Extreme Food Obsessions: Family Reactions

Extreme Food Obsessions: Family Reactions

Kim is proud of her sister's progress, but says the recovery process has not been easy. "Three months ago, Kathy was waiting to die. I have a lot of different ways that I deal with my sister's condition. One is denial. Another is anger. In a large way, I've enabled Kathy," she confesses.

"I've had a real hard time with Kim because she wanted to be able to fix me, and usually it just made me angry and pushed me further into it. Just because I have an eating disorder, doesn't mean I am a sick mental child," Kathy maintains.

Her mother also takes some of the blame for Kathy's condition. "Now that I look back, I can see a lot of things that I did wrong," she says.

"We tiptoed around a lot more. We thought we didn't want to hurt her feelings. We felt she was fragile," her dad says.

Kim sees another dimension of her sister's eating disorder. "I don't even think she knows she's doing it, but Kathy is the master manipulator," she says.

Kathy admits that she and her sister were locked in a power struggle. "The more that Kim tried to control me and control the situation, the more I tried to be in control," she says. "When I first started going to therapy, Kim would always get involved in that. She would call my therapist and try to be a part of everything. I don't want Kim to be my caretaker. I just want her to be a sister."

Kathy's family is grateful for Dr. Phil's intervention. "Dr. Phil sent a video in which he said, 'This isn't your fault. You can't cure it,' and he was going to take care of Kath," her father recalls. "And he told us we had to be tough as hell. It made all the difference in the world."

Emotionally, Kim recounts, "On September 24, my sister was able to
call me, and was the first one to say 'Happy Birthday' to me. She probably wouldn't have been here if it wouldn't have been for Dr. Phil."

"He saved her life," her mom says, closing her eyes in tearful appreciation.

Kathy has had many breakthroughs since undergoing treatment, such as being able to board an airplane and travel, and having people around her continually. Prior to Dr. Phil's intervention, she had been in six treatment centers, relapsing every time.

Although she has come a long way, Kathy wants to be realistic about the road ahead. "I do still constantly think about food. I'm hoping Dr. Phil can help my family realize that just because I've gone through treatment, doesn't mean that everything is OK and the old Kathy is back," she says. "It's going to be a long journey and I want them to know that."


"Dr. Phil, thank you for getting Kathy this far in her recovery. How do we keep her from relapsing?" Kim asks.


Addressing Kathy, Dr. Phil says, "I have to tell you there are really good days when I'm doing this job, and this is one of those really good days. This is something you have to make the choice of, and you have to do." Turning to her sister and parents, he says, "I want to be really clear with everybody here. The truth is, blame only comes when there is a bad intent, and there's not been a bad intent here. So we need to forget about the blame game. That doesn't mean that we don't need to learn how to relate in different ways."

Dr. Phil points out that Kathy still struggles to forge an identity as she copes with her new body. "You said, 'What happens if I get better? Then nobody will pay any attention to me.' Do you understand the profound nature of that statement?" he questions. "One of the first things you said to me back in Dallas sitting in that hospital room —"

"Is I want a new identity," Kathy finishes for him.

"Your number one priority is to take your power back, and realize that who you are is a vibrant, loving, caring, giving, intelligent young woman. That's who you are," he says adamantly.

Jenni Schaefer weighs in from the audience. "She is the most motivated woman I've ever worked with with an eating disorder. And people do recover from eating disorders," she says.

Turning to Kathy, Dr. Phil says, "We're going to keep working, right?"


Dr. Phil lets her know that relapsing is not an option. "You're already saying, 'I think I'm better. I don't think I need to go back to The Ranch and all of that.' Look at me. What do you think the chances are that I'm going to let you not do what you need to do and get this done?" Dr. Phil says with a knowing smile. "We're going to load you up and send you back to The Ranch."