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Goodbye Ed, Hello Me: Recover from Your Eating Disorder and Fall in Love with Life

Goodbye Ed, Hello Me: Recover from Your Eating Disorder and Fall in Love with Life

by Jenni Schaefer


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Don't Battle an Eating Disorder Forever- Recover from It Completely
Jenni Schaefer and Ed (eating disorder) are no longer on speaking terms, not even in her most difficult moments. In her bestseller, Life Without Ed, Jenni learned to treat her eating disorder as a relationship, not a condition-enabling her to break up with Ed once and for all.

In Goodbye Ed, Hello Me Jenni shows you that being fully recovered is not just about breaking free from destructive behaviors with food and having a healthy relationship with your body; it also means finding joy and peace in your life.

"Jenni Schaefer has dedicated her life to helping people overcome their eating disorders and live life to the fullest. She is an inspiration to all!" —Dr. Phil

“Every young woman and man interested in overcoming disordered eating should read this treasure of a book.”
-Leigh Cohn, M.A.T., CEDS, Editor-in-Chief, Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention

“The beauty of Jenni's written journey through her tormented relationship with Ed is that it is honest, passionate, hopeful-but, most important, it ultimately assures the reader that life really can move on.”
-Lynn Grefe, CEO, National Eating Disorders Association

Combining Jenni's signature personal advice and unfailing encouragement along with valuable exercises you can do as you read, Goodbye Ed, Hello Me will give you the prescriptive tools to take the final steps in divorcing your Ed completely.

Foreword by Carolyn Costin, LMFT, M.A., M.Ed.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780071608879
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
Publication date: 08/05/2009
Edition description: List
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 285,217
Product dimensions: 8.68(w) x 11.72(h) x 0.62(d)

About the Author

Jenni Schaefer is an ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association and appears regularly on television and national radio to raise awareness about eating disorders and recovery. A singer/songwriter living in Nashville, she writes for publications nationwide. You can find out more about her at jennischaefer.com.

Read an Excerpt

goodbye ed, hello me

Recover from Your Eating Disorder and Fall in Love with Life
By Jenni Schaefer


Copyright © 2009 Jennifer Schaefer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-07-163678-0

Chapter One


In order to divorce Ed, I needed a recovery toolbox stocked with tools that really worked. Even more important than having the tools, I needed to actually use them. Finding a life without Ed meant consistently applying what I learned in treatment to each step of my recovery journey. It meant facing the food. When I fell down along the way, I had to get back up again. Part 1 will take you back to the basics of eating disorder recovery and reinforce what works and what doesn't. Get ready to take some real action.

Recovered (Period.)

"I'm Jenni. I have an eating disorder," I said as we went around the room introducing ourselves in a Twelve Step meeting. As I spoke the words "I have an eating disorder," I felt a knot in the pit of my stomach. I felt like I was lying to myself and to everyone else. I thought, "I don't have an eating disorder. Why did I just say that?"

I said it to fit in with the standard format of the Twelve Step meeting. John had begun, "I'm John. I have an eating disorder." Then Sue: "I'm Sue. I have an eating disorder."

So I just followed suit, but I won't do it again. That phrase may fit in with the format of the meeting, but it sure does not fit into my life. From now on, I will say, "I am Jenni. I am recovered from an eating disorder."

It took years and years of hard work, energy, and pain to get myself to the place where that statement is true. I did not work for almost a decade to walk around saying that I still have an eating disorder when I don't.

My personal experience is that I must speak my truth, claim what is true for me: I am recovered. I don't still have an eating disorder, and I am not always going to be in recovery. I refuse to give Ed any power in my life today. Looking back, I can see how he used that kind of power to stay in my life for far too long. I can also see that defining myself in terms of my illness was a self-fulfilling prophecy. As long as I believed Ed was waiting around every corner to get me, guess what? He was waiting around every corner to get me.

Sure, there were many points when I was "in recovery," and checking in at a Twelve Step meeting with "I have an eating disorder" suited me just fine. Those were times when I was still acting out with eating disordered behaviors or when I was consumed by the fear of relapse.

