It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than 10 years since Jenni Schaefer’s Life Without Ed was released, giving millions of women and men permission to talk back to their eating disorders. Since that time, Jenni has continued to inspire many. The author, singer, songwriter, and chair of the Ambassador’s Council of the National Eating Disorders Association will be appearing at Bucks County Community College in Newtown, PA on December 13, 2015. In honor of the event, Examiner is re-running parts of an exclusive 2011 interview – with some new and updated information directly from Jenni.
Heidi Dalzell for atombash.com: Jenni, your books are amazing. What gave you the motivation to write Life Without Ed and Goodbye Ed, Hello Me?
Jenni Schaefer: When I wrote my first book, Life Without Ed, I was significantly recovered from my eating disorder. And I wanted to share what I had learned with others. I decided to write my second book, Goodbye Ed, Hello Me, because I had finally reached the place I call fully recovered. With both of my books, I want people with eating disorders to know that they can leave the illness behind and find true joy and peace in life.
HD: Why do you think the idea of personifying Ed has been so helpful to you and others?
JS: In therapy, I learned to treat my eating disorder like a relationship—rather than an illness or a condition. I actually named my eating disorder, “Ed,” which is obviously an acronym. Ed was like an abusive boyfriend or husband. I hated him, but, for so long, I could not leave. This method of personifying Ed helped me to view my eating disorder as separate from myself. I could finally talk back to Ed and make room for my own thoughts and opinions. By connecting with my true self in this way, I gained some hope that I could recover. I have heard that the metaphor of Ed helps many people to feel this same hope. For that, I am deeply grateful.
HD: Sometimes you make it look so easy. What have your biggest challenges been?
JS: A couple of the biggest challenges in my eating disorder recovery were facing the food (all of it) and overcoming negative body image. For me, these were the “hard parts” of recovery. For a long time, I tried to recover without tackling the hard parts. Of course, this didn’t work. To get better, I had to face these tough issues head on. When I did that, ironically, I learned that my eating disorder was not truly about the food or my body at all. It was about constant self-criticism, low self-esteem, painful perfectionism, and other deeper issues. Through the recovery process, people can beautifully heal on all of these levels.
HD: What would you like to say to men and women out there who are still struggling?
JS: Full recovery is possible. In Twelve Step meetings, I have heard it said, “Don’t quit before the miracle happens.” Never, never, never give up.
HD: Could you tell us about your music? It’s very personal. How has it helped in your healing?
JS: Music has always been a healing force in my life. Sometimes, music helps me to get in touch with my feelings and express myself. Other times, music is just a way to relax and have fun! I am very excited about my CD, phoenix, Tennessee, and am looking forward to singing my favorite song from the album, “It’s Okay to be Happy,” at the event on the 13th.
HD: What’s happened in your life since Life Without Ed?
JS: Since Life Without Ed was initially published in 2004, we’ve released a tenth anniversary edition (including audiobook), as well as the book mentioned above, Goodbye Ed, Hello Me. While Life Without Ed addresses the eating disorder head-on, Goodbye Ed, Hello Me, focuses on some of the deeper recovery issues like perfectionism as well as how to build a life outside of Ed, Goodbye Ed, Hello Me answers the common question, “Who am I Without Ed?”
My latest book, Almost Anorexic: Is My (or My Loved One’s) Relationship With Food a Problem? is a collaboration with Harvard Medical School clinical psychologist, Jennifer J. Thomas, Ph.D. While 1 in 200 adults have experienced full-blown anorexia nervosa, at least 1 in 20 (1 in 10 teen girls) have exhibited some key symptoms of anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder. Within Almost Anorexic, we offer hope and healing to all who suffer—regardless of a specific diagnosis or lack thereof. The truth is that a diagnosis cannot possibly measure pain and suffering. All who suffer deserve help.
HD: Are you looking forward to speaking in the Philadelphia area?
JS: I’m very excited about the IAEDP Greater Philadelphia event and look forward to spending time with professionals and members of the community. I hope to get a chance to meet many of you at the event. Please come out and join us for fun, food, and inspiration, as well as to support a great cause—http://www.iaedp.com.
The Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals will host Jenni Schaefer at Bucks County Community College, Gallagher Room, on December 13, 2015. The Professional Luncheon begins at 12:00 followed by a Community Talk and Book Signing at 2:00. For more information, click here. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org