Obesity: The Worst-Case Scenario

Noodle looking out the window

Hector Garcia called himself “the worst-case scenario” for reasons clear to anyone familiar with the thorough and revelatory account of his last four years on earth, as compiled by San Antonio Express-News staffers Jessica Belasco and Lisa Krantz. Garcia started out as an overweight child and ended up weighing over 600 pounds and dying of an officially unspecified cause, though it was probably chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, as he himself had predicted. He was working on a memoir called “Life Behind the Glass,” relating to the idea he expressed like this:

I always pictured myself as a child with my head up against glass looking at life happening and I was stuck behind the glass. Because no one, no one wanted the fat kid.

That was a bit of emotional exaggeration. Hector Garcia was not shunned like a leper, or tarred and feathered, or ridden out of town on a rail. In actual fact, he had a slew of relatives who were fond of him, as documented by the reporter/photographer team. With such a large family, he was probably seldom alone, unless he wanted to be.

Of course, loneliness comes in various flavors, and he did miss out on other kinds of relationships. He told the news team how he regretted being unable to marry or father children. Technically, he could have done either, especially during the intervals when his bulk was drastically reduced (once by bariatric surgery and another time by diet and exercise). But Garcia explained that because of being an overweight child and teenager, he had never developed social skills, especially with girls. He had learned at an early age, he said, that it was better if he kept to himself.

The Bitter End

Still, it is not true that no one wanted the fat kid. His mother, Elena Garcia, doted on him. In a video clip, the two of them ride scooters through the aisles of a grocery store, symbolizing with grim appropriateness that for both, feeding Hector was a top priority. Still, there is something not just touching, but disturbing, about the photos of Hector and his mom tossing a basketball back and forth. Back home, on his 49th birthday, Hector embraces the cake, as his mother sings to him.

Of all the strands making up this tragic tapestry, the most devastatingly ironic detail is how Hector Garcia met his end – indirectly, through the mother who cared for him so devotedly for almost 50 years. Discharged from a short hospitalization, she did not call ahead but arrived home unexpectedly and rang the bell. Hector answered the door, his breathing labored as usual. Then he collapsed, turned purple, and expired.

Toxic Environments

The news story mentioned the various factors that make up the current “toxic food environment” in America, but never suggested the possibility of a toxic parent. It was not the job of the reporter and photographer to psychoanalyze their subject or his parents, diagnose their mental states, or even point out their human shortcomings, if any. To suggest anything awry in this family dynamic would be a serious overstepping of bounds. Sensitivity is always of primary importance when dealing with a bereaved family.

Unconditional love is a miraculous thing, and no one provides it better than mothers and fathers. Still, encountering a similar story to this one, a cynic influenced by Freudian theory might point an accusatory finger at one of the obese person’s parents. Feeding a son or daughter into a state of un-dateable obesity could effectively keep that child at home forever, with the parent never challenged by a rival. Surely, somewhere in the world there has been a mother so crippled by insecurity or a father so blinded by possessiveness as to carry out such a plan.

In the context of a movie based on a Stephen King story, the birthday cake scene would look pretty creepy. In this true-life documentary, the editor chose to place these words immediately before that scene. Hector Garcia says:

A lot of the times we’re like this not because we want to be but because certain circumstances in our life have set the table in a certain way. This is a path that we’ve almost been forced to follow, and we don’t know how to get out of that path.

He said something else that could be interpreted in more than one way:

I want people to know what happened to me…. I don’t want other people to go through the suffering that I went through.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “A Life Apart: The Toll of Obesity,” expressnews.com, 12/27/14
Image by MsSaraKelly


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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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