Deadly Eating: Paul

Deadly Eating: Paul

"I am not fat; I am morbidly obese. I weigh in excess of 700 pounds," laments 34-year-old Paul.

His mother, Loretta, believes that is a conservative figure. "I think he weighs almost 1,000," she reveals.

Paul acknowledges that he has a food addiction. "Food is my drug of choice," he says. "Whenever I get a strong craving, my body aches for it." He rarely pays attention to serving size, and in one day can consume
an entire pizza, a box of cereal, a quart of milk, four hot dogs, pastries, cakes and pies. "When you have the addiction, you eat it 'til it's gone," he says simply.

 

Loretta says that Paul's love affair with food started during childhood. "We all thought Paul was going to grow out of it, or he would stop when he became interested in sports or girls something," she says. "His life expectancy goes down every single day."

Simple tasks like walking across the room are arduous for Paul. It's also a chore for him to bathe and dress by himself. "When you're this size, you can't reach every place to clean, so I have staph infections," he reveals. Open sores permeate the skin on the backs of his legs, and he has to wash them with antibiotics.

 

Loretta feels pessimistic about her son's future. "He is a prisoner in his own body," she says tearfully. "A man on death row has more hope than Paul because that man can move and walk every day. I worry somebody is going to call me and tell me my son has died. I don't want my son to die before me."

Paul mourns his condition as well. "I would love to just get up and go somewhere and not have to think about everything involved. I just want to be ordinary," he says, voice quavering.

Paul is confined to his home, so he joins Dr. Phil and Loretta via satellite. Addressing Paul, Dr. Phil says, "You wrote me a long letter, and you were very candid. Why did you write me the letter?"

"I recently had an experience where I injured myself going to the bathroom. I wasn't able to get up, and I had to call emergency services to basically come rescue me," Paul confesses. "I was pretty much trapped in my bed for an excess of two weeks. I couldn't get out of bed to go to the bathroom, take a shower or anything."

Turning to Loretta, Dr. Phil says, "As his mother, what role do you think you have in the predicament he is in?"

"Paul liked to eat, and I loved to cook," Loretta replies. "It was easy for Paul to get food as a reward or as a bribe."

"You said going places with Paul was embarrassing, so you would bribe him with food to stay home," Dr. Phil clarifies.

Loretta nods. "Yes, I did. As he got larger, it was embarrassing not only for him, but for the rest of the family. So I would give him something to eat, and he would rather have something to eat [than go out.]"

"Do you agree that the two of you have a very dysfunctional connection at this point?" Dr. Phil asks Paul. 

He replies, "Yeah, I think throughout my life, it has just been something we never addressed."

Dr. Phil turns to Dr. Ignarro. "Now you have done some calculations, and you think Paul is eating in excess of 11,000 calories a day?" he asks.

 

"That is correct," Dr. Ignarro says. "Eleven thousand calories a day, and that is at least five- or six-fold more than he should be eating."
 

Dr. Phil clarifies. "There is good news and bad news here," he tells Paul. "The good news is, if you make some reductions and changes to this addictive behavior, you can begin to see some dramatic, dramatic differences right now ... If we were to eliminate 9,000 calories a day, he could be losing two to five pounds a day, in particular, if he started exercising."

Dr. Ignarro agrees. "That is entirely possible, and it would not be dangerous or unhealthy to do that as well." 

Paul voices his concerns. "I worry most about the addiction," he says. "I know I am eating too much, but when I am eating, it feels so good. When I am eating, I get this euphoric feeling. I worry that the addiction will be more powerful than I am."

"You are basically a prisoner in your place there," Dr. Phil points out to Paul. "Where are you getting the food?"

Paul responds, "I have a lot of friends and family who will bring things to me if I ask, and they know it will make me feel better, and they want to see me feel better."

 

Turning to Loretta, Dr. Phil asks, "Is that why you bring it to him?" 

"Yes," she says.

Dr. Phil chides her for enabling Paul. "You will pick up fast food and bring it to him. You will bring him ice cream, cake, a family pack of chicken and you know he will probably have polished it off before you even get home," he notes. 

Loretta nods. 

"If we talk about stopping this flow of food to you — giving you alternative ways to handle the anxiety, depression, the feelings — will you embrace that?" Dr. Phil asks Paul.

"Yes. I don't have a choice in the matter," Paul answers.

Dr. Phil counters, "No, you do have a choice. You have been exercising your choice, and it has gotten you to where you have gotten. The question is, are you prepared to make a commitment to make a different choice now? I am not saying you know how, but if we come up with a way, would you commit to this other choice?" 

"Yes," Paul says.

 

Fixing his gaze on Loretta, Dr. Phil says, "You know what we are talking about is a fight for life." 

"Yes, sir. I know now, but I never realized until this last episode how confined he is and how much I contributed," she says. 

Dr. Phil is incredulous. "Loretta, he weighs 1,000 pounds! Whether it is 1,000, 500 or 600, common sense would have to tell you that something dramatic has to happen," he says sternly.

"I am convinced you cannot break this on your own," Dr. Phil stresses to Paul. "I am convinced that this addiction has an absolute death grip on you."

 

Since Paul lives in Alaska, Dr. Phil will fly in a world-class expert to perform a complete medical assessment on him. "That will give you alternative ways to deal with the anxiety, the depression, and we'll put together a nutritional plan for you," Dr. Phil assures him. "I will do that if you do something for me. What I want you to do for me is tell your mother, 'Do not enable me further. I don't care what I say.' I want you to give us a list of all the

people that bring you food in the night, in the day, at anytime ... I want you to do whatever you have to do so we can shut off your Internet options as far as [having] food delivered. And I want to put you in an environment so that it is not willpower, it is programming. I don't want you to just be strong. I want you to set your world up for success, not for failure. Are you willing to commit to that?" 

"Yes," Paul replies.

 

Loretta says she will participate as well. "I want my son to live," she says through tears. "I want my son to have a life that I took away from him. Before I die, I want to see him on a dance floor dancing with his mom."