"My Daughter's Eating Disorder is Slowly Killing Her"

January 14, 2014

Stefany says her 17-year-old daughter, Emily, is suffering from an eating disorder — and, at 103 pounds, she fears for the teen’s life. What’s at the root of Emily’s self-destructive behavior? Will she agree to get help? Dr. Rachael Ross, co-host of The Doctors, joins Dr. Phil to open Emily’s eyes to the dangers she is facing and encourage her to get help. Will she grab onto the lifeline that Dr. Phil offers?







More than 16 million kids in the United States are at risk for hunger each day. Fortunately, you can help. Visit Feeding America to find your local food bank. And, help Dr. Phil raise enough money for 10 million meals. Donate today!


EmilyStefanyDanSarah, Emily's best friendDr. Rachel RossDr. Kim Dennis, Timberline Knolls Treatment Center

"Chew and Spit"

Stefany and Dan say that their 17-year-old daughter, Emily, suffers from an eating disorder called "Chew and Spit," also known as CNS. "Emily started off by starving herself. She wouldn't eat for days," Stefany recalls. "Then she found Chew and Spit." Stefany explains that Emily will take large gallon-sized storage bags into her room, where she will sit and chew food — and then spit it into the bags. "Emily's room is toxic," she insists. "The bags are kept everywhere. They’re hidden in her drawers, in her bed, with her clothes, under the bed — everywhere." Stefany continues, "Emily's always been a hoarder. Letting things go is extremely difficult."

Stefany says that the pungent smell of Emily's room is almost unbearable, but even worse is the thought that this disorder could eventually kill her daughter. "I know she hates where she is in her life. She hates looking in the mirror. She hates judging herself the way she does," Stefany says. She adds that she feels partly to blame for her daughter's struggles. "I have put my daughter through some of the most horrific experiences," she confides, explaining that she is diabetic — and that Emily was forced to act as her caretaker at the age of 8. "I used to be massively obese, so I ate my emotions. I still have my own issues with food," Stefany admits.

Dan, Stefany’s husband and Emily’s stepfather, says that he believes his wife is to blame for Emily’s eating disorder and hoarding. "My wife enables Emily," he claims. "She brings in foods that are high in carbs and starches and sugar. Those are the things that Emily prefers to chew and spit." Dan adds that he believes that Stefany's struggles with obesity as well as depression and other medical issues have taken a toll on Stefany. "She was watching her mother give up on her life," Dan says. "There were years where Stefany wouldn't take a shower, wouldn't get out of bed, because she was severely depressed." Dan admits that things have gotten so bad at times that he has threatened to leave.

Dr. Phil reads from Stefany's email to the show. "You start out by saying, 'Dear Dr. Phil, I'm about to do something that I haven't done in many years. I'm going to be honest.'"

"I think, for me, I have not been honest with myself as to how much my depression affected Dan and Emily," Stefany admits. "I'm kind of a tornado that came through, and I wiped out the entire family. I got help, and they’re still in the aftermath."


"I know what I did to her. I've ruined her."

Emily's Perspective

"A big fear of mine is getting fat," says Emily, who currently weighs 103 pounds — but admits she would like to get down to 80 pounds. "Every pound I gain is just hell for me." She says that she initially tried to hide her disorder but admits, "That didn't work out so well." Emily confides that she is disgusted with herself and feels ashamed and embarrassed — but she still can't stop her chewing and spitting. "As much as this disorder tears me apart, I feel empty without it," she says. "It's calming to have with me, but it's also really terrifying."

Stefany says she feels addicted to her disorder. "Right now, you understand that this is defining you," Dr. Phil says.

"I never really wanted to show anybody this." Emily takes Dr. Phil's cameras inside her room.

When Emily's best friend, Sara, lost her mother to colon cancer three years ago, Stefany and Dan fought for guardianship of Sara. But after Sara moved into the family home five months ago, Emily says her eating disorder worsened — and she began to hoard more bags of her chew and spit in her bedroom and even in her car. She confesses that she believes her parents favor Sara and admits that she has always been jealous of her friend. "I hate her at times, because she could get skinnier than I could, and that's sad," Emily says. "I want to cry. I want to do damage to her."


"I want you to get better. I want you to get happy," Sara says. Plus, hear Stefany and Dan's concerns about websites Emily visits.

Life or Death

Dr. Phil introduces Dr. Rachael Ross, a family doctor and one of the co-hosts of The Doctors. He explains that he sent Dr. Rachel to Emily's hotel to give her a physical exam.

"She could die from this." And, Emily opens up: "I want to get better. I'm just scared."

“There’s one thing that I want you to understand," Dr. Phil says to Emily. "This is not just your problem. This is a family problem." He continues, "You were put in roles that were way beyond what you should have been put in. It puts a lot of stress and pressure on you, and this was your way to cope with it."

"Even if it's my fault, I just want you back," Stefany tells Emily. "I'm so sorry we put you in that situation of doing the care-taking, and I realize now how wrong it was," she says, through tears.

"I’m glad you’re alive," Emily says.

“I am too, but not at the expense of your health," Stefany replies.

"You have to give yourself permission to focus on you instead of her," Dr. Phil tells Emily. "I have to get you to acquire a new set of skills, so you don't need that anymore."

He turns to Stefany and says, "You have to learn to redefine this relationship, because you are dependent on her. You have to be willing to turn loose of that."

Dr. Phil introduces Dr. Kim Dennis, CEO and Medical Director of the Timberline Knolls Treatment Center, which specializes in treating teen girls and women with eating disorders. "It's a place where you can go and make yourself the focus, 100 percent of the time," he tells Emily. Dr. Phil adds that while Emily is away, her parents have their own work to do. "If she comes home to the same dynamic, there's no point in doing this at all," he warns.

"I can't go away. I can't do this." Dr. Phil has some words of encouragement for Emily — will she grab onto the lifeline?

After the Show

After the taping, Emily meets Shannon, 25, who has been in recovery for two years after struggling with anorexia, bulimia and depression since age 12. "How do you feel about going to treatment?" she asks Emily.

"Nervous and scared," Emily admits.

"Hearing your story, I just relate to you so much." Shannon says. "Life can be so different. It doesn't have to be this hard," she insists. "You are not your eating disorder. I am living proof that things can be different, and you're not alone." Shannon promises to stay in contact with Emily and tells the teen that she can reach out to her for help anytime.