Jenni Schaefer is an Eating Disorder and Trauma Advocate, Author, Speaker and Coach. Her blog topics ranges from eating disorders and body image, trauma and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to social media and technology.
I would never have recovered from my eating disorder without my weekly therapy group. The women and men in this group inspired me more than anything else. If they could get better, then maybe, just maybe, I could too. Others in recovery made healing seem like a real possibility.
In addition to peer support, three powerful keys that supported my recovery efforts and helped me to overcome my eating disorder were:
Learning how to separate the eating disorder from myself
Letting go of ALL of my eating disorder
Channeling my genetic traits in a positive direction
Separating the Eating Disorder from Myself
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. By using the metaphor, my friends and family began to see my eating disorder as separate from me as well. We could all fight against Ed and for me. This felt good.
To read the full post on The Meadows Ranch blog, click here.
Drumroll: I can’t believe that I can now say I am a peer-reviewed researcher! Many thanks to my friends and colleagues, Drs. Tim Brewerton and June Alexander, for collaborating on this special article.
This article was born out of a talk we all did together in San Francisco a few years ago at the International Conference on Eating Disorders. Dr. Brewerton suggested that we turn our presentation into a paper, which we thought was a great idea. But, I guess others didn’t think so.
Let’s just say that we were rejected. More than once. Of course, we knew to keep trying. Finally, Eating and Weight Disorders made it happen. We are so excited to help bridge the world of trauma, PTSD, and eating disorders.
To read the full research paper, click the image below.
Dr. Marianne Miller: Hello everyone! I am SO EXCITED to present my new interview with none other than Life Without Ed author and speaker Jenni Schaefer! Jenni’s book came on the scene around 10 years ago, sending shockwaves throughout the world of eating disorders. Eating disorder professionals and individuals suffering from eating disorders alike acknowledged that Jenni captured a way of looking at eating disorders that was elegant and accurate. Since that time, countless people have found solace in her book, reading chapter by chapter and literally nodding to themselves and saying, “she gets it.” It has been transformative in the eating disorder field. Both outpatient eating disorder therapists like myself in San Diego, as well as clinicians in higher levels of care have recommended this book as people start on their recovery journey. Jenni has since written two more books on eating disorders. PLUS, Jenni travels throughout the country, not only spreading her story of eating disorder recovery, but more recently on trauma recovery as well. She’ll talk about both areas in this interview. Enjoy!!!
Would you share a little about your eating disorder history?
At the age of only four-years-old, I heard a voice in my head that said, “You’re fat. You aren’t good enough.” That voice was my eating disorder (aka “Ed”). I was 22-years-old before someone finally told me that I didn’t have to listen to that negative, self-critical voice anymore.
Although my eating disorder began as negative body image thoughts, I ultimately ended up restricting food. And, in time, this behavior led to bingeing and purging. Sometimes, it seemed like the treacherous, painful cycle would never end.
What kind of eating disorder treatment did you seek?
To recover from my eating disorder, I needed the help of an expert treatment team. It included a therapist, dietitian, psychiatrist, and an internist (physician). Importantly, my internist discovered that I had osteoporosis in my twenties. Gratefully, recovery reversed this! My bones are strong and healthy today.
Support from peers was also a key. For me, this meant attending Twelve Step meetings as well as a weekly therapy group. The women and men in these groups inspired me more than anything else. If they could do it, then maybe, just maybe, I could too. Others in recovery made healing seem like a real possibility. Because support like this was so pivotal for me, we launched a Life Without Ed® Weekend Workshop at Rio Retreat Center.
