Weight Controversies: Peggy

Weight Controversies: Peggy
Dr. Phil talks to a woman who feels trapped inside a fat suit since gaining 125 pounds, and a 29-year-old who says she can't watch fat people eat without becoming nauseous.
"Until my late twenties, I had a great figure and really liked the way I looked," says Peggy. "When I was 29, I was involved
in a really severe car accident ... I felt as if my world was completely taken away from me. The accident took away my ability to exercise, to go dancing and to always be on the go. Before the accident, I weighted 125 pounds. One year later, I weighed 230 pounds."

Peggy continues, "I had long beautiful hair at the time and I cut it off because I didn't want anyone to know it was me in the [fat] suit. It hurts ... Now I get looks of disgust ... My 20-year high school reunion was last August. I didn't go because I didn't want to see the reactions, get the looks, or hear the whispers. I can't imagine how anyone who is overweight or obese could be happy. Dr. Phil, I feel like I've been in prison for ten years. How do I keep the motivation to lose the weight and break out of this fat suit?"
"Guilt and shame go with bad intent," says Dr. Phil. "What are you ashamed of? What do you feel guilty about? You got in a car wreck, were in the hospital, were put on medications — the secondary effect of which is to gain weight — were forced into inactivity, [which also makes you] gain weight ... and then you feel guilty about it. Make sense of that nonsense for me."

Peggy explains that the guilt comes from feeling that people look at her and wonder why she doesn't lose weight or exercise. She also admits that when she was immobile after the accident, she turned to food.

"My problem with you, and with everyone who struggles with weight, is the blurring of body image and self-image," says Dr. Phil. "Your body image is compromised right now. You look back and say, 'I used to be a size five and now I'm a size 22 and I don't like my body.' I get that. But your self-image goes down with it when you put guilt, shame and blame on top of it. That's a judgment you're placing on yourself. And it becomes a vicious circle."
Dr. Phil continues, "The worse you feel, the more you medicate yourself with food. The more you medicate yourself with food, the more weight you gain. The more you gain, the worse you feel. The worse you feel, the more medication you need. The more medication you take, the more weight you gain. And you're just in a vicious, vicious circle. Isn't the first step to decide there is a difference between body image and self-image? You need to say, 'I'm not a bad person because I gained some weight. I'm the same person I was before I gained the weight.'"

Referring to the letter that Peggy wrote to him, Dr. Phil says, "You said, 'I'm in a fat suit and the zipper is stuck.' Here's the problem: that zipper opens from the inside, not the outside ... What matters is what you think. What you're saying is, 'I believe that everybody is judging me, to the point that I'm cutting my hair off to disguise myself and hide.' You say, 'They say bad things about me,' and you're joining them!"
Dr. Phil tells Peggy, "I want to add Charlene to this situation.

"I can't eat around overweight people," says Charlene. "This stems from a fear of becoming heavy ... It's at the point where
seeing an obese person eat makes me nauseous ... If I'm in a restaurant and I see a heavy person, I'll push my plate away because I just can't eat any more."

Dr. Phil asks Charlene, "So you don't want to become Peggy or someone like Peggy?"

"Exactly," says Charlene.

"Where does this [phobia] come from?" asks Dr. Phil. "What was the trigger for you at the time?"

"I remember being a little girl and looking at overweight people and having such a fear that I never wanted to be overweight," says Charlene. "Being a little girl and not fitting into the blond-haired, blue-eyed cutesy tootsie [mold], I wanted to do what I could to make myself look appealing ... I had glasses, long hair, was bucktoothed and didn't like the way I looked at all. So if I could control anything, I was going to stay skinny."
"My theory is that there is only one phobia," explains Dr. Phil. "People have a fear of germs, elevators, or heights, etc.
But there is only one phobia. We just give it different subcategories. And that one fear is the fear of losing control. So we lock in on something and have the illusion that if we are hyper-vigilant on that, we have control."

Dr. Phil asks Charlene to come onto the stage and sit next to Peggy. Charlene obliges and says it doesn't bother her to do so because Peggy "is not eating."

Dr. Phil then asks Charlene to look Peggy in the eye. He asks, "Do you see an overweight person or do you see a person?"

"I see a person right now," says Charlene. "She has feelings, concerns and fears — the same as I do. It's just that I'm on one end [of the spectrum] and she's at the other."

"And you don't wish her any ill will or judge her, do you?" asks Dr. Phil.

"Oh no!" insists Charlene.

"It's about fear?" asks Dr. Phil.

"Yes," says Charlene.

"I believe an awful lot of stereotypes, prejudices and biases are born out of ignorance," says Dr. Phil. "They're born out of
generalizations and ignorance when people don't have a lot of information about what they're doing. I think once you have
some insight and understanding, that begins to evaporate and go away."

Dr. Phil continues, "I'll tell you what I want the two of you to do. When you are through here, I want you two to go backstage to sit down and talk about this. I want you [Charlene] to talk about your fears and I want you [Peggy] to talk about your feelings of judgment. Because I'm going to work to move both of you forward in changing your self-esteem and overcoming your phobia. I want you to take each other by the hand and take this journey together."