Missing Their Brother

Eric was banned from exercising, but he still works out on the sly. "I found ways to sneak around the house, do push-ups, sit-ups here and there. It started out small and eventually, it progressed to thousands," he says. "One time, I did 1,500 sit-ups and 400 push-ups. I would like my body to be nothing but muscle, but not so big that I'm like a caveman, and I get stuck walking in doorways," he says. 

[AD]Eric's little brother, Scott, has caught him exercising in secret. "I went upstairs, and the door was locked in my parents' room. It sounded like he was moving around and doing something, and I just thought, I should look under the door. He was down there doing crunches and sit-ups," he says.

"There would be times when he'd be in the shower for a half hour. I used to wonder, who could take a shower for that long? What he'd been doing is going in there, and he'd get the heat up as high as it would possibly be so he could sweat it out, and then he'd exercise in the bathroom," Ken says. "It got to the point where in the ceiling, the tape from the drywall and stuff started to peel because it was so hot in there."  

Eric doesn't know how much he weighs because his doctors hide the number from him. Dr. Phil asks him, "Three years ago, what flipped the switch? What triggered it?"

"[There are] so many different things to it," Eric says. "There was the competitiveness. Once I started working out, and I realized, you know, it kind of felt good to start out with, but that's because I was healthier then."

"Have you been obsessed about other things in your life?"

"Oh, I've been obsessed about a lot of things. School work, I just try my best. You know, in many things that I do, I strive to be the best. I guess that's just how I'm wired," Eric says.

"And you understand, that just means you have to change your definition of success, because if you're saying, ‘I want to be perfect,' you know that's not perfect," Dr. Phil says, pointing to Eric's recent photograph. "Does it feel superficial to you? Because you could be caring about the homeless, you could be caring about children who don't have parents, you could be caring about a whole lot of different things that would have a different feel and characteristic than how much body fat you've got."

[AD]"Yeah, I mean, I do look at it, and I say, ‘This is really selfish just because there are people out there who would love to eat that food that I'm afraid to eat, and the food that I'm refusing to eat,'" Eric says.

 

"Is it possible there's more to you than that, there's more to you than your percent of body fat, that you have another passion that could impact this world in a really constructive way?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Oh, yeah, that hits me all the time. I know there's something I can be doing better with my time that would definitely benefit other people," he says.

Ken and Becky worry about their two other sons: Brad, 18, and Scott, 12.

"I'm not spending near as much time as I should with my youngest son, Scott, on his homework, doing athletic things with him, because I can't leave Eric alone," Becky says tearfully. "I spend a lot of time trying to explain to Scott that this is just the way it has to be for now. And he's done a pretty good job of accepting that, but there's a lot of guilt on my part, knowing that I'm probably neglecting him.

"This eating disorder is going on for so long; the progress is so slow. I know that he's going to get better, but I want it to happen soon enough for him to be able to go away to college. It's just taking a lot longer than I thought it would," she says.

Eric's brothers weigh in on the family turmoil.

"My brother, Scott, and I, we're looking at our brother doing this, and it's extremely frustrating for us," Brad says. "Eric's changed over the years. At first it was just little things, like he was exercising a lot, but then it was kind of really starting to control him. If I were to say something to him, he would blow up way more than usual, which was weird because he was good-hearted and fun. You could tell he was just kind of slowly becoming less Eric. I just look for the day when Eric's free of all this, and we can just joke around and things won't be so serious."

[AD]"The worst part about this is not being able to hang out and do the things we used to be able to do all the time," Scott says. "We used to just go onto the ground and just mess around for the fun of it, but now he's really mad and takes his anger out a lot. That's just because he's in bad moods because of what he's eating."

Dr. Phil introduces Dr. Ted Weltzin, medical director of Rogers Memorial Hospital's Eating Disorders Center in Wisconsin. "You've seen this many, many times, although you're one of the only treatment centers in the country that deals with males," Dr. Phil says.

"That's correct, and we have been specializing in treating people like Eric for many years, and this is a very familiar story," Dr. Weltzin says. "I think the one thing that really is most important is that this needs to be changed as soon as possible, in terms of reversing the malnutrition, in terms of making progress, and I think giving Eric hope is probably the most important thing, to give him the hope so he sees that he can start making changes."

"Because you see young men his age get better, get this under control and move on with their lives, true?"

"That's correct," Dr. Weltzin says.

"Rogers Memorial Hospital is a not-for-profit affordable and trusting eating disorders treatment provider. They were the nation's first treatment center to offer residential treatment specifically tailored to males," Dr. Phil tells his guests. "They have offered to do a full evaluation and treatment as needed for Eric. And let me tell you, these guys are the best of the best."

 

Dr. Phil explains that the teen might have to live at the hospital as part of his treatment. "But you can do this, Eric. You can get your life back, you can get your health back, you can start being a fun teenager, you can be rebellious and drive the car too fast, and skip a test, and cram for it the night before and do all the things that teenagers do " or at least mine did. Isn't that what you want to do?"

[AD]"Exactly what I want to do," he says.

"And you know that there's hope here. Mom, Dad, do you hear what we're saying?"

"That would be wonderful," Becky says.

"Will you accept this incredibly generous offer from this cutting-edge treatment facility?"

Becky cries and nods.

"That would be outstanding," Ken says.

"It would be wonderful," Becky says tearfully. "He needs it. He knows it. Yes, we would accept it."