Life Without Ed® and Goodbye Ed, Hello Me® jewelry provides daily armor against eating disorders (a.k.a. Ed), and benefits the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Chicago (Feb. 28, 2019) – Life Without Ed® and Goodbye Ed, Hello Me® sterling silver jewelry was born out of the idea that recovery from an eating disorder (a.k.a. Ed) is a process and positive daily reminders such as jewelry pieces are incredibly useful and powerful. Life beyond an eating disorder is not only achievable, but also opens up a world of possibilities
Jenni Schaefer, author of Life Without Ed; Goodbye Ed, Hello Me; and Almost Anorexic, a collaboration about subclinical eating disorders with Harvard Medical School, and Chicago- based jewelry designer, Sue Gillerlain, teamed up to create sterling silver jewelry inscribed with the words, Life Without Ed® and Goodbye Ed, Hello Me®.
“We developed the charms, bracelets, and necklaces to support recovery from eating disorders and to create a concrete line of defense against Ed,” said Schaefer, who speaks publicly around the world about her own battle with an eating disorder and has been featured on “Today,” “Dr. Oz,” and “Dr. Phil.”
We affectionately call our jewelry line ‘Ed armor.'”
Ten percent of the sale of each Life Without Ed® and Goodbye Ed, Hello Me® charm, bracelet, necklace, and keychain is donated to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) to help promote awareness, education, and helpline support.
We are grateful to Jenni and Sue for creating jewelry that acts as a sign of strength for those who wear it and helps to support NEDA’s programs and services,”
said Claire Mysko, NEDA’s CEO.
The sterling silver Goodbye Ed, Hello Me® and Life Without Ed® charms, bracelets, necklaces, and keychains can all be purchased at online at www.sarah-kate.com.
For interviews and/or high-resolution, digital images of the Goodbye Ed, Hello Me® and Life Without Ed® charms, and accompanying jewelry pieces, please contact Sue Gillerlain at (630) 482-9140 or email@example.com.
About Author, Jenni Schaefer
Jenni Schaefer is a bestselling author, internationally known speaker, and a Senior Fellow with The Meadows. She has appeared on shows like “Today,” “Dr. Oz,” and “Dr. Phil,” as well as in publications ranging from Cosmopolitan to The New York Times. Her books include Life Without Ed; Goodbye Ed, Hello Me; and Almost Anorexic, a collaboration about subclinical eating disorders with Harvard Medical School. Currently, Jenni is at work on a book about fighting through posttraumatic stress disorder, PTSD. An Ambassador with the National Eating Disorders Association, Jenni lives in Austin, Texas, where she can often be found exploring the outdoors. For more information, visit JenniSchaefer.com. To request an interview with Jenni, fill out the contact form at the top right of this page and select “Media Request.”
About Jewelry Designer, Sue Gillerlain
Sue Gillerlain is the founder of the online jewelry company www.sarah-kate.com. She created the company as a way to use her talents in jewelry design and writing, and her personal recovery experience to help raise awareness about eating disorders and give back. For more information, please contact Sue Gillerlain at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the National Eating Disorders Association
The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) is the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders. NEDA supports individuals and families affected by eating disorders, and serves as a catalyst for prevention, cures and access to quality care. Through our programs and services, NEDA raises awareness, builds communities of support and recovery, funds research and puts life-saving resources into the hands of those in need. NEDA’s National Eating Disorders Awareness week—the nation’s largest eating disorders outreach effort—is scheduled for the week of Feb. 25-March 3, 2019. The 2019 theme, Come as You Are, highlights NEDA’s movement towards inclusivity in the greater eating disorder community and NEDA’s goal of unifying the field of eating disorders. For more information, visit www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.
“I walked through not only recovery from my addiction, but from my trauma. Today, I gravitate toward the things that make me uncomfortable. I know that through discomfort comes adversity, but ultimately comes growth.”
The above quote is from Tricia’s inspiring story below. If you have experienced sexual abuse or an addiction, her words are written just for you. Healing is indeed possible. Like Tricia said, recovery can mean getting uncomfortable. Ironically, it can be through this discomfort that healing happens. Never give up.
