Deadly Eating: Jazmyn

Deadly Eating: Jazmyn
"My granddaughter, Jazmyn, is morbidly obese. At the age of 5, she was 108 pounds," recalls Joan. "By the time she was 10, that weight had doubled. I am so concerned that by the time she is 15 or 16 that her weight will double again. Jazmyn is too big, and my daughter, Vicki, has dropped the ball in helping her lose weight."

Vicki bristles at Joan's accusations. "I want my mom to get off my back. My mom has made Jazmyn's weight a crusade," she complains. "My mother's interference has caused Jazmyn to have very low self-esteem."

Joan wants her daughter to improve Jazmyn's habits. "I believe it is Vicki's responsibility to make sure Jazmyn eats healthy," she says. "I ask Jazmyn what she ate for breakfast, and she says bagels or bacon and eggs. That is not the kind of meal you give to an overweight child," she says. 

Jazmyn feels caught in the middle. "My grandmother will pull my mom to the side, sometimes, and tell her about my weight gain," she reveals. "It makes me feel sad." 

Jazmyn walks with a limp, which Joan blames on her obesity. She expresses sorrow that her granddaughter is unable to participate in everyday activities. "Watching Jazmyn play is a bittersweet thing. When I take her to the playground, she watches the other children because she cannot run with them. She is on the outside looking in," Joan says. "It makes me angry to see Jazmyn gaining weight year after year. My daughter is responsible for this."

"Tell me why that was so hard to watch," Dr. Phil says to Vicki, who is weeping.  

Struggling to form words, she replies, "My daughter is such a beautiful little girl, and if people don't see it because they look at her weight first, then it is not the life I envisioned for her. I don't want her to have diabetes. I don't want her to have an enlarged heart. I don't want her to gain any more weight. I want to be able to help her lose weight. I want her to be healthy."

Jazmyn is backstage, but she is unable to see or hear their discussion. "I did not want her to feel like she is being put on display," Dr. Phil explains. "I agonized about showing her at all in the taped piece, but she seemed to be comfortable with that."

When he points out that Vicki and Joan are in a turf war, Vicki agrees. "It is a constant issue in our family. I do take the blame for some things, like buying out and eating late," she says. "I do not need [my mom] constantly saying something about Jazmyn's weight. I know it is an issue. Let's find a way to work together."


Joan defends herself. "Vicki has a tape going on in her head, and whatever I say — to me — I am giving her advice," she explains. "I have to be very careful when I talk to Vicki."

"Everything you say has an exaggerated affect because you're [Vicki's] mother," Dr. Phil tells Joan. "She loves you. She values your acceptance. She values your approval. She wants you to be proud of her, and what she is doing and what's happening with her daughter."


Joan maintains her position. "She hears it as criticism, but I am not criticizing what she is doing," she insists.

"How is it working for you?" Dr. Phil questions.

"It's not how is it working for me, it's how is it working for Jazmyn," she says. 

Dr. Phil acknowledges that Joan only wants the best for Vicki and Jazmyn. "You have a goal and that is to affect Jazmyn's life in a positive way, through the mothering going on through your daughter, right?" he asks.

"Yes," Joan replies.

When Dr. Phil points out that her method isn't working, Vicki chimes in, "That is what I try to tell her, her approach is not working ... It is not that I am not receptive," she stresses. "But it's the approach that is making me say, 'Leave me alone.'"

Vicki and Joan's right-fighting isn't helping Jazmyn. "At this point, you all are arguing over who is right, and she is just getting bigger the whole time," Dr. Phil admonishes. "It is like you're arguing that the house is on fire while the house is burning down. You agree the house is on fire?"

"Definitely," Joan replies.

Dr. Phil says, "This isn't about blame because blame implies intent, so let's take blame off the radar. It has no place in here. What we care about is Jazmyn getting healthy and happy and having the chance at a quality life she wants to have. If I don't stop anything that you all are doing, what do you think will happen over the next five years?"

