Life Without Ed: How One Woman Declared Independence from Her Eating Disorder and How You Can Too / Edition 1

Life Without Ed: How One Woman Declared Independence from Her Eating Disorder and How You Can Too / Edition 1

Pub. Date:
McGraw Hill LLC
Pub. Date:
McGraw Hill LLC
Life Without Ed: How One Woman Declared Independence from Her Eating Disorder and How You Can Too / Edition 1

Life Without Ed: How One Woman Declared Independence from Her Eating Disorder and How You Can Too / Edition 1

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The 10th Anniversary Edition of the book that has given hope and inspiration to thousands who are dealing with eating disorders
"If you or someone you love has an eating disorder, this is the book to read."
—Dr. Phil

Jenni had been in an abusive relationship with Ed for far too long. He controlled Jenni’s life, distorted her self-image, and tried to physically harm her throughout their long affair. Then, in therapy, Jenni learned to treat her eating disorder as a relationship, not a condition. By thinking of her eating disorder as a unique personality separate from her own, Jenni was able to break up with Ed once and for all.

Inspiring, compassionate, and filled with practical exercises to help you break up with your own personal E.D., Life Without Ed provides hope to the millions of people plagued by eating disorders. Beginning with Jenni’s “divorce” from Ed, this supportive, lifesaving book combines a patient’s insights and experiences with a therapist’s prescriptions for success to help you live a healthier, happier life without Ed.

This 10th anniversary edition features a new afterword as well as sections devoted to family, friends, and supporters; how treatment professionals can use the book with their patients; and men with eating disorders.

"Of all the great books written on eating disorders, none has had a wider reach than Life Without Ed. Those suffering have found connection and hope, family members have found understanding and empathy, professionals have learned from it and praised it. It will remain a classic for decades to come."
—Michael E. Berrett, PhD, psychologist; CEO and cofounder of the Center for Change; coauthor of Spiritual Approaches in the Treatment of Women with Eating Disorders

"[Life Without Ed] was the first to teach readers that they can not only separate from their eating disorder, but also disagree with and disobey it. I wholeheartedly recommend this witty, hopeful guide to patients, carers, professionals, and anyone else who wants to understand what it's really like to live with an eating disorder and ultimately triumph over it."
—Jennifer J. Thomas, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at the Harvard Medical School; co-director of the Eating Disorders Clinical and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital

"This uplifting book’s intimate inner dialogue has energized countless young women—and men—in their own recoveries from eating disorders."
—Leigh Cohn, MAT, CEDS, coauthor of Making Weight: Men’s Conflicts with Food, Weight, Shape & Recovery

"Jenni is truly a remarkable woman. She unselfishly shares her struggles and triumphs in something that will probably affect all of us in one way or another in our lifetime. Her candid and inspiring story will truly help those suffering from their own "Ed." I feel privileged to know her and her story."
—Jamie-Lynn Sigler, actress

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780071422987
Publisher: McGraw Hill LLC
Publication date: 12/22/2003
Edition description: Net
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 47,620
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Jenni Schaefer is an internationally known writer and speaker whose work has helped change the face of recovery from eating disorders. Appearing regularly on national radio and television, she is the bestselling author of Goodbye Ed, Hello Me. Recently she has collaborated with Harvard Medical School to coauthor Almost Anorexic. She is also the chair of the Ambassadors Council of the National Eating Disorders Association. An accomplished singer/songwriter, Jenni lives in Austin, Texas. For more information, visit

Thom Rutledge is a psychotherapist and the author of Embracing Fear: How to Turn What Scares Us into Our Greatest Gift. For more information, visit

Read an Excerpt

Life Without Ed

How One Woman Declared Independence from Her Eating Disorder and How You Can Too


Copyright © 2004 Jenni Schaefer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-07-142298-7

Chapter One


Separating from Ed

The first step in breaking free from Ed was learning how to distinguish between the two of us. I had to determine which thoughts came from Ed and which ones belonged to me. Next I had to learn to disagree with and disobey Ed. This was not easy. This took time, lots of patience, and a willingness to keep trying over and over again. Part 1 will help you begin to look at the differences between Ed and yourself. Practice separating from him, and you will be taking your first steps toward divorce.

