Marriage Deal Breakers: Debra and Daniel

Fearing a Relapse

"My fiancé is saying that if I don't stop complaining about how fat I am, then the wedding is off," says 24-year-old Debra, who is a recovering bulimic. Along with throwing up after eating,

she used to use 15 laxatives after she ate a meal as another way to rid her body of the food. When she reached her lowest weight of 78 pounds, her parents forced her to get help. It's been two years since she stopped her bulimic behaviors, but her self-image hasn't improved. "The saddest part is that I recovered from a serious illness, so much as to where I'm at a healthy weight right now, and the person I love the most is not being as supportive as I'd like."


"If Debra doesn't get help, I have no problem postponing the wedding," says Daniel, Debra's fiancé. "It feels like every day it's, ‘No, honey, you're not fat. No, honey, you're beautiful. No, honey, you've got a better body than her.' I just feel like I'm saying the same thing over and over again." He says that the turning point in their relationship came when she first moved in with him. "I didn't realize the aftermath of an eating disorder. When she kept saying, 'Do you think I'm fat?' I thought it was just my girlfriend wanting attention ... It's so frustrating. She's got a perfect 10 body to me."


Debra often pinches her stomach to point out the fat, and has even told Daniel that she wants liposuction. "I do have some weight that I could lose to feel better in these type of clothes. I look in the

mirror, and I feel fat," she says. "I'm between size 0 and 1 right now. I feel that if I'm a size 1, that I'm a failure. Being a size 0, I'm OK with." With the wedding coming up, Debra feels the pressure to lose weight. "I need to fit into that bridal dress," she says.


Debra says she doesn't think it's fair how Daniel is treating her, especially because he knows what she's been through. "If Daniel wants to keep delaying and delaying, I'm out. I'm not going to be in this relationship anymore," she says.

Dr. Phil addresses Daniel. "You've said that if this doesn't get resolved, you're going to postpone the wedding," he says.

"I did say that," he says. "I just think that if it continues to be a problem, I'm scared. I'm scared to get married. I'm scared one day when we have kids. How is that going to affect my kids?"

Debra says that she is not currently anorexic or bulimic. "For two years now, I have not had any of those behaviors at all," she says. "It's all in my head. Every day, I still have this monster in my head. It tells me every day, I'm fat. Every day, horrible, horrible things in my head, and I hate myself every day."

"If he says that you look great, that to you is an insult, right? Because that means you look great to him, and he thinks that that's with a little meat on your bones," Dr. Phil says.

Debra agrees. "It's hard, and I hate this. I don't like this at all," she says. "I have the best man in front of me right now, and I love him to death, and I just don't want to ruin any more of my life."


"Is this going to change?" Dr. Phil asks Debra.

"I want it to, and I'll do everything I can to change," she says.  

"At this point, you are constantly thinking about this. You miss the old, skinny you. The 77-pound you," Dr. Phil says.

"Sometimes I do," Debra admits.

Asked for his thoughts, Daniel says, "It stresses me out to the point where I don't know what else to do. I just won't talk to her, because I

just don't know what to say, and then that stresses her out more."

"If she showed up, wedding day, right where she is right now, would you want to get married?" Dr. Phil asks Daniel.

"No," he says.

Debra says she wants to get married. "This is something I'm going to work on when I'm married with him and when I'm not married with him," she says.

"You really don't get this, do you?" Dr. Phil asks Daniel. "You've said to her, 'This is retarded. You look great. Come on. Snap out of it.'"

"I don't understand it. I really don't," he says, noting that Debra gets compliments every day, but still sees herself as fat. "To me, it's mind boggling, and I don't know what else to do."

"You've made a lot of progress, haven't you?" Dr. Phil asks Debra.

"A lot," she says.

"Because you don't really know how bad it can get, it's hard for you to see how much better she is than she was," Dr. Phil says to Daniel. To show Daniel how much progress Debra has made in overcoming her eating disorders, Dr. Phil plays a tape of April, a previous guest on the show, as an example of how serious this situation could be.

"You're not over this, are you?" Dr. Phil asks Debra.

"No, I'm not over it," she acknowledges.

"You're what I call a white knuckler," Dr. Phil tells her. "Yet, you haven't been to counseling in a year-and-a-half."

"No, I haven't," Debra says. "I was in graduate school, and I was just focusing on doing other things with my life, and I thought it was gone, and that maybe these thoughts were normal."

"You didn't think these thoughts were normal. You just went into denial and said, ‘I'm going to throw myself into my studies, so I don't have to think about it. More white knuckle behavior," Dr. Phil tells her. He points out that she needs to be honest about the situation, in order to make changes. "You know that you are fragile and white knuckling this thing. You know he is right to be concerned about this. And you know if you got married in the current frame of mind, that you would be contaminating this relationship."

"Yes," Debra says.

"That's the problem that we have today," Daniel adds.

Dr. Phil offers advice. "You've got to get back in touch with your counselor," he says to Debra, offering to find her a new counselor. To Daniel he says, "You have got to get educated about this."


He assures Debra and Daniel that Debra can be healthy in time for the wedding. "She's going to have to get real busy doing it, and you shouldn't marry her if she d

oesn't, and you shouldn't marry him if you don't," Dr. Phil says. "You've got to get along with yourself, before you can get along with somebody else."


Debra agrees to seek treatment, and Daniel agrees to support her 100 percent.