I am grateful that people who had been through it themselves told me, "It is possible to be fully recovered from an eating disorder." Knowing that in recovery could become fully recovered was pivotal in my life, so I like to offer that same hope to others today.

Many people out there are at the same place I am in regard to their eating disorder, but they prefer to keep saying that they are in recovery as opposed to being recovered. They believe that the moment they say they are recovered is the moment they will relapse. The phrase in recovery reminds them that life is a process and that there is always room to grow. Of course, an important part of my being recovered encompasses this life growth as well, so you might be thinking that this is all a lot of semantics.

To further confuse you, a friend of mine who's in recovery from alcoholism and an eating disorder actually uses both terms. She says that she works a recovery program daily and is thus in recovery. But quoting the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, she also says that she is "recovered from a hopeless condition of mind and body."

The point is, semantics or not, we all must figure out for ourselves how we define freedom. If saying what I say—"I am recovered"—feels wrong to you, say something else. I can't force my vision on you and vice versa. When you are alone and grounded, what feels best to you? Do what works.

Claim your truth, and I will claim mine. "I'm Jenni. I'm recovered from an eating disorder."

I Am Different

When I Walked into group therapy for the first time, I scanned the room to see how different I was from everyone else. I quickly determined that I was fatter than all of the other women. I continued to find more and more differences, both real and perceived. "I am different" was my anthem.

Are you different too? Maybe you are a man in treatment with mostly women. Maybe you are an older person in treatment with mostly younger people. Eating disorders do not discriminate by gender, age, sexual orientation, culture, ethnicity, social class, financial status, or anything else.

Or have you received the diagnosis of eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS) and feel like you don't have a "real" eating disorder? Many people with EDNOS have told me they feel this way. The truth is that EDNOS is a real eating disorder that can be just as dangerous as anorexia and bulimia; it currently includes the diagnosis of binge eating disorder (BED)—a life-threatening disorder in itself. We all might do different things with food, but we all use food in an unhealthy way (that is, until we recover).

I don't pay a lot of attention to specific diagnostic criteria, because I know that people can use this information to disqualify themselves from treatment. I used to think, "I don't binge enough to have bulimia," or "I haven't lost enough weight to have anorexia."

I don't even mention certain eating disordered behaviors, because I don't want to trigger similar behaviors in others. So if you read this book and think, "Jenni never mentions [insert your choice of eating disordered behavior here], so I must not have an eating disorder," think again. I probably didn't mention that particular behavior for a reason. Most likely, it was a dangerous behavior that I had learned about by reading a book, so I am careful not to talk about it.

You might feel that you are different because you don't know your diagnosis and believe that your eating behaviors might not be severe enough to warrant one. An eating disorder is an illness that tells us we don't have the illness, and that aspect of it (denial) keeps many of us alone. If food and weight make your life unmanageable, if you are just functioning and not truly living, then you deserve help.

Maybe you don't believe you deserve it, because you have not undergone the same level of trauma as other people. I have learned that trauma is relative to the person experiencing it. What might not seem traumatic to someone else could be very real and traumatic to you.

Or is it that you look physically normal and are not under-weight or overweight? Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, every number on the scale. I was at some of my worst points with Ed when I looked normal.

My point here is that we are all different. I proved early on that I was different, and I tried to use that as an excuse for why I could not get better. I thought that therapy might work for others, but it wouldn't work for me because I was different. I was afraid of possibly failing at something that worked for others. It was easier to be different than to fail.

It was also easy to use being different as an excuse to slip off into isolation: "No one in my therapy group understands me, so why should I even go? My 'normal' friends don't get me, so why should I hang out with them?" I left myself out of humanity by focusing on differences. This isolation only strengthened Ed.