Declaration of Independence

Bingeing, purging, and starving. Why couldn't I stop bingeing, purging, and starving? Why couldn't I just eat like "normal" people do? Because Ed was in control. I tried daily to win battles against him. I tried daily, and I lost daily. No matter how much effort I put forward, I still found myself in the same patterns of bingeing, purging, and starving. I made promises to myself forbidding these behaviors only to break them before the end of the day—sometimes before the end of the hour.

Although I had finally realized that I could not have the life that I wanted with Ed, at the same time, I could not imagine my life without him. So for years I told myself that I would change things, but in the back of my mind, I always knew that I would be with Ed. It was inevitable. I hated Ed and wanted to be free of him, but there was still a small part of me that would not let him go.

As I learned more about Ed's plans for my life and more about myself, I grew angrier about his lies. Ed told me that the beauty of a woman was in the figure that she carries and the number that appears when she steps on a scale. Ed said that Marilyn Monroe, once considered the icon of American beauty, was fat, because she was larger than today's rail-thin models. According to Ed, I needed to look like the Barbie doll that I used to play with as a child. I have heard it said that if Barbie were a real woman, she would have to walk on all fours due to her proportions. Ed wanted me to conform to unrealistic standards.

If I could just keep my weight low enough, Ed said that I could be in complete control of my life. If I was small enough, I could fit myself into any box deemed appropriate for any situation. If I did not take up too much space, I would not get in anyone's way. Everyone would like me. And, of course, Ed told me that he made me special and that without him, I was nothing. If I just stayed with him, he would make me perfect in every way.

After living with the reality of Ed's lies for long enough, after becoming extremely frustrated and depressed, and after hitting rock bottom, I finally wanted to let go of Ed forever. I wanted to make a wholehearted commitment to separate from him, so I wrote my declaration of independence from Ed. I modeled my declaration after the United States Declaration of Independence, and surprisingly, I found that I did not have to change too many words. It seems that in those days England was just as big of a tyrant to the American colonies as Ed is to me today. I read my declaration of independence out loud to my therapy group, and they signed it for me to show their support. My declaration of independence marked the first time in my recovery that I made a solid commitment to break free from Ed. After making my declaration, I still struggled daily, but I was committed to getting back up and staying true to my words.

Today my declaration of independence hangs on the wall of my bedroom with the signatures of delegates from my group.

My Declaration of Independence

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one woman, Jenni, to dissolve the bonds which have connected her to Ed, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature's God entitle her, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that she should declare the causes which impel her to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all mankind are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That whenever Ed becomes destructive of these ends, it is right to abolish Ed and to institute Recovery, laying its foundation on such principles and in such form as shall seem the most likely to effect safety and happiness. When a long train of abuses, pursuing invariably the same woman evinces a design to reduce her under absolute despotism, it is her right, it is her duty, to throw off Ed, and to provide Recovery for her future security. The history of Ed is a history of repeated injuries, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over Jenni. To prove this, let facts be submitted.

Ed has refused for a long time, for Jenni to find happiness.

Ed has erected a multitude of binges and purges.

Ed has ravaged Jenni's life and harmed the lives of people close to her.

Ed has joined with Perfectionism to subject Jenni to acts foreign to her constitution.

Ed has excited domestic insurrections within Jenni.

Ed has cut off emotions.

Ed has suspended Jenni's own mind and declared himself invested with the power to legislate Jenni's world.

Ed has deprived Jenni of food.

Ed has taken away Jenni's feelings, abolished her most valuable morals, and altered fundamentally her values.

In every stage of these oppressions, Jenni has petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms. Her repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. Jenni must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces her Separation, and hold Ed as the Enemy.

Jenni, therefore, solemnly publishes and declares that she is Free and Independent; that she is absolved from all allegiance to Ed, that all connection between Ed and her ought to be totally dissolved, and that as a free and independent woman she has the full power to eat, live in peace, and to do all other acts and things which independent people do. And for the support of the Declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, Jenni mutually pledges to her therapy group her life, fortune, and sacred honor.

After I wrote my declaration of independence and shared it with others, I was committed to not turning back. I devoted myself entirely to moving forward and divorcing Ed. I knew that I would be traveling a long and difficult road—the hardest one I had ever walked (and even crawled at some points)—but I also knew that it would be worth it. And it has been.

