Life Without Ed's Jenni Schaefer Inspires Dartmouth (and Me)
“Never, never, never give up!”
Posted Mar 18, 2013
Long time friend and ED activitist Jenni Schaefer, author of Life without Ed and Goodbye Ed, Hello Me, spoke at Dartmouth College last month. I joined many of my patients in the audience for an inspiring evening. I promised several who were not able to attend that I would write up my notes.
Jenni opened her presentation saying that she is proud to be a “living example of both the journey to freedom from an eating disorder and the rediscovery of self” and then she shared some of her personal recovery story from her book, Life Without Ed. Read more on Jenni’s website.
Jenni was born in Texas, and she recalls first feeling she wasn't thin enough at the age of 4, when she began to study dance. Jenni showed us her first little dance costume to make the point that her eating disorder gathered steam when she began to restrict food as a teenager to try to keep that "little girl's body." Jenni also told us about how difficult college was her. He life was organized around the belief that to be happy and successful, she had to be thin and be “unrelentingly perfect.” After being accepted into medical school, Jenni eating disorder worsened. Instead of going to med school, she took a leave and within the year began treatment with a therapist, nutritionist and a doctor beginning “a long slow recovery that changed my life.”
Jenni told us, “Never, never, never give up!” She then quoted Amelia Earhart who said “The best way to do it, is to do it.” In treatment, Jenni learned that her eating disorder was not about the food, but, but food was the best medicine for recovery. “A starved brain cannot get better.” She remembers thinking that following a food plan would be impossible. She couldn’t picture eating on regular basis or responding normally to hunger and fullness. But when she just starting eating as her nutritionist directed her, the real emotional recovery began.
Jenni then stopped talking and drew a graph on the chalkboard.
“This graph of ups and downs describes my recovery. I learned from every fall. I learned to recognize the lies ED told. I learned to say no. I learned I could go to bed with the covers over my head and that the bad feelings would pass without my acting on my eating disordered thoughts.” One of my patients was so taken by this imagery that she asked Jenni to include this graph when she autographed a copy, Life without Ed.
Jenni ended the evening with several songs and some insights from her second book, Goodbye Ed, Hello Me, about finding real joy and peace in life. "It's not just about food and weight," she says. "I'm here to help people to fall in love with life."
At lunch earlier in the day, Jenni told me about her new book, Almost Anorexic, due out this summer. Jenni’s co-author is eating disorder expert and Assistant Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard (and Dartmouth grad) Jennifer J. Thomas, PhD. Almost Anorexic is written for an overlooked but prevalent segment of people who suffer from many of the key symptoms of an eating disorder but do not quite meet the full diagnostic criteria of one of the eating disorders. I know many people who fall into this category. They often feel that their situations aren’t bad enough to deserve treatment. Jenni wrote this book for you. Thank you, Jenni!
Nutritionist Marcia Herrin and Nancy Matsumoto, co-authors of The Parent’s Guide to Eating Disorders, Gūrze Books, Marcia is also author of the recently published Nutrition Counseling in the Treatment of Eating Disorders (Routledge, December 2013).
Copyrighted by Marcia Herrin and Nancy Matsumoto.