It’s been said that the super morbidly obese person is skilled at “manipulating” their enabler or caregiver.

What makes someone continuously bring huge amounts of unhealthy food to their loved-one who’s so obese that they’re confined to bed?

“As is the case with drug addiction, changes in the chemistry of the brain can cause people struggling with food addiction to manipulate others if that’s what it takes to get more of their drug (food),” explains David Sack, MD, a psychiatrist specializing in addiction disorders, and CEO of Promises Treatment Centers in Malibu and Los Angeles.

How does a bedridden person manipulate someone who can ambulate and drive?

“If the enabler tries to stop enabling, the food addict may use a number of strategies to elicit compliance,” begins Dr. Sack.

“They may use threats, guilt and heartbreaking pleas that are extremely persuasive, especially when used against someone who is codependent.”

Mysteriously, TLC, the cable channel that airs most of these types of shows, has failed tremendously at addressing the enabler aspect of the super morbidly obese.

The bedridden individuals, some weighing over 900 pounds, are shown as calm, sweet and loving, and rarely shown having any kind of meltdown, and when a little meltdown IS shown, it’s usually not related to being refused food, but for some other reason, such as not having lost weight.

Nevertheless, when a fit occurs due to not being given food, I just can’t figure out why it’s so hard for the enabler to ignore these little outbursts.

When my elderly mother was disabled from depression, it severely weakened her body.

I’ll never forget the time, in the middle of the night, she went to the bathroom to use the toilet.

I had gotten up to supervise in case she fell at any point. She was extremely non-compliant.

After she was done relieving herself, still sitting on the toilet, she told me to help her stand up.

I was sitting outside the bathroom, its door open, giving us a full view of each other. I knew she was capable of getting off the toilet if she put her mind to it.

I refused to be an enabler and remained seated. She got mad and demanded I come over and help her off the toilet seat.

My job was to supervise in case anything went wrong. Nothing more. I knew she could get up without my help.

Still on the seat, she looked at me fiercely and ordered me to help her up. “No,” I said. “I’m helping you by NOT helping you.”

Finally, she got up  —  and seemingly effortlessly. I then accompanied her back to bed (to make sure she didn’t fall). I just didn’t have it in me to be an enabler, despite my mother’s attempt to manipulate me.

I imagine that sometimes, super morbidly obese people make angry commands while in bed, using authoritative or pleading voices to manipulate their enablers.

The enablers, being already psychologically dismantled from childhood emotional trauma, are not able to oppose the demands or pleas.

Another possibility is that the enabler of the obese is the one in control:

Dr. Sack says, “Those who are morbidly obese are also vulnerable to being manipulated by the people around them, who may have their own unconscious emotional needs (for example, feeling better about their own situation or feeling needed).”

Dr. Sack is a sought-after media expert and has appeared on “Dateline NBC,” “Good Morning America,” “The Early Show,” and “The Doctors,” among many other outlets.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.