Desperate for a Lifeline
A nearly 800-pound man turns to Dr. Phil to help save his life.

Since slipping and falling last year, John has been homebound and is in constant pain.

Because John can't move from the couch, he has to be bathed and dressed there, and he has to use a urinal or bucket because he can't make it to the bathroom.

"I haven't taken an actual shower in over a year," he says. "I feel like I live in hell.right now. I don't want to live the rest of my life like this."

John, who was once athletic and thin, says his tumultuous childhood is to blame for his obesity. "The only thing I ever turned to to make me feel better was eating," he explains. "I've tried every diet that you can think of. I'll lose 50 pounds, and I'll gain back all the weight in a couple of months or more."

His greatest fear is having a heart attack. "There's no way that they're going to get me to the hospital and save me," he says.

John is not the only one in his household who struggles with food. His daughter weighs about 200 pounds, his 14-year-old son is 400 pounds, and his fiancee weighs 300 pounds.

His fiancee Suzanne is the one who asked for an intervention. "We've been engaged for two-and-a-half years and we don't want to go any farther with the plans until we know that we're all healthy," she says. "I need him here. His family needs him here. We'd like to have a nice long life together. Please Dr. Phil, do a weight intervention on my fiancee. Without your help, I'm afraid he might die."

The children are also concerned. John's daughter, Brittany, says, "What really concerns me about my father's weight is the fear that he might die."

John agrees that he's desperate for support. "I need an intervention," he says. "Dr. Phil is the person that can kick me in gear. And I think my family needs to come along for the ride."

John joins Dr. Phil via satellite.

Dr. Phil begins, "You're an intelligent guy. You know that you're killing yourself here. Tell me, what are you doing? What's going on here?"

"I pretty much had given up hope," John replies. "I was eating myself to death. I realize I want to live. I have so much to live for, my kids, my fiancee. You've been doing wonders with many people, and I feel like you're throwing me a lifeline and I want to grab it."

Dr. Phil explains to John that he has an addiction to food. "It's obvious to me that you are absolutely out of control," he says. "When I say addiction, I'm talking about somebody that does something that they don't want to do, that they clearly understand is self-destructive, but yet they continue to do it."

John agrees with Dr. Phil's theory. "It's like my drug of choice," he admits.

Dr. Phil tells him, "You're a father, and you need to be a leader for these children. That means that you've got to take control of yourself for you and for them. You don't have the right to be doing to yourself what you're doing right now."

Dr. Phil continues, "You may think that you are so far gone that there is no hope, that there is nowhere that you can turn. I'm telling you that's not true. You can do this, you absolutely can do this. But it is a complex situation. It involves medical issues, it involves nutritional issues, and it involves psychological issues. That's why in The Ultimate Weight Solution, I talk about seven different keys. You can't diet your way out of this. This has become a very psychologically debilitating issue, and we've got to deal with all of that. Are you willing to do that?"

"I'm willing to do everything that needs to be done," John responds.

"You know that there is no measure that I won't go to help you, if you want it and you're helping yourself. But I'm going to set guidelines and I'm going to set boundaries, and if you violate them, I will fire you right there," Dr. Phil warns.

If John can't get out of the house, Dr. Phil asks, where does he get his food?

"I have my enablers bring it to me," he says, while his fiancee smiles on stage.

Dr. Phil commends Suzanne for writing in to the show to get help for John, but points out the role she plays. "You want to help John with his problems," he says, "but isn't the truth that before you can help him with his problems, you're going to have to get over yours? You're not just enabling him. You are sabotaging him."

"We all sabotage one another on a daily basis," says Suzanne. "And it's hard for us to get control of ourselves when we're too busy controlling each other."

Dr. Phil presses, "Isn't it true that you feel safer with him being way overweight?"

"Sometimes, I do," she admits.

"Isn't it true that you are threatened if he starts making progress?"


"Isn't it true that you are threate

ned if anybody pays attention to him, if women pay attention to him, and the idea of him being slim and trim and healthy and happy and out in the world is absolutely debilitatingly fearful for you?"

"It can be," she says.

"Isn't it true that you have admitted that if he is on a diet and making progress, that you will start a fight and when you make up, you'll celebrate with food to get him off of the diet because his progress is too threatening to you?"


"You guys have created a social system that is essential to you being in the condition that you're in ... You have people bringing you food all the time, correct? What do you do if they don't bring it to you?"

"I throw a temper tantrum sometimes," he says. "Sometimes, I just beg for it."

When John admits that he hasn't made much headway reading The Ultimate Weight Solution, Dr. Phil asks, "What else have you got to do? Really, why would you not be reading the book 24 hours a day?"

Dr. Phil wants John to focus on Key 1, Right Thinking. "You've got to get your thinking right about this. You have to understand you are fighting for your life," he stresses, telling John about his nephew Tony, who is nearly 500 pounds. "He began having serious pain recently, and he was too big to even get into a CAT-scan machine to try to figure out what was going on ... That's what you're facing right now."

John needs to stop his emotional eating, clean up his environment, and have a social support system in place as he changes his lifestyle.

He turns to Suzanne. "Are you willing to support this, and what are you going to do when you start having anxiety that John's getting all this attention?" he asks.

"I'm going to be right next to him and be with him and support him," she answers. "I'm trying to get over the fact that everybody else wants a piece of him. He's mine."

"You have to decide that you're willing to put his interests ahead of your own," Dr. Phil points out. "If you can't do that, you're going to violate a boundary, and when you violate the boundaries, I'm done."

John assures Dr. Phil that he's committed to the process, including reading The Ultimate Weight Solution and doing every exercise in it.

"We have a complete program that we're going to put in place for you if you guys play the game and get involved," Dr. Phil says. John will be able to work with Dr. Phil's mentor, Dr. Frank Lawlis, as well as with Dr. Scott Banks, a clinical nutritionist and chiropractor. Quest Diagnostics will come to John's house to do extensive lab work on him.

Additionally, the show has arranged for John's son and daughter to attend a fitness camp,, for three weeks to learn nutritional and fitness skills.

"We're bringing you every resource we can imagine to really turn you and this family around," Dr. Phil tells John and Suzanne. "What I need from you now is to absolutely commit yourself to this 100 percent."

"I'll commit it 100 percent, Dr. Phil," John promises.