The Dr. Oz Show
Airdate: March 6, 2012
Dying to Be Thin
- The thinspiration movement is gaining momentum encouraging women to waste away
- If you know someone you may think is anorexic, know these three tips for getting help
When was the first time someone called you fat? Asks Dr. Oz. For some, that one time can trigger a compulsion to stop eating that leads to an addiction to lose weight. Spinning out of control, people – mostly women – are no longer able to see themselves as they really are: wasting away. Dr. Oz meets two women who are dying from anorexia – one can no longer eat and the other is working to gain her health – and a man who runs a website that encourages women to become anorexic.
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Dr. Oz Dying to Be Thin
It's called the Pro-Ana Movement, a community promoting and encouraging an anorexic lifestyle.
It's called the Pro-Ana Movement, a community promoting and encouraging an anorexic lifestyle.
Janice shared her story of suffering through anorexia for the past 8 years. In the video shown, Janice weighs 74 pounds. She's not sure how it started but remembers being a happy and healthy girl involved in gymnastics and dance. Going from carefree to suffering and miserable, today Janice says she never set out to be skinny.
She's shocked to see herself in the mirror. Seeing her bones protrude from her skin upsets her and sends her into tears. She's lost her curves and looks sickly to herself. But eating makes her feel overwhelmed and anxious.
Lunch for Janice is two crackers and half a slice of cheese. Dinner is three to four bites of chicken. Shes has no life. She doesn't want to die from this disease.
Janice join Dr. Oz on the show today. She tells Dr. Oz that she is not a typical anorexic because she isn't trying to be skinny, knows that she's sick, and feels terrible that this problem has gone so far. Janice says she has agreed to be on The Dr. Oz Show to stop people from going down the road she has gone down and to help people.
There is a shocking new movement online helping women to get anorexic on purpose. It's distrubing, this underground community of women encouraging each other how to starve themselves through purging, fasting, and extreme dieting.
At the top of the list thinkspiration list is PrettyThin.com run by James – no last name provided. James says he put the site together provide a community so that people can talk about the disorder and bring it out into the open with photos of skeletal women and daily mantras such as “Without food I am beautiful. Without food I am perfect.” Many believe James is doing more harm then good. His motivations are questioned.
James says he questions the fate of his won soul for feeding this community in one breath and in the next he says he's providing support for people to get help. Frankly, James looked scared sitting on stage with Dr. Oz on one side and Janice on his other side.
Dr. Oz asks James why he would run a site based on an deadly medical issue when he has never experienced an eating disorder himself.
James says he wants to get into the mind of the person suffering from anorexia. With a large group of people seeking content on his site, he provides a forum for dieting tips and a place for sufferers to talk and, he says, catch each other from going too far.
He may say the site is helping people but, Dr. Oz explained that he found photos of members bragging about being skin-and-bones. How can this be beneficial to women?
James says he's not trying to judge the people on the site and agrees that there are some women looking for help to keep going through anorexia.
What does it feel like, James, to watch people kill themselves?
It's hard, he repiles. How could you hear Janice's story and not be heart broken?
James has advertising on his site, he says there is only one, from which he makes money. He also sells unity bracelets but he says over the lifetime of the site, to date, he has made about $3,000, saying the cost of running the site far exceed that amount.
Janice was so upset she couldn't speak through her anger and frustration.
Dr. Oz showed the story of another woman suffering from anorexia at close to dying. Lynn, at age 31, weighs 72 pounds can't stop herself. At age 14, Lynn saw herself as fat ans stopped eating. She can no longer eat food, instead she gets the small amount of calories she allows herself through a feeding tube.
In the video Lynn held up the liquid meal in a can that she “eats”. The entire can is over 300 calories. Lynn only gave herself 10ml and said that was all she would eat that day. Stepping on the scale that day she shared her fear of gaining weight and broke down in tears at the thought of gaining weight.
Looking at her body, Lynn says she still sees parts of her that are too big. A roll of loose skin looks like fat to her.
Lynn is slowly losing energy. She gets weak and tired. Brushing her own hair is an effort that she can barely manage through.
Married for 4 years to her husband, Jeff, both are concerned about how much longer Lynn can live like this. She says she's not ready to give her life but says she is getting tired and it's getting harder everyday to fight. Her husband is afraid she will die.
Putting it on the level, Dr. Oz said Lynn is in a life-threatening crisis.
Lynn says that seeing a role of skin leaves her feeling she failed herself by gaining weight that day.
Jeff shared, through tears, that the anorexia has taken a toll on their relationship. It effects their entire life, they plan their life around anorexia, and can't do normal things. It's hell on earth.
Dr. Oz confronted James again observing that he looks helpless hearing these stories. Does he have any regrets about his website after hearing this?
No, he says these women should feel like they can talk about this issue openly, on his website or anywhere else.
Lynn is appalled and disgusted by James' site and says that he is signing death certificates for a lot of young women. Anorexia is not something you start today and stop tomorrow, she explains. Anorexia consumes you and you could die tomorrow.
Jeff said to James that he would like a few hours alone with James where no one would hear. Jeff wants James to think about how many lives he is destroying and tell to tell how he feels about himself.
James stated that he asks himself that everyday, “what have I done!” But goes on to say he wouldn't do it if he didn’t' feel it was helping people.
