She became known for her role as the obese, housebound mother in the film What's Eating Gilbert Grape.
She was spotted by Gilbert Grape director Peter Hedges while appearing on Sally Jessy Raphael.
She had a lifelong struggle with obesity, weighing as much as 550 lbs.
She was born to Dorothy Ann and Truman Madison Guthrie. She married Robert Cates in 1963 and they raised three kids named Sheri Ann, Chris, and Mark Cates.
She starred in the 1993 film What's Eating Gilbert Grape? alongside Johnny Depp.