March 6, 2012 – airing of the Dr. Oz Show discussing PrettyThin and Eating Disorders. The below is what was written on the website prior to the show airing…
Dying to be Thin – The Dr. Oz Show – March 6, 2012
PrettyThin will appear on the Dr Oz Show – “Dying to be Thin” on March 6, 2012. Filming of this show took place in the last week of February. This page is being created prior to airing to help answer questions people may have about PrettyThin. By understanding why we would go on a show and take fire might help you better understand what this community is all about. Understand that I have not seen the edited show – I am making remarks based on my experience during filming.
You may find this page very helpful as you navigate different pages of the website. You do not have to stick to this path, obviously, but you may find the enormous amount of content on this site more easily digestible if you do follow the story. One thing that we ask, one way or another, is to suspend judgement for a moment and enter this experience with a true desire to make a difference.
As I sat in the audience and watched the show being filmed, the words “you are killing people” kept echoing through my mind. Maybe he is right. What if what PrettyThin is actually harming people rather than helping them. You saw the show – now hear the rest of the story. First, let me set the stage for you. For those who watched the show, you recognize the characters in this drama. For those who have not seen the show, I encourage you to first watch the show. If you can’t, I am going to try to be thorough in my explanation of things. But first, here are the players on the stage.
Setting the stage – Dr Oz show on the “pro-ana” lifestyle
I received an email from a producer who was looking for “anorexics” who fit this description:
A nationally syndicated medical talk show is looking for woman to speak on camera about the desire to be thin. We want to understand the world of Pro Ana and why in many cases being thin is the more important than anything else.
I posted on this website for people who felt they could speak on the topic, and referred three members to the show. The show called me later and asked to have me on the show; as the site owner, and as someone who they felt spoke well on this topic. What topic? The pro-ana lifestyle. What was it? Why would people look for pro-ana websites, and what does that mean?
After some discussion, I agreed to be on the show. The motivation was simple: this topic and possibly this site is going to get some attention. We should be part of that conversation. That is the essence of PrettyThin. Be a part of the discussion.
On Thursday they filmed me at home.
Before I move on, I first want to say that the staff on the Dr. Oz show are extremely professional, and on top of their game. They are professionals who have shows to produce, and they do it well. I am not commenting on the content; I personally do not hold them accountable for their understanding of the many topics they cover.
I also want to state that I feel Dr. Oz is an inspiring and amazing person. He has accomplished so much and helped so many people it is almost unbelievable. I cannot say enough about my respect for his passion to help. I will be challenging Dr. Oz as I challenge the show in the same way Dr. Oz challenged me when challenging PrettyThin. I do not take this personally and feel it is out of a desire driven by a passion that has great intention and purpose.
On Thursday, they film at my home. It was extremely difficult answering many of the questions because I was not simply giving answers, but explaining what the answers meant. The interview was conduced by an amazing interviewer, but she did not know a thing about the topic or the greater discussion. She knew to ask questions, possibly a set of questions that a project team of some sort put together. I had been asked these similar questions two other times by two other staff members prior to the interviews, so I was prepared. But even with preparation, you never know what aspect each person asking the question may be unclear, confused, or completely wrong about in their understanding – of anorexia, of eating disorders, on the topic of pro-ana, on the subject of PrettyThin.
At the end of the interview I was a little worried. I would have a lot of explaining to do and hoped that Dr. Oz was more aware of these issues so that we could talk about the fundamental problems surrounding this topic. Unfortunately, this turned out not to be the case.
On Friday I was taken to the show for more filming. Out of nearly 5 – 6 hours of film (3 – 4 hours at my home and 1 – 2 hours in studio), they were going to put together a 45 minute show, only 10 minutes (or less) of which would be my chance to tell people why PrettyThin was important and what it meant to those members who use the community. Before the show I was asked if I knew much about Dr. Oz and was told “Dr. Oz is a heart surgeon. He is a father and a family man. And when people ask him about eating disorders, he (paraphrase from this point on) doesn’t have the answers.”
I was pleased. Dr. Oz was going to try to learn what this was all about. It was not going to be an attack. It was going to be a platform to create awareness about eating disorders. Not only was this not to be the case, but I would actually be attacked and told that I was killing people. I cannot begin to tell you how surreal that experience was.
You know the background now. Let’s start talking about the issues I have with what took place.
