a profoundly intimate look into the lives of people struggling to survive. 

2. Who was LB Bonner? Why did he volunteer to go on the show?

James "LB" Bonner was featured on the 6th season of the show. He was 28 years old at the time and his weight was around 650 pounds. In his introduction, he shared details of his childhood. He had a close and loving family, including an aunt and uncle whom he considered to be a second set of parents.

He was particularly close to his aunt who indulged him with treats when he was staying at her house. She died when he was young and the subsequent grief led him to eat for comfort and he started gaining significant amounts of weight. In high school, he played football but his habit of partying led to problems with alcohol and he dropped out of school. 

When he was 25 years old, he was over 400 pounds. His condition changed dramatically after an ATV accident in 2013 that cost him one of his legs. He continued his hard-drinking lifestyle for several years ever after the accident and his weight climbed to 650 pounds. In 2017, he decided he was ready for a change and applied to be on the show. 

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3. Was Bonner successful in losing weight?

Bonner was having great results after the surgery. He had a procedure known as a lap-band and, between that and changes in diet and exercise, he was able to drop about 400 pounds. He shared frequent photos of himself after his episode aired and fans were happy to cheer him on as he continued to lose weight.

But eventually, the show asked him to stop posting photos, likely due to his contract for a Where Are They Now episode he was expected to film. In a now-deleted social media post, he did tell his many supporters that he wanted to keep interacting and was thinking of doing recipe posts and other helpful tips. 

Bonner posted before and after photos. 

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4. Why did LB Bonner kill himself?

In a shocking turn of events, Bonner took his own life in 2018. Before his suicide, he took to Facebook to write a final post saying, "I just want to say thank you to everyone who has shown me love and support throughout my journey. I’ve realized a few things over the last few days and its time that I face my demons head-on. No matter what you change or the efforts you put forth in life, sometimes you just have to take it on the chin and deal with things your own way... Please don’t ever let people you care about not know how you feel.”

After writing that post, he shot himself in the head. The wound was fatal and the coroner ruled it a suicide. He was 30 years old at the time of this death. Fans were shocked because his social media persona had been so positive even in the days leading up to his suicide, but he was clearly masking emotional distress. 

5. Now his family is suing the production company behind My 600 Lb Life

Last week, Bonner's family reportedly filed a lawsuit against Megalomedia, the company the produces My 600 Lb Life. The family says the image of a man with a sunny outlook who was seeing nothing but success on the show was falsely manufactured by the show and hid the distress Bonner actually felt.

They allege that producers pushed him to film even when he wasn't feeling up to it, citing a text exchange where Bonner said things like “I am a f*cked up wreck right now”; “I’m not in a good place right now it’s dark," and “I had a breakdown," to which a production staffer replied, “Fake it till you make it.”

The family also alleges the show only paid for one therapy session and any additional sessions would be covered only on an as-needed basis. There was also a dispute about the bills for the surgery. Bonner understood that the production company would pay for everything but they didn't — and Bonner was hounded by bill collectors after the surgery.

The physical effects of the surgery weren't all positive, either; according to reports, Bonner's rapid weight loss caused side effects like loosening of his teeth, causing several of them to fall out.

Bonner's family is also holding the show responsible for not ensuring Bonner's well-being after the cameras. The suit claims that "My 600-lb Life is an example of one of those reality shows that a production company spent little investment in but was able to sell for a large profit to a major network.

Unfortunately, as with My 600-lb Life, those that create and produce these shows, many times do so to the detriment to those that are featured therein." The family is suing for over a million dollars in damages. 

6. Megalomedia denies they had anything to do with Bonner's suicide. 

While neither TLC nor Dr. Nowzardin have commented on the lawsuit situation so far, Megalomedia issued a statement last week.

"We understand that the family of LB Bonner has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Megalomedia, Inc. and other entities in connection with Mr. Bonner’s participation in the television program My 600 LB Life," they write. 

"We were deeply saddened by his suicide in 2018 and continue to extend our sympathy and condolences to his family. However, the allegations of this lawsuit are without merit, are false and will be vigorously contested in court. Moreover, the claims are counter to the program’s mission of shedding light on people who, because of their weight, have been ignored for far too long by the medical industry with the hope that they will be able to get the help they need. We look forward to presenting our defense in court. We are also aware of a media report that others are considering legal action against the show and if the Company determines the lawsuits are without merit it will aggressively deal with them and seek attorneys fees, costs and sanctions against the Plaintiffs."

There is not yet a schedule for when this case will go to trial. 

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If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “help” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. She is the creator of the blog FeminXer and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.

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