“And all the while I feel like I’m standing in the middle of a crowded room, screaming at the top of my lungs, and no one even looks up.” I remember watching Titanic as a kid, empathizing with Rose and her emotional turmoil. Growing up, I always felt like I was drowning and desperately waiting for someone to come rescue me. It wasn’t until my mid-20s that I would realize that I was the one refusing to get into the lifeboat…
I was five years old when I had my first encounter with trauma. Too young to comprehend the magnitude of the situation, my first-grade class participated in a “Good Touch/Bad Touch” workshop, and I found relief in finding a safe place to lay down the burden I had been carrying. I went straight to the school counselor and told her, in vivid description, the intimate details of my unwarranted experiences. I remember the grueling interview process that resulted in a conference with my parents. Finally someone could validate my pain, or so I thought. This resulted in complete denial and avoidance from my parents. Looking back, perhaps it was too painful. I like to think they did the best they could with what they had. I would spend the next 20 years of my life wearing victimization like a warm blanket, hopelessly seeking relief and validation.
Sexual abuse is confusing, but not as perplexing as facing it alone as a child with no support nor direction. I learned, early on, that my experiences were mine to carry alone. No one came riding in on a white horse to protect the innocent but violated little girl. I was left, alone with my thoughts, trying to avoid the reality of the abuse. Falling on deaf ears, I carried the cross of shame and kissed the feet of fear daily. Wearing a brave face, I never got the chance to truly experience my childhood. Memories from that time period come in waves but I realize I dissociated from the majority of my earlier years.
As I got older, I started to shove every uncomfortable emotion into the deepest pit within myself. Self-loathing mixed with false confidence cultivated my identity. I attribute my utter inability to engage in any form of intimacy on my inability to be honest with myself. I was a chameleon of all sorts. I never felt like I fit in. Emotions were downplayed and I was always “too much” or “not enough.” Inadequacy pleaded my cause and I didn’t object. I spent most of my life changing shades and never identifying who I really was. My relationships were codependent and unhealthy.
Codependency is defined as “excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction.” This definition brings back an unpleasant nostalgia that I’d prefer to ignore. In fact, for me, codependency is an ever looming defect that I combat daily. The grips of codependency brought me to my knees long before I indulged in any mood/mind-altering substance. Before I ever picked up a drink/drug, my addictive nature preyed upon validation and approval. Maybe trauma and the environment of my childhood propelled my incessant need to please, or maybe I was always a glutton for punishment. At the root of almost every human heart is the desire to love and to be loved. I was no exception, in fact I clung to validation for survival. From an early age, I never learned how to validate myself. Perhaps it was the lack of emotional safety I experienced or maybe it was the fundamental inability to deal with life on life’s terms. Either way, I was spiraling out of control with no safety net in sight.
Fear of rejection/abandonment was the leading cause of my incessant need to please. Thinking back to my childhood and the absence of my biological mother, I experienced feelings of inadequacy, rejection, and abandonment from a very young age. I was left to navigate through my adolescent years, and quite honestly I never had the proper tools. I was like a tourist in a foreign county, unfamiliar to the language, without a guide, and completely lost.
Based on my experience, avoidance was the only way to heal. The insanity of this idea would later lead me into the trenches of full-blown addiction. The first time I experienced oblivion, I finally felt “a part of.” All of the pain, trauma, and fear disappeared. Drugs and alcohol became my solution. If I didn’t like how I was feeling, I sought out oblivion. If I did like how I was feeling, I sought out oblivion. If I wanted to celebrate, oblivion. If I wanted to mourn, oblivion. You see, eventually oblivion became my reprieve. Just as I dissociated as a little girl, I learned how to achieve the same desired effect with opiates. Eventually, I couldn’t worship or sacrifice enough for King Opiates and I was begging for relief. Legal consequences caught up to me and I was left with no solution. I was buried alive with no idea of how to revive myself.
