The show features people undergoing weight-loss surgeries by Atlanta bariatric surgeon Charles Daniel Procter, the doctor behind the TLC show “1000-Lb Sisters.” The episode of “Too Large” released June 9 features Phelps, whose backstory and personality are even more compelling than his weight loss journey.
“I’m definitely a thicc bitch with a few extra c’s,” Phelps says in his show introduction, which also chronicles the loss of his supportive dad, some enabling from his roommate, bullying about his weight throughout his life, and even a period of homelessness. At points, it’s heartbreaking.
“I think the biggest part for me was having to create a support network,” Phelps told Project Q. “I lost everything and almost everyone when I was homeless. It was a blessing looking back at it because you realize who cares enough to walk beside you on your darkest days, but you feel alone.”
The self-titled “Qween Phelps,” now 29, calls his handsome surgeon #daddyprocter on IG and told Project Q that Cartersville, northwest of Marietta in Bartow County, was the perfect place for him to start over.
“There is public transportation, everything is nearby, the Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter is phenomenal,” he said. “Cartersville was exactly where I was supposed to be.”
Gay is good
Phelps said that being gay definitely influences his personality and affects his ongoing journey with his weight.
“One specific instance that was hard for me was dating,” he said. “As a plus-size male, I quickly realized that people who were into ‘thicc’ boys were losing interest, and people who weren’t typically into ‘thicc’ boys were gaining interest.”
“I am at this weird turning point where I am having to find where I belong,” Phelps added.
Other LGBTQ people and queer culture don’t always make it easy, either.
“I love my fellow ‘Alphabet Mafia’ members,” he said. “But in the gay culture, I think we are both the most accepting of each other but also our own worst enemies.”
Phelps cited author Paulo Freire and his assertion that marginalized communities are subject to civil wars. Many internalize a need to mimic and assimilate with their oppressors, he said.
“In the gay culture, we struggle with ‘too masc,’ ‘too fem,’ etc.” Phelps said. “This type of mentality where we harshly judge each other or don’t want to be like ‘that gay’ is toxic. But I also think we are self-aware as a community and are working to extinguish these outdated beliefs.”
That pressure on top of cultural expectations to fit a physical mold still affect Phelps. Even the name of the Discovery+ show grates his sensibilities, he said.
“One thing about me is I hate terms like ‘too big’ and ‘too large,’” Phelps said. “They are microaggressions at best and insensitive to people who struggle with their weight.”
Loving ourselves from the beginning
After the surgery and show, Phelps did lose a significant amount of weight and continues to do so now. But make no mistake: His size does not define him.
“Losing weight doesn’t magically cure your issues with your body overnight,” Phelps said. “If you don’t like yourself now, you probably aren’t going to like yourself with loose skin or stretch marks. Instead, know that you are beautiful now and amazing and incredible. The moments in my life where I have been successful in losing weight are when I loved myself.”
“That isn’t glorifying obesity, either,” he added. “Plus-size people have a right to feel good about themselves, just as much as anyone else.”
That said, he does have advice for people who are considering losing weight via surgery.
“If you are looking into surgery, go for it, but don’t think surgery is an easy way out, because it is not,” Phelps said. “I have struggled more with losing weight after surgery than I ever did before surgery.”
He now struggles with undereating, going long periods without food and then wanting to binge. He has to stay on top of the new challenges, and having bariatric surgery is not a cure-all, he warned.
“The surgery keeps you accountable, but you still have to do the work,” Phelps said.
“I also say, learn to love yourself and don’t obsess over numbers,” he said. “If you let a scale dictate your success, then you will miss out on all the amazing non-scale victories.”
These days, Phelps works in human services and non-profit management, and he studies pre-law with the dream of becoming an attorney. He walks a few miles every morning. He is actively dating.
“I am no longer held back by my issues with mobility,” he said. “I am learning to enjoy life again.”
He mostly takes his own advice and encouragement.
“Know your worth,” he said. “I always say if Britney survived 2007, then I can survive this. You can be a thicc bitch and a bad bitch, and god bless anyone who tells you otherwise.”