[Just stop right there, guy. Seriously? He is questioning his own motives, saying his soul is condemned, yet he thinks he is still helping people. How is it he has so much guilt but still thinks he is doing good? I think he knows he has harmed way more people then he has helped – if there are any that he has helped – and, like someone with a disease, is getting something out of the site that keeps him going despite all the negativity. Be it voyeurism, a fetish, the feeling of control, whatever, he gets off in some form from doing this and he admits that it's wrong. The man must be stopped.]
Tennie McCarty, LCDC, ADC III, CEDC, CAS, Founder, CEO and co-owner of Shades of Hope Treatment Center, a residential and extended care all-addictions treatment center specializing in the treatment of eating disorders and co-occurring addictions, is an addictions therapists and author of Shades of Hope: A Program to Stop Dieting and Start Living.
She says anorexia is the only disease where the brain will continue to tell you that things aren't that bad. Starve the brain and the less it will be able to work.
Ms. McCarty says she has taken care of men and women trying to get out of the Pro-Ana movement. She shared that before coming on the stage she hoped she could sit next to James and not hit him. Tell me one person you have helped? What motivation do you have? What business is it of yours to get involved in this? Ms. McCarty says she hopes to God he will hear something and will stop promoting anorexia.
James says he has at least 300 testimonials from people saying he has helped them with his site.
Ms. McCarty says that parents and loved ones who notice anorexic behavior need to confront the problem and start talking about it. James' site talks about the problem but no solutions can be found there.
Britney, age 19, wishes to be massively skinny like Kate Moss with bones sticking out. On Pro-Ana sites, she says she finds comfort, calling the movement a sisterhood. The thinspiration photos are supposed to shock viewers but for her it's something to strive for.
Amanda, age 20, hosts a blog where she posts photos of anorexic women, tracks weight as well as goals. She says the people who follow her blog create a community, keeping each other going in a behavior they each know is wrong. Amanda says she has taken the anorexia route to lose weight and since she sees results she'll continue. She says she hates herself and sees herself as chubby, not attractive.
Dr. Oz held Amanda's hands and told her she is gorgeous. He pointed out scars on her arms and asked about them. Amanda says they are self-injuries that she has punished herself for eating. Amanda has scars all over her left arm. Dr. Oz told Amanda, we are ,each of us, such miracles and when people tell us things that aren't truthful we need the tools and understanding to filter that out.
Amanda admitted that hearing Lynn and Jeff's story makes her worry about her own fate. She has a boyfriend and never thought what she did would effect other people but now she has a better understanding. Amanda says she understands that even if she lost weight she would still see herself as fat. She knows the issue is about what she sees and not how she actually looks.
Lynn explains that with anorexia, you begin to think you're in control but years later, when it may be too late you realize you're not in control. The farther you go the more it consumes you.
Amanda says that what she heard today resonates with her but she's still not satisfied and feels the need to lose more weight.
Ms. McCarty believes that both Amanda and Britney could become full blown anorexics. She thinks Janice and Lynn haven't yet accepted being anorexic which is the first step to recovery. Suffering through anorexia, those seeking to recover need to discover what is the payoff for being this way, what is the payoff. Finding the answer can lead to understanding and healing.
Two years ago, Dr. Oz says he met a man at the same cross roads as the four women on the stage. Faced with the reality that their behavior can kill them and presented with support and a solution.
Bryan Bixler, recovering anorexic, weighed 75 pounds when he met Dr. Oz and knew that if he didn't get help he would die. He appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and was given the opportunity for treatment at Rosewood Centers for Eating Disorders in Arizona. Nine months later, Bryan appeared again on The Dr. Oz Show having responded to therapy and having gained weight.
To Janice and Lynn, Bryan says there is hope. He says the confrontation on The Dr. Oz Show was his turning point and it could be theirs as well. To Amanda and Britney, he says they don't look it but they are also anorexic. He believes there is a 100% guarantee that they both will become full blown anorexics once it gets a hold.
Would the public stand for a pro-cancer website? Encouraging people to contract cancer and supporting through continuing with it, until the die. Does that make any sense? Neither does a pro-anorexia community. It needs to stop.
Britney had shared with Ms. McCarty that she understand a while before that if she doesn't get help she will die. At 92 pounds, Britney says she felt her body shutting down.
All four women were given the opportunity to be treated at Shades of Hope. Ms. McCarty says her staff is ready and willing to help each of them – if they choose. She told Janice and Lynn it's not too late because they are still breathing.
Lynn said yes.
Janice said she wanted to hear more before deciding. Bryan asked her if she wanted to live. She relied, absolutely. Then, said Bryan, then you shouldn't have to ask anything else.
Britney said no because she was already invested in her recovery. She shared that she's seeing a therapist and has gained 20 pounds.
Amanda said she doesn't feel like she needs help because she's not sick and is only restricting calories to lose weight. Amanda admitted to eating between 300 and 600 calories a day. Ms. McCarty told Amanda this is the perfect time to get help. Think of anorexia as elevator where you can get off any where you like. Lynn and Janice are in the basement but Amanda has reached that point. Amanda said yes.
Dr. Oz: Three things everyone who knows someone suffering from an eating disorder must do:
- If you see an eating disorder behavior talk to the person and give them your concern.
- Get help. No one can get well without help.
- The family needs to get help too. Family members can also become sick through the process of recovering from an eating disorder.
Katie Rickel, PhD, has contributed an article to DoctorOz.com, The Pro-Ana Movement: Building Better Anorexic. She uses the word deathstyle to describe the movement. Click here to read her article.
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