Dr. Oz appears on the Harpo (Oprah Winfrey Network). In 1994, Oprah had a show on anorexia where she said she learned one of the greatest lessons in her life.
As of May 13, 2011, (quote from above link) – to this day, Oprah says her question is still one of the most powerful things she’s ever heard. “When I heard her say, ‘But how? How do you do it?’—that was it for me. I realized that we can’t just tell people what to do, but we have to offer the how,” Oprah says. “That moment with Rudine forever changed the way I approached every show.”
Dr. Oz did offer a “how.” They offered the four people on stage who were suffering with anorexia a chance to receive free treatment. In some cases, the average monthly cost of treatment for an eating disorder at a facility like Shades of Hope is $6,000 a month! Free treatment. I could not get the costs for treatment from the website because they all lead to the Cooper Smith Agency for Public Relations. But Shades of Hope is a for-profit facility and I’m certain you can get information by contacting them.
On stage with the four people suffering with anorexia was the Founder and CEO of Shades of Hope, Tennie McCarty. Her facility had offered treatment to another individual who had appeared on the Dr. Oz show two years before and when he appeared on stage you could see that two years later, he looked great. He was encouraging, and a wonderful example of what treatment could offer people.
When offered, only one of the four people on stage – even with the encouragement of Dr. Oz, and with the example of what treatment could do for you, and with the founder of a treatment facility offering free treatment – only one of them said yes, I will take it.
Who were these four people:
The first is a woman who was barely over 70 pounds in weight. She was the first to appear on the Dr. Oz stage and I watched her from my dressing room being interviewed live. She was truly suffering, and truly wanted help. She knew what her eating disorder had done to her and she wanted it to stop. She was isolated; having lost her family and friends to her anorexia. And she was in tears, wanting the torture to stop. She had never heard of PrettyThin. In fact, sh had never heard of the “pro-ana” movement. She had been suffering for nearly a decade, and these things had no impact or influence on her. She refused treatment.
I was next on stage, and I will answer questions about me and this site later in this discussion. After me was another woman who was suffering from an eating disorder and affected in the same way. She is married, and her husband was in the audience. Both were in tears, and from what I understood, she had received in-patient treatment in the past. She was also barely over 70 pounds in weight. She had been suffering with her eating disorder for years. She wanted to live; for herself, and for her husband. She accepted the free treatment that Shades of Hope offered.
After that, Tennie McCarty came on stage, which I wall also speak on later, followed by two young girls who also suffered from eating disorders.
These two girls had a few things in common, the most notable being that they did know about PrettyThin and this “pro-ana” lifestyle movement. They both had been influenced, in some way or in some magnitude, and possibly in a major way, by PrettyThin.
One of these girls was already in treatment, trying to “recover” from her eating disorder. I just want to repeat this again: one of the girls who knew about PrettyThin and about the pro-ana movement was already receiving help for her eating disorder.
The second of these two girls ran a website of her own that can be considered a “pro-ana” site in the traditional sense. She also was a cutter, and was not the kind of person to be afraid of being open about her eating disorder. She turned down the free treatment offered by Shades of Hope.
What went wrong?
A doctor (and concerned, educated father), a founder of a treatment facility (author, and recover(ed/ing) bulimic who’s daughter is a recovering anorexic), and a person who was a Shades of Hope success story all sitting on stage, and an audience of over 100 people encouraging them to get help. One of them even begging for help. WHAT WENT WRONG?
I’ll tell you…
Yes. Do you really think that anyone is unaware of this fact? Eating disorders can kill people. There are other facts about eating disorders that you should be aware of, but this part I simply want to repeat. Eating disorders kill people.
The show, Dying to be Thin, seemed to be trying to educate people on the dangers of eating disorders. People are already aware of the dangers. The show seemed to be honed in on a conversation that is a century old. There was no attempt to catch up to the discussion going on today. And it’s time to catch up. It’s time to stop talking at people as if they don’t already know, and start talking with those who you are trying to help. The impulse to squash the discussion will not only get you nowhere, but is obviously saving only 1 out of 3 if not 1 out of 4 or 5 or 10. And this is when free treatment is offered!
What do you gain from listening to the conversation? What do you gain from being open to this discussion?
First, you get a community that truly cares because they understand what the other is going through.
You also learn that many of your ideas around eating disorders are wrong.