"She is going to gain more weight," Vicki ventures.

Joan sees a bleaker future. "I think she will become depressed and maybe even suicidal," she says.

Dr. Phil says that both assertions are correct. "Body image and self-image, while they should not be intertwined, clearly are. You're not a better person because you are petite and skinny, and you are not a worse person because you are overweight," he explains. "Right now her body image is about as bad as it can get. Do you agree?"

"Yes," Vicki replies.

Dr. Phil points out that neither mother nor grandmother have been modeling healthy habits for Jazmyn. "The first thing we've got to do is acknowledge the fact that you are out of shape," he says to Vicki and Joan. "You two are the most powerful role models in her life. You medicate with food, don't you?" 

"Yes," Vicki says.

"You're a single mom and you entertain yourself with food. You comfort yourself with food, don't you? You are 100 pounds overweight, do you agree?" he asks Vicki.

She answers each question in the affirmative, and Joan says the same is true for her.


"You are her world. You are her icons. Why would you predict that she would do anything different than what she is doing?" he asks. "Both of you do the same things that she is doing."


"She learned it from us," Joan concedes.

Dr. Phil adds, "She did learn if from you, and she will continuously learn it from you. The best thing you can do for her weight is change your lifestyle. Change your lifestyle not a little bit, but a lot."

"I really want to do that, but how can I do that when my resources are limited?" Vicki asks.

Dr. Phil introduces Dr. Louis J. Ignarro, the 1998 Nobel Prize winner and author of No More Heart Disease. He is also a leading authority on cardiovascular health. "This child is at serious risk for the two things you don't want to see happen," Dr. Ignarro cautions. "One is diabetes. The second, which is what follows diabetes, is heart disease." 

Dr. Phil elaborates. "We are not talking about a matter of convenience and looking better in a pair of jeans. This is a fight for life," he warns. "Now you're saying, 'How in the world can I do this with limited resources?' The truth is, the food you are buying — the convenience food, the fast food — when you add up those foods across a month's time, you can buy way more quantity of healthy, proper and appropriate foods than you will get on the money you are spending on the prepared food."

Vicki expresses skepticism. "I don't want to keep her away from it, because I think if you keep her away from it, she is going to gravitate more toward it," she says. 


Vicki needs to change her lifestyle dramatically. "You are going to have to change your way of thinking here. You're going to have to change your emotions here. You're going to have to change your environment and what is available," he stresses. "This addiction she has here — and it is an addiction to fats and sugar — is a powerful addiction. It is a psychological addiction and physiological addiction. It is going to be difficult to break that in the beginning, but we will get through that. I am going to give you some help to get through that."

When Dr. Phil suggests that Vicki and Jazmyn start exercising, she says, "I really want to, but how do I get her to a gym? I don't have the money to pay for a gym," she says.

Dr. Phil has a surprise for her. "How about I give you guys a year's membership to the Bally fitness center near your house?" he asks, as Vicki covers her mouth in shock. He will also provide a personal trainer for Jazmyn. He points out that Jasmyn can also restrict the calories she is consuming, such as refraining from her nightly two scoops of ice cream. "That is 660 calories. If you reduce your intake 3,500 calories a week, that alone is a pound a week. Now, she is eating 4,200 plus calories in just the ice cream. If you eliminate just that, you are going to lose anywhere from a pound to a pound and a half a week," he explains. "If we start replacing all these other things with food that I call high response, high yield foods that feed her body and not her fat, you are going to see something dramatically different."


He has another surprise for Vicki. He has arranged for a nutritionist to help the family make better food choices. Also, Urban Organic will deliver healthy groceries to their home. He will also get Jazmyn a thorough medical examination.


Turning to Vicki, who is crying with joy, Dr. Phil says, "Let me tell you what I expect in return. I expect to see a whole lot less of you two next time you are here, OK?" 

"Yes," Vicki says, through tears.

"No more turf war between you?"

Joan and Vicki embrace.