1000-Lb Best Friends' Vannessa Cross Talks About The Show And Her Weight Loss Journey - Exclusive Interview

When Season 1 of "1000-lb Best Friends" aired, fans fell in love with Vannessa Cross throughout her uplifting weight loss journey that was a roller coaster of emotions. During Season 1, Cross struggled physically and mentally to lose weight, and at times it seemed like an unattainable dream. But she persevered, reaching her goal weight of under 400 pounds to qualify for bariatric surgery, and ultimately losing over 100 pounds. Cross' Instagram is full of fan comments cheering her on, echoing, "You are such an inspiration." 

The popular TV show "1000-lb Best Friends" is back with a whole new season, and Vannessa Cross confirms it won't disappoint. Cross' energy noticeably shifts in Season 2, after her glow-up from her recent surgery, and she now faces a new challenge as her 19-year-old son joins the show to tackle his weight and diabetes issues. In an exclusive interview with Health Digest, Cross reveals the ups and downs of her weight loss journey, some behind-the-scenes moments of the show, and what you can expect in Season 2. She also shares some advice for how to reach your own weight loss goals.

Cross was hesitant to join the show

You have been on quite the journey since Season 1 of "1000-lb Best Friends" aired. How did you first get involved with the show?

Meghan [and I] have been best friends for many years, and we've both talked about losing weight, but we never did. ... When Meghan called me and asked me, "Would you want to be on a TV show about weight loss?" I was apprehensive. I thought it was a scam. I didn't believe it.

When we actually started filming, and when Meghan asked me, I didn't really understand what everything was about. In Season 1, Episode 1, when Meghan [and I] went to the restaurant and she opened up to me and said, "I want to lose weight. I'm tired of being fat. I want surgery," I wasn't with it.

It took me almost 30 years to get happy with being over 400 pounds, to accept myself as I was and look at myself as a beauty queen ... I mentally had to do some struggling; I had to do soul searching. Meghan had surgery; Meghan had her gastric bypass. I did not lose weight. I tried, [and then I] was diagnosed with skin cancer that was removed. I'm clean and clear of all cancer. I do get screenings, and I am clear now. And my father passed away at the same time. And I couldn't lose weight. I didn't want to do it.

Meghan got her surgery and is killing it — lost weight, doing good, exercising, didn't have to use her oxygen. So I'm like, "Wait a minute now. She's happy." TLC reached out to us for the second time and asked, "We want to follow up and see what's going on with you and Meghan, but [we're] curious — who do y'all hang out with and what do y'all do?" ... There's a lot of times that [I], Tina, Ashely, and Meghan would go out to clubs, go out to double date, and go out restaurants, so I was like, "Let me reach out and talk to Ashely." I asked Meghan to reach out and talk to Tina.

When everyone came to an agreement, we were like, "Okay, we're going to do a show." But I still didn't really want to lose weight. I love to put the truth out there that I was upset seeing Meghan lose all her weight. It made me mad. It made me angry because I could have done the same thing at the same time, but I didn't. So when they came at us and we were filming Season 1, a real good friend spoke to me and he flat out said, "If you don't do this now, the good Lord's not going to continue giving you chances." So I started taking it a little [more seriously].

The realities of food addiction

First thing I did was cut soda out. Next thing was sugar — all sugar, because I was diabetic, full-on diabetic. [I] had to take insulin twice a day and had to take a pill. [I] cut out soda, cut out sugar, and then cut out bread. I noticed I was losing a little bit of weight and getting out and exercising and started feeling a little better about myself. As I'm losing weight, Meghan is still losing weight too, so she's pushing me and motivating me. That's how everything came to start with the show.

We wanted to show the world you can be fat, you can be almost 500 pounds, and still live a life, but it's not the best quality of life when you're that big. You push chairs out of your way at restaurants. You have trouble getting in and out of your car. You don't breathe; you have to have machines at night to help you breathe. Being that big, I thought I was happy. Being the size I am now, [I see] I was not happy at all.

Congratulations on your 100-pound weight loss and meeting your weight loss goals! Can you share more about your weight loss journey and what it's been like for you?

When I finally got my mind right and got to therapy, it was after Season 1 when I went to see Connie Stapleton. She gave me a book that says, "Weight loss surgery is not the answer to food addiction." So I started reading it and reading about addiction and remembered that everyone's heard of AA and things about addiction. I said, "Wait a minute. I remember, if I'm not mistaken, there's an Overeaters Anonymous." I started treating food as an addiction instead of as a pleasure or a joy. 

You do have to eat. It ain't like a drug, where you don't have to do it at all and you can still survive. Food, you have to eat. So I cut out anything that was fried. Anything that was real fattening, I made that the drug. That was the bad. That was the "no, no, no, no, no, no good. Put it down, put it down."

I had to struggle with myself. I did a lot of crying. I did a lot of coloring. I know that's kind of weird, but that was one thing that kept my mind right. I would pick a coloring book and pens, and color, color, color. Or [I would] sew. I love to sew, and it helped me to [curb] my wants and my eating habits and help[ed] me to understand.

All the way up until surgery, I had to diet, hardcore diet. Proctor wanted me to lose 40 pounds. In all honesty, I lost 50. The day of surgery, I was 398 pounds. When I saw 398 on the scale the day before surgery, I flipped out. I was crying; I was happy. I started thinking to myself, "Do I even need the surgery? I came this far." But I did. I went on with the surgery because there's no way I would've continue[d] doing it on my own. I'm full-on one of [those] people that can commit to something for a few months and then may fall off.

