Is This Normal: Christine and Mark

Is This Normal: Christine and Mark

"My friends think I'm a food weirdo," Christine says. "They always have something to say whenever we go out to dinner. My best friend, Mark, teases me about the way I eat."

"I would call Christine's eating behavior bizarre," Mark says.

"I pretty much have to dissect, inspect and investigate my food. If I order vegetable soup, it takes me about an hour for me pick the vegetables out that I like to eat," Christine explains. "What I find gross is any sort of seafood, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms. Any little spice that just doesn't look right."

"I could never order fish with Christine. She would be gagging at the table," Mark says. "Picky is an understatement." 

In a restaurant with Mark, Christine agonizes over the decision of what kind of soup to get. She chooses navy bean soup, but then comments that it looks "weird" and "gross."

"Of that whole bowl of soup, she had one, maybe two beans," Mark reports.

After the soup, Christine picks tiny pieces of the skin off her fried chicken. "People have called me Chicken Skin because I only eat the skin of the chicken wings," she says. "It's been bad enough where guys won't even go out to dinner with me anymore."

"It's frustrating eating with Christine because it's like eating with a child. It takes her an hour and a half to eat three pieces of lettuce and five beans," Mark says. "Can you imagine your date sitting across from you eating chicken skin?"

"I don't want to be a food weirdo," Christine says. "I want Dr. Phil to help me eat like a normal person."

"What do you say to yourself about your food? Obviously, you see it as a threat because you're picking through it," Dr. Phil tells Christine.

"I don't know what it comes down to. I pretty much just mutilate my food, and it sits on the plate in little pieces by the time I'm done," Christine says.

"What are you looking for?"

"Anything that doesn't look right," she says. "I don't like skin. Skin on tomatoes, or eggplants or anything like that."

"That's all you eat is chicken skin," Dr. Phil points out.

"Well, chicken skin is another story," she says. 

"You have the same face I have," Mark tells Dr. Phil. "Yeah, she picks and picks her food, and then finally the things she chooses are just so unbelievably unhealthy."

"But you're not like a skeleton. You're normal weight, so you must eventually get food down," Dr. Phil says.

"Well, it takes me like an hour, hour and a half to eat something that has remotely any substance at all," she says.

"Any foods she does eat are so fatty, that's what keeps her going," Mark guesses.

"So, the things that you will eat are french fries, potato chips and ranch dressing?" Dr. Phil asks, reading from his notes.

"Yes. And mayonnaise," she adds.

"That was her lunch backstage, two packets of mayonnaise," Mark says. "I promise you, if we searched her purse right now, there'd be packets of mayonnaise. That's her snack throughout the day."

"Yeah," Christine admits. "Anything fattening or unhealthy, I'm game."

"Do you have any other habits that you think interfere with the flow of your life?" Dr. Phil asks.

She shakes her head. "Just my food," she says.

 

"You don't count the blades of grass in your lawn or anything? Seriously, you don't have any ritualistic behavior in any other way?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Just the food," Christine confirms.

"OK, and if you're caused to eat food that you haven't been able to inspect, or you get something in your mouth that is different than you expected, what is your reaction?"

"I don't think that's ever happened," she says. "I pretty much will not eat anything that I cannot investigate."

"Do you get anxious until you do?"

"I don't really get anxious, but I could never just pick up a forkful of food and put it in my mouth. I could never do that. I have to look at it thoroughly before I do," she says. 

"Well, let me tell you what's happened here," Dr. Phil says. "What's gone on is somehow, somewhere along the way, you have paired a huge negative with food. There's danger in that food, and you are hyper-vigilant about that. There are rational fears and there are irrational fears. If I threw a snake out here, a rattlesnake, you'd be afraid " rational fear. But if I put a piece of paper on the ground, and you're afraid, or if I put a piece of chicken on your plate, or a piece of fish on your plate, and you become hyper-vigilant, then that would be irrational. Would you agree with that?"

"Yes."

"OK, there's a neurological link that's been formed, and we have to undo that link. And it is undoable. What we have to put you through is some systematic desensitization to reprogram that so you can be in the presence of food without going into a hyper-vigilant state. This will take a couple of weeks to do. Will you do it?"

"Yes, absolutely," Christina says.

"Next time I talk to you, I want to see chili dog all over your face," Dr. Phil jokes.