To ultimately recover, I had to begin seeking similarities. I learned to do this by following the lead of people in my therapy group. I remember one woman who didn't complain about feeling fat like the rest of us. Instead she complained specifically about feeling full. Instead of focusing on how she was different from us, she would say, "I might not feel fat, but I do feel full. It's the same intolerable type of feeling. Just like you guys, I will do anything to make it go away." She would also do anything to recover.

I learned by example to identify rather than compare. I consider comparing a cruel form of punishment. (Remember the phrase "compare and despair.") I would say cruel and unusual, but unfortunately, in our society, comparisons are not unusual. They seem to be the norm. If you are like me and insist on being different, be different by not comparing and by seeking similarities.

You are neither worse nor better than anyone else. You are unique—just like everyone else. Choose to think differently.

Back to the Basics

"I'm Hopeless. I will never recover." I said this throughout early recovery. I said it to anyone who would listen, and I especially said it to everyone on my treatment team (many times over). Oftentimes, one of them would look at me and say, "Who are you?"

By this time, I had been in recovery for months, so I knew they hadn't just forgotten my name. That said, playing along with their little game, I would say, "I'm Jenni." After a while, I knew where the game was going—to their response, "No, that wasn't Jenni talking. That was Ed."

Soon enough, people in my therapy group, friends, and family members all started playing the game too. I didn't think this game was much fun and, in fact, became rather frustrated with it. While I wallowed in self-pity about how hopeless I was with Ed, people seemed to want me to take responsibility for my own recovery. (The nerve of them. I mean, really!)

They wanted me to separate from Ed and understand that he was the one saying, "You are hopeless. You will never recover." Ed is a thief, and he likes to steal the I pronoun. He changes "You are hopeless" and "You will never recover" to "I am hopeless. I will never recover."

As long as he could get me to change you to I—and get me to believe that those thoughts were coming from me and not him—then he could win. Ed's existence relies heavily on the fact that you forget to separate from him (and forget everything else you learn in recovery as well). One of his greatest tactics is amnesia.

So one of the basics of recovery for me was to remember to separate. At one point, I even posted notes all over my home that said, "Separate, separate, separate." (I'm not sure what my landlord thought about my home decor.) While I was practicing separating myself from Ed, I still sometimes agreed with and obeyed him. This was actually progress in the beginning, because I at least was remembering to separate. A conversation sometimes went like this:

Agreeing and Obeying

Ed: You can't survive without me. You need me.

Jenni: Maybe I should at least try to leave you.

Ed: Don't even think about it. Without me, you'd be a big, fat nobody.

Jenni: Okay, you're probably right. I won't try.

As I gained more strength in recovery, I learned to disagree with Ed, but sometimes I still obeyed him. Despite this compliance, I was making progress. Here's the scene:

Disagreeing, Still Obeying

Ed: You can't survive without me. You need me.

Jenni: I don't need you, Ed. I have learned that in recovery.

Ed: Don't even think about leaving. Without me, you'd be a big, fat nobody.

Jenni: That's not true, but I'm scared to leave you now. So I'll stay.

To recover, I not only had to separate from Ed and disagree with him, I also needed to disobey him. To get this independence from Ed, I had to become more dependent on my support team. I had to trust them and let them love me. (I couldn't love myself yet.) I began to pick up the phone and call for help. When I called someone, I had to make sure that I actually put myself, not Ed, on the line. These days, people find text messaging a helpful way to get support, but Ed knows how to text, so make sure all of the messages are from you and not from him.

My conversations with Ed began to look more like this:

Disagreeing and Disobeying

Ed: You can't survive without me. You need me.

Jenni: I don't need you, Ed. I have learned that in recovery.

Ed: Don't even think about leaving. Without me, you'd be a big, fat nobody.

Jenni: That's not true, and I will leave you. Just watch me!

What I ultimately discovered is that it was possible for me to disobey Ed even if I agreed with him. For instance, for a long time during recovery, I believed Ed when he told me I was fat, but I still disobeyed him by eating what I was supposed to eat. This was the kind of power move that helped make our divorce final.

It turns out that I wasn't hopeless, and I am recovered. Guess what? You're not hopeless, and you can recover too.