A whole new world after surgery

How do you feel now after getting bariatric surgery?

Now, since I've had surgery, my life has changed so dramatically. My thinking is different. My world is different. I tell my friends I feel like I was in prison for 20 years because I didn't go out of my house. I didn't live a good, full life. I said I did, but I didn't. Now, I'm free. I walk up the road and I'm not winded. I blow people's mind[s] with this. I go to the gym.

Since I've had surgery, my life has taken a turn that I wish I could ... I share it with the world, and they see what they see, but I wish I could let someone in my head to see the joy and happiness. I feel like I was [visited by the] Make-a-Wish Foundation and my dreams came true. The day-to-day feeling I get ... There has not been one day [that has gone] by this past year that I have not accomplished something that I never did before.

Sometimes, it's as simple as sitting in a chair and the chair not squeezing my belly or pulling the rolls up. Now, I still got big old rolls hanging down, but it's just skin. It's all just skin. The other day, I sat down in a skirt and put my legs together. I know that seems simple and small to [most] people, but to me, that's a massive accomplishment.

The world has seen every side of Cross, quite literally

The show has revealed some very personal and intimate parts of your life to the public. Can you share a little bit about what that has been like for you?

It is very weird that people know how my day-to-day goes, and everybody from Season 1 now know[s] what my body looks like head to toe, butt booty naked. At first, it was very scary, but people have to know.

I'm very outgoing, very open. I'm confident. I never care[d] about what my body looked like. At [a] party when everybody's drinking, my fat, big old self would be the first one to get naked and go streaky. I don't mind my body. There is no shame there, so opening it up and actually showing the world made me happy. I'm joyful. I love the fact that I get to [show] people a small [portion] of what I get to experience every day. I get big experiences and I get pure happiness.

The world only sees snippets, pieces and parts. So it makes me overjoyed to have the world get to walk a day in my shoes. They got to meet my family, my children, my sister. My sister is a straight-up, we know, b***h, but she's still my sister, and the world got to see some of the real struggles that people go through when your family, your blood, don't support you in the way you think they would.

People [have] told me that I'm an inspiration, and I'm so very thankful that I'm able to inspire and help someone realize that it can be done.

How do you feel about your son joining you on screen for Season 2?

I am very happy that Jacob did. He is not a very talkative person. He's very shy, so it took him time to actually want to be out there. I feel like since Season 2 has aired, Jacob is pushing himself. He asked me to step back as mama and not stay on his case. Even though I want to so bad, I don't. And he has showed me.

Jacob is doing good. He is. He hasn't lost more than about three pounds since we filmed everything, but he is losing, working out, and eating healthier. It's weird seeing your kid on TV because I'm like, "Oh, there's my baby," and I know the world [doesn't] see him like that.

When I found out Jacob was almost 500 pounds, that really was devastating to me. That wasn't even for [the] camera or show. That was devastating to me. He asked me not to get on his butt. I don't get on his butt, but I don't bring [anything] in my house that isn't healthy [or] sugar free, so he's kind of getting healthier without knowing it.

The ups and downs of filming

What was your biggest challenge during the filming of the show?

The food. Since my surgery, I can only eat certain foods and I can only eat certain amounts. And you're supposed to drink water every 10 or 15 minutes. You're supposed to drink not quite an ounce but a little bit of water. That was the hardest thing with filming — being able to keep up with my water and my food so that I didn't get sick. Sometimes we would film for seven hours and I would completely forget that I was supposed to eat food.

That was one of our biggest challenges. The producer would come up to me and be like, "Vannessa, it's been a minute. You've got to eat something." And he'd bring me a banana, or they love to go get me rotisserie chicken. The biggest thing on set is being able to have that time and remember to eat after surgery. You don't think about it.

Another thing is the lights. If they could film without them, I would be the happiest woman alive. They kill my eyeballs. They make my eyes hurt, and sometimes you have to look [almost] directly at [them] and you're not supposed to squint. That's one of my biggest pet peeves.

What was the biggest highlight of Season 2 for you?

With me, y'all have not seen the biggest highlight, but [overall] the biggest thing with Season 2 is everybody in the world gets to see me experience these new things and the happiness and the joy of losing weight. But they also see my girls doing their thing.

And I want to tell y'all ... I want to try to say what the happiest [part] of filming this season [was] without doing a spoiler. I'm going to say, the openness of the way [we] girls get in the episodes coming up would have to be my most joyous occasion. That's all I can say. People will know when it airs. They're going to be like, "Oh, that's what she's talking about." When we all open up and everything is all out there, that is my happiest moment of this show.

How to reach your weight loss goals

Do you have any advice for people out there who are struggling to meet their weight loss goals?

The number-one thing I try to tell anyone that is wanting to start this journey and lose weight [is to] start mentally. Start with your mind. Figure out what's going on up there. When you're looking at that food, and you're not supposed to have it and you still pick it up and eat it — work on that. 

Take things out of your house you're not supposed to have. If you have children that are supposed to have those fat[ty] foods, put them in a cabinet that's not [visible] to you daily. 

And smoothies have been my answer to everything because I can't eat a lot, but I can drink a smoothie. 

So that's what I tell people: Number one, work on your mind. Number two, nothing unhealthy. And number three, take your portions down.

You can watch all-new episodes of "1000-lb Best Friends" every Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on TLC.

This interview has been edited for clarity.