On the first page of Jenni Schaefer’s book, Life Without Ed: How One Woman Declared Independence from Her Eating Disorder and How You Can Too, Schaefer cites the famous quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, which reads, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” The quote is a more than fitting advent to Jenni’s story, which chronicles a journey from someone with an existence that had been held in the impenetrable vice of an eating disorder to someone who was able to find strength in overcoming the challenges plaguing their life.
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychological disorder and are also greatly misunderstood. Jenni deftly enlightens her readers on the complexities of eating disorders by weaving personal stories which are partially humorous, sometime heartbreaking and unwavering in honesty. Jenni was also wise in choosing to co-write with the book with her therapist and best-selling author, Thom Rutledge, who peppers advice and exercises throughout the work.
One of the essential points made in the book—a point which is responsible for the work’s title and which permeates each chapter—is that one’s eating disorder becomes like a separate entity to the victim, one which is controlling each and every aspect of the sufferer’s life and is characteristic of a physically and mentally abusive relationship. In therapy, Schaefer comes to recognize her eating disorder as a man named “Ed” (Eating Disorder). Ed epitomizes the insecurities which tell Jenni she is fat and worthless and that the only way for her to be an acceptable member of society is to follow his deadly regimen of binging, purging and starving. For many years Jenni submitted to Ed’s outlandish rules until finding help and developing the strength to disagree and disobey. Jenni emphasizes that the journey is not easy and can even be riddled with setbacks, but that perseverance, a network of support and belief in one’s self can make anyone successful in their divorce from Ed.
Eating disorder sufferers, friends and family of eating disorder sufferers and simply those seeking inspiration will most definitely benefit from reading this book. Jenni Schaefer is masterful in her account of her struggles and triumph by writing with a voice that is welcoming, relatable and poignantly inspirational.
Find the Book in Baltimore
The Baltimore County Public Library has chains that often carry Life Without Ed. Barnes & Noble also carries Life Without Ed as well as Jenni’s follow-up, Goodbye Ed, Hello Me. Barnes & Noble has locations in the Inner Harbor in downtown Baltimore city as well as Towson and White Marsh in Baltimore county. All these locations and more in Maryland can be found here.
Eating disorder resources in Maryland
The Eating Disorder Network of Maryland offers a variety of resources for professionals and sufferers, and other areas of Maryland also house programs and networks to help. Pershing Turner Centers(with a location in Annapolis, Maryland) offers a full menu of resources and programs for all types of eating disorders. Notably, Pershing Turners Center has recently hired inspirational activist and psychotherapist Rachael Stern. In Baltimore, both the Johns Hopkins Eating Disorders Program and the Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt are reputable in their treatment of eating disorders.