Making the Split

Ed was really depressed in group therapy one night. Julie talked about walking out on Ed at the movie theater on Saturday. Lisa finally agreed not to let Ed in the next time he knocked on her door, and Kelly made a commitment to not let Ed drive her home from group anymore. Everyone was making progress in the struggle to separate from Ed—with the exception of Eileen, a shy, first-time group member. At the end of the session, with a confused expression on her face, she looked around at all of us and asked, "Who's Ed?"

No one had explained to Eileen that Ed was each of our individual eating disorders. Throughout the entire ninety-minute session, she had imagined that Ed was some creep that we were all dating. I often forget how strange the concept of Ed seems to newcomers. The truth is that it has not always been easy for me to separate from Ed. After all, for more than twenty years, Ed and I had been one and the same.

I remember the first time that I made the split with Ed in group. I was speaking about how horrible my week had been and began to cry. Instead of offering me a tissue to wipe away my tears, Thom handed me an authentic Darth Vader mask and actually asked me to put it on. I had no idea where he was going with this, but I had seen stranger things in group, so I put on the mask. With my entire head covered by the black plastic, Thom asked me to pretend to be Ed. Specifically, he asked me to play the role of Ed and speak directly to Jenni. This was a piece of cake (pun intended). The comments that arose were the same ones that I had heard all week long: "Jenni, you are fat. You will never recover. You will be miserable for the rest of your life." Next, I took the mask off and played the role of Jenni—separate from Ed. This was difficult. After encouragement from the group, I finally said, "Ed, you are a liar. You are manipulative, and I will get away from you." Through this role-play, I began to see, hear, and feel the difference between Ed and me.

From that moment on, whenever I spoke in group, someone would ask, "Who is talking now? Is it Ed or Jenni?" I began to realize how frequently Ed expressed his opinion through my mouth. Sometimes we would pull out the Darth Vader mask in order to help me make the split. Today, I do not need Darth Vader to distinguish myself from Ed. In fact, the mask is shoved to the back of a shelf in the group therapy room, and Ed is no longer front and center in my life.

Disagree and Disobey

When I first began recovery, a typical conversation between Ed and me went something like this:

Ed: You should not eat dinner.

Jenni: I know. I won't eat dinner.

I agreed with what Ed said, and I obeyed him. After many solid months of recovery, our conversation became:

Ed: You should not eat dinner.

Jenni: You are wrong. I should eat dinner, but I just can't.

Even though I disagreed with Ed, I still obeyed him. Today, when Ed and I talk, it looks more like this:

Ed: You should not eat dinner.

Jenni: You are wrong. I should eat dinner, and I will.

The ultimate goal is to disagree with and disobey Ed.

As you practice separating from Ed, you will begin to make room for your own opinion—creating an opportunity for you to disagree with Ed. The thought of disagreeing may seem very scary and unrealistic to you. These responses are natural and understandable considering the power Ed has had over your life. But as you continue to see yourself as separate from Ed, you will slowly learn to distinguish between what he is telling you and what you really think. You will realize that Ed—not you—is the one who thinks you should binge and purge. You will find the part of yourself that wants to abandon those behaviors and be healthy. Ed wants you to binge and purge; you want to live.

Don't worry if you cannot disagree with Ed immediately. It took me many months to be able to disagree with him. I had to look closely at what I wanted for my life and compare that to Ed's goals before I realized that I did, in fact, disagree with his ideas. I had to practice acknowledging this disagreement over and over again, and I slowly learned to voice my own opinion. Although it takes time and patience, you, too, will be able to disagree with those habitual negative thoughts that follow you around night and day.

After you become comfortable disagreeing with Ed, the next step is to disobey him. I found disobeying Ed even more—a lot more—difficult than disagreeing with him. After I began to disagree with what Ed would tell me, I continued to follow his orders. I still binged, purged, and starved. If Ed told me not to eat dinner, I knew that he was wrong. I knew that everyone on my support team would want me to eat dinner, but I still just could not do it. I could not break the behaviors. But, as I continued to disagree with Ed, I learned more about myself and became stronger. I gained a greater sense of independence from my eating disorder. One step at a time, I was able to disobey Ed's commands.