Normal Eating?

Normal eating WAS an oxymoron to me—like "clear as mud." Normal and eating seemed to be contradictory terms. I had manipulated food for so long that my eating was anything but ordinary. Abnormal eating actually seemed normal to me. To fully recover, I had to find a new normal—a balanced approach.

Since our bodies are built differently, my normal might not be yours. I found mine through intuitive eating, which is an approach described in the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole, M.S., RD, and Elyse Resch, M.S., RD, FADA.

This mindful and moderate approach does not include label reading, calorie counting, or rigid rules. (Obviously, Ed is not a big fan of intuitive eating.) It is about getting in touch with your hunger and fullness cues—eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full. At the same time, it is flexible, a nondiet approach that includes eating foods that you crave and truly enjoy.

Intuitive eating is about making peace with food. Unlike what Ed teaches us, food does not have a moral value like good or bad. In other words, your worth as a person does not depend on whether or not you eat a so-called bad food. Food should not be labeled good or bad, safe or unsafe, healthy or unhealthy. Food is just food. In the name of eating healthy, people can get so focused on eating only organic or all-natural foods that they become dangerously malnourished. Orthorexia is the unofficial term for an eating disorder characterized by this type of unhealthy obsession with "healthy" eating.

I'm sure that I ate intuitively as a baby, but I don't remember that. The earliest age I can recall is four years old, and I did not trust my body even then. So as far back as I can remember, food had some sort of power over me.

Treatment professionals and others often tried to help me understand intuitive eating by saying, "Think back to a time when you had a balanced relationship with food." I felt hopeless, thinking, "There was no such time." I had no memories of this type of eating in my own life, but when I started on the recovery path, I learned how to do it anyway.

I did not begin intuitive eating on day one of recovery. It would have been impossible for me at this point, because I had lost touch with my hunger and fullness cues. I remember complaining a lot about how people wanted me to eat when I didn't feel hungry. At lunchtime, I would say, "I'm not hungry. It still feels like breakfast is sitting in my stomach." I learned that part of this sensation had to do with the fact that restrictive eating had caused the movement of food through my digestive system to slow down, causing a false feeling of fullness. I would say, "I'm still full. I don't need to eat." But the truth was that I did need to eat. Eating was how I was going to become healthy and eventually get in touch with my body signals. (During this process of learning how to eat again, I was under a doctor's care to make sure my body was responding appropriately.)

Because I was initially disconnected from my body, I began my path to intuitive eating with a food plan prescribed by my dietitian. I ate a specific amount of food at certain times every day. This meant filling out a little form listing what I ate and taking it to my weekly dietary appointment. It also meant gradually increasing the amount of food and slowly introducing new foods, so I didn't eat the same combinations of things every day. I had to take time out of my schedule to go grocery shopping, and to support myself through this potentially triggering experience, I sometimes took trusted people with me. After I had made significant progress working with a meal plan, I moved toward intuitive eating.

With help along the way from my support team, I began to trust my body. I fell down more times than I can count, but I got up and kept going. I am finally an intuitive eater. (Learn more about this process in "What if I Never Stop Eating?" in Part 5.) Today I can tell what my body wants to eat and when. It is actually kind of fun. By listening to my body, I can decipher whether I want a brownie, a cookie, or something altogether different, like a turkey sandwich. For the most part, I eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm full. When I'm at my parents' house, I sometimes eat more than usual because my mom's food just tastes so good. (She actually makes her own piecrust!) Intuitive eating is imperfect and flexible like this. I don't worry when I eat an extra slice of my mom's apple pie, because I trust my body. Unlike what Ed used to tell me, when I have eaten too much, I don't need to compensate by restricting during the next meal. Also, despite what Ed says, one slice of pie won't cause me to gain weight overnight.


Excerpted from goodbye ed, hello me by Jenni Schaefer Copyright © 2009 by Jennifer Schaefer. Excerpted by permission of McGraw-Hill. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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