Gift of Recovery
Walking out of the local county jail, I felt complete apathy. My father finally came to my rescue. He offered me the gift of recovery. I attended a 30-day dual-diagnosis treatment center. At first, I was convinced I was entering the initiation into a cult. The idea that I would walk through the trauma I experienced, completely sober, was insane. I’m not like any of these people. Again, my comforting desire to be the isolated victim crept in. You see, drugs and alcohol were never the problem, I was. After weeks of intense group and individual therapy, I came to the realization that not only was I healing from my addiction but from undiagnosed PTSD and anxiety. This was the turning point in my journey to recovery.
At the root of it all, I was the scared little 5-year-old girl who never healed the wounds of her past.
Without drugs and alcohol, my resources were severed. Aside from the common withdrawal symptoms, I found myself struggling to eat, sleep, process emotions, or engage in any sort of vulnerability. During one of our self-demolition sessions, I remember my therapist asking me: “How much pain do you want to be in today? Only you can lay it down and start to heal.” No one ever validated my trauma until that day. In recovery, many people speak of spiritual experiences and this was my first encounter. I remember sobbing and yelling throughout the remainder of our session, unloading years of guilt, shame, and unadulterated pain. I slowly started to welcome the idea that I had complete control over how much I truly wanted to recover from a seemingly hopeless state of mind.
Here we are, 2½ years sober and I finally feel like I’ve made my way home. I am able to look myself in the mirror, without self-deprecating thoughts or comments clouding my vision. I walked through not only recovery from my addiction, but from my trauma. Today, I gravitate toward the things that make me uncomfortable. I know that through discomfort comes adversity, but ultimately comes growth. I continue to seek ongoing therapy for my PTSD and I am actively involved in my local Twelve Step community. For the first time in my life, I pulled myself up off the floor and I met fear face-to-face. I valiantly walked through the fire, but not without the help of the people who loved me the most. I believe the phrase “don’t let your past come back to haunt you” was coined from situations like this one. The truth is, unhealed trauma resurfaces and from my experience I kept seeking out what I was familiar with: abusive chaos. The life I live today is so liberating. Breaking a grueling generational curse, I make decisions today that harvest the future I want for myself and my kids.
Tricia Moceo is an Outreach Specialist for Recovery Local, a local addiction/recovery based marketing company. She advocates long-term sobriety by writing for websites like detoxlocal.com, providing resources to recovering addicts and shedding light on the disease of addiction. Tricia is a mother of two, actively involved in her local recovery community, and is passionate about helping other women find hope in seemingly hopeless situations.
“Does it ever get better?” those in eating disorder recovery often ask. Healing from an eating disorder can be such a long journey—with so many bumps along the way—that many feel hopeless and believe they might never recover. But I know from personal experience that, yes, it does get better—fully better. This webinar provides not only concrete tools for navigating eating disorder treatment but also guidance for connecting with a fulfilled life in the wake of the treacherous illness. Learn about the signs and symptoms of eating disorders, the different types of eating disorders, as well as the common myths. All in all, we recover from our eating disorders in order to recover our lives. Click here to watch our free Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) webinar!
Hello. I would like to introduce myself. I am the only person in the world who cannot recover from an eating disorder. No matter how hard I try or how desperately I want to let go of my eating disorder, I am doomed to fail. I will never get better.
That was nearly twenty years ago. It turns out that I wasn’t so special after all, not the worst case scenario, and not the hopeless one. I am thrilled to say that I was not the lone ranger and that it did get better, in fact, much better. Many of us battling the illness believe that we are the sickest and that we will never recover. At one point in my eating disorder therapy group, every single person in the room thought that they were the one who wouldn’t make it. But, today, they are proof that recovery is possible. I am, too. Countless others—who were also the sickest of the sick, according to them—have arrived at this point of freedom as well.