Previously, I said that the ultimate goal is to disagree with and disobey Ed. Because we do not live in a perfect world, sometimes this ultimate goal is not attainable. Although it would be wonderful if we could always disagree with and disobey Ed, that is not the only way that we can be successful in recovery. We are also practicing good recovery if we agree with Ed but still disobey him. For instance, sometimes, even today, this is the conversation we have:

Ed: You are fat. Don't eat today.

Jenni: You are right. I feel fat today, but I am still going to eat today.

Sometimes when Ed tells me I am fat, I agree with him, but I am still making progress in recovery when I choose to disobey him. While it is possible to agree with Ed and be in recovery, obeying him is never an option.

When Ed talks to you, always try to separate from him, disagree with what he is saying, and disobey him. Sometimes the best that you will be able to do is to just disobey him. That means that you are not perfect. But it also means that you are still making progress along your journey to freedom. You will get there.

Ed's Rules

I stepped on the elevator with three other people. That made a total of five of us on that elevator. Yes, I did say five. Ed was also along for the ride. As soon as the elevator doors shut and we headed up, Ed whispered in my ear, "Congratulations, Jenni. You are the thinnest person on this elevator. You are really special today." The elevator stopped at floor three, and a very petite woman stepped inside.

Ed immediately said, "Jenni, that woman is thinner than you. You are so large. You have really let yourself go." From the ground floor to level three, I felt as if I had gained twenty or thirty pounds. Have you ever gained weight while riding an elevator? If you have, then you must be familiar with one of Ed's favorite rules: "You must always be the thinnest person in any given place at any given time."

Ed has rules for everything. There are the wardrobe rules: "Your 'skinny' jeans must always fit your body loosely," and, "On the days that you binge, you must wear your baggy clothes." Then, there is the dining rule: "You must always eat less than the people you are dining with on any occasion." Your Ed may have slightly different rules for you, but one thing is for sure. He has rules, and he expects you to follow them.

What happens if you do not follow Ed's rules? When I don't obey Ed, he tells me that I am a worthless individual. He says, "If you don't do what I am saying, you will never be successful. People will just look down on you for your whole life. You will never realize your full potential."

On the other hand, if I listen to Ed and do what he says, he tells me, "You are so special. You are doing what 'normal' people can't do. You are a success. If you keep listening to me, your life will be wonderful. You will always be in control." In reality, you must remember who is really in control—Ed.

When you are trying to begin your separation from Ed, it is important that you first recognize Ed's rules in your life. You must be able to distinguish between standards that Ed holds for you and healthy boundaries that you set for yourself. You must realize that Ed's rules do not make sense. For instance, many of Ed's rules contradict each other. On one day, Ed tells you not to touch that ice cream or dare drink that soda. Then, the very next day, Ed says, "Eat that entire gallon of ice cream, and drink three cans of soda. Eat as much as you can until you feel sick." Ed's rules are designed to harm us.

After you are able to recognize Ed's rules in your life, you must try to disagree with and disobey them. Even if it seems impossible for you to actually disagree with one of Ed's rules, you must still try to disobey him. If you are able to break his rules no matter what, you are taking a huge step toward separating from Ed. Disobeying Ed means you are moving in the right direction. Don't expect it to be easy.

Ed still has his same old rules for me, but I do not have to follow them anymore. Today I act from a position of personal strength and positive self- esteem. I order what I really want to eat in a restaurant. I wear clothes that are comfortable and that I feel good in. And I can even ride up an elevator without going up a dress size.

Ms. Perfectionist

Although I see Thom for "individual" therapy, there is a whole group of us in his office for each of my sessions. In fact, every place to sit in his office is occupied. Ed is sprawled out on the couch, while Thom and I sit in two cushioned chairs. And in the straight-back wooden chair sits Ms. Perfectionist, with perfect posture.

You see, Ed has many colleagues. Thom refers to one as the Should Monster, who tells me everything I should or should not have done in my life. I frequently hear the Timekeeper, who keeps a close eye on how I spend every minute of my day—making sure that each moment is spent productively. And I hear Ms. Perfectionist compromising to stay in line with the Timekeeper, promising she will make me perfect.


Excerpted from Life Without Ed by JENNI SCHAEFER THOM RUTLEDGE Copyright © 2004 by Jenni 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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