Back in 2009, Billy Robbins of Houston, Texas, was featured in a BodyShock documentary called ‘Half Ton Son’. Aged just 19 at the time, Billy was named as the world’s heaviest teenager, weighing in at 60 stone – just over half a tonne.
The programme honed in on Billy’s home life, his time in the hospital and his struggle to lose weight. He was housebound for three years, before doctors explained that he was at risk of losing his life if he didn’t make some changes.
He went on to lose half of his body weight through diet, gentle exercise and a gastric band, but still weighed an incredible 30 stone.
Billy’s mother received criticism for her role in Billy’s weight-gain, seen during the documentary giving her son large sandwiches and even washing him by hand. Barbara Robbins shared a simple comment on the situation: “I do everything for him, because he is my baby”.
Perhaps it is easy to point the finger, but a key breakthrough into Billy’s weight-gain is that Barbara lost another son – her first – at 19 months due to a brain tumour. During the programme, she said: “I overcompensated when I lost Matthew. It was hard to say no to Billy when he wanted something to eat. Maybe it is an addiction, maybe I’m addicted to my child? When will he stop – when I die?”
Billy Robbins in 2019
I’ve known Billy for a long time now, since around 2015. He’s super sweet-natured and funny. We keep up to date on how the other person is, occasionally talking about the differences between the US and the UK (“I am one of the few obese people that didn’t vote Trump”) Brexit, and the adventures of Billy’s eccentric cousin Frank, who lives on a pig farm.
I asked Billy about the attention he has received since he appeared on the programme and he describes it as a “tsunami” which “changed us forever”.
“TV made us known to people outside our street. Everyone started to judge us, without really knowing my family. Time has passed now, and it feels that everyone has forgotten us again.”
Billy reports that his mum is doing “okay” and that he still lives with her at their home in Texas. He enjoys making new friends on the internet and celebrating family occasions, often visiting his cousin Frank’s farm for months at a time during summer.
For those wondering about Billy’s weight, he told me that it is currently raised from his initial weight loss, but he is still dieting and his health is “good”.
In the future, Billy hopes one day to travel, visit the UK and Buckingham Palace on my recommendation – and I definitely think he could do it if he set his mind to it.
Read some more of my interviews here.