These are individuals with all types of eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and the most common, yet least known, Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder, OSFED. Those who have healed—all genders, cultures, and sexual orientations—are ones who developed the illness as teenagers, at younger ages, or much later in life. Some struggled for a few years and others for over fifty. Those who battled an eating disorder for a longer period of time sometimes heard from experts that a successful recovery was less likely, because the disease was not ‘caught’ early. I heard this, too. I had strong tendencies toward eating disordered behaviors beginning at the young age of four but failed to reach out for help for almost twenty years. Needless to say, I caught nothing early except my unhealthy attitudes toward food and my body, but I got better.
Years ago, December was a time for Ed and I to think about New Year’s resolutions. I was in an abusive marriage with him for over twenty years, and he eventually controlled almost every aspect of my life. On the top of the list of things to accomplish during each new year, Ed sought to control my food and weight. You see, Ed is my eating disorder.
Millions of Americans, including those who don’t know Ed, make the same New Year’s resolutions that revolve around food and weight. Some vow to lose that last five or ten pounds while others promise to stick to the newest fad diet. Yet we have all heard time and time again that diets don’t work. In fact, 95 to 98 percent of diets fail, and most who diet end up gaining even more weight back with each successive attempt.
We know that diets fail, but we keep dieting anyway. Would we keep dieting if we had even more information?
The truth is that dieting, all too often, takes a deadly turn—into an eating disorder. Don’t get me wrong; an eating disorder is not a diet gone bad. An eating disorder is not a choice; it is a real, life-threatening illness. Indeed, anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness.
To read the full post on The Meadows Ranch Blog, click here.
Who am I without Ed? We’ve been together for so long that I’m afraid of what my life might look like without him.
I admit, things are horribly miserable with Ed but at least I’m thin. I’d rather be thin and miserable than fat and miserable!
What if being recovered just means I’m going to gain weight and be fat and miserable?
These were my thoughts years ago. I wondered if recovery was really going to be worth it. Well finally, fully recovered, I now know the answers to those questions. Yes, recovery is worth all the hard work. No, I’m not just fat and miserable. In fact, I’m happier than ever before and I love my body. No, I’m not as thin as I used to be but here’s the miracle, I don’t want to be.
Don’t quit before the miracles of full recovery happen for you.
Watch the Video!
The content above is a transcription of this video.
I distinctly remember feeling fat wearing the leotard pictured here. Yes, at the young age of four, I already heard Ed screaming, “You aren’t good enough.”
If you hear Ed’s voice, you know that he can talk incessantly all year round. You also know that his chatter can get even louder around the holidays.
Remember: just because Ed may get noisier doesn’t mean that you have to waiver in your recovery. In the end, it doesn’t matter what Ed says or does. What matters is how you respond to him. Here are ten tips for responding to Ed this holiday season:
Choose a Go-To Support Person. For each holiday celebration, select a designated person for support and accountability. Choose someone who is willing, available, and, if possible, actually attending the event. Teach this person the dos and don’ts of support, and discuss things-that-might-happen scenarios—explaining what kind of response would be most helpful to you in each situation.
Carry Support with You. Program other key support people into your phone—set them up as easy-to-access favorite contacts. In moments of distress, make a call. If picking up the phone to make a support call seems too difficult, consider sending a short text—like ‘SOS’ or even ‘Ed.’ Tell your support team ahead of time what your distress signal text might say, and let them know helpful ways to encourage you.
Stop and Breathe. Practice mindfulness by paying attention to all five senses—see, hear, smell, taste, and touch the joys of the season. Meditate—even for just a few moments—before attending holiday gatherings.
Face the Food. Ed will try to make food a big deal; don’t let him. The truth is that holiday food is often the same, so you can easily plan ahead by consulting with your dietitian or a trusted support person. If you don’t know what will be served, ask beforehand. At the meal, you might even ask a support person to prepare a plate for you. For extra accountability, text a photo of your plate to someone on your support team. Ask your friends and family not to comment about what you are eating.
To read the full post on The Meadows Ranch Blog, click here.