Second Chance at Life and Love

Manuel Uribe didn't leave his bed or his apartment in Monterrey, Mexico, for years. Weighing in at 1,234 pounds, he was once considered by many to be the heaviest man in the world.

When ABC News told the now 43-year-old's story in January 2007, Uribe was following a diet but still couldn't stand on his own and spent his days in a special industrial-size bed.

Today, after two years of diet, exercise and medical care, Uribe has lost more than 520 pounds and gained a girlfriend: 38-year-old Claudia Solis.

Morbid Obesity

"I had an obesity problem for many years, a very significant one. I was gaining and gaining weight. I was on every diet you can imagine," Uribe told ABC News' John Quiñones.

Manuel Uribe
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"I used to eat normal, just like all Mexicans do … beans, rice, flour tortilla, corn tortilla, French fries, hamburgers, subs and pizzas, whatever regular people eat. I worked as a technician, repairing typewriters, electronic calculators and computers. So I worked on a chair. It was a sedentary life," he said.

Uribe was beyond the kind of overweight that comes from fast food and lack of exercise. Doctors call it morbid obesity.

According to the National Institutes of Health, obesity means weighing 20 percent or more than your ideal body weight, and it's a health risk. Morbid obesity is altogether different. Sometimes called "clinically severe obesity," it means you're 100 pounds or more over ideal body weight, with a body mass index of 40 or higher.

Uribe didn't gain weight like the rest of us. Brain chemistry, genetic mutation, addiction, psychological pain -- or an unhappy combination of all of them -- makes morbid obesity one of the biggest mysteries of medicine.

Living in the same bed for years was difficult for Uribe, especially when it came to romance. Twenty years ago, when he weighed 280 pounds, Uribe was married. But as he grew more obese, he said the relationship grew increasingly difficult.

"She asked me for a divorce," he told Quiñones. " I was very depressed."

Uribe said he was so desperate that he even considered suicide.

"Everything ended on account of my obesity, because I spent a lot of money trying to see doctors, going on diets, and I just gained more weight."

'We Don't Have an Explanation'

Two years ago when Uribe was at his heaviest -- he couldn't even see his feet -- he made a desperate plea for help on Mexican television. The Mexican government responded by appointing a sort of medical SWAT team to help him lose weight.

Dr. Jaime Gonzalez made house calls to Uribe once a week. His goal was to help his patient lose 1,000 pounds. He put Uribe on an exercise regime, and his legs and lower body were massaged daily to improve blood circulation.

"Our main concern currently [is] his lower extremities," Gonzalez said. "There are large volumes because of the amount of fluids retained here."

Incredibly enough, in spite of his enormous weight, Uribe told Quiñones that he was in good health.

"Yes, I have accumulated fat, but I'm healthy," he said. "I don't have sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides, diabetes or high blood pressure. My heart works perfectly fine."

"We don't have an explanation," Gonzalez said. Uribe did not have high cholesterol or diabetes, and his blood pressure was normal.

He didn't want a gastric bypass and instead followed the Zone diet -- a moderate regime of carbs, protein and fat. No more rice and beans. Always by Uribe's side, his mother, Ofelia Uribe, prepared five meals a day.

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