My mom recently picked up a book from her school’s library for me to read during vacation. It’s called Life Without Ed by Jenni Schaefer. It was a really good book about how one woman, with the help of her psychiatrist and support group “declared independence from her eating disorder” (Scheafer, 2003). Although this book was directed a lot towards recovery and during her recovery I was still really interested and helped by it. The activities helped me through some tough times while on vacation.
This woman and her psychiatrist begin by separating the eating disorder and herself. She calls her eating disorder Ed and treats it like a relationship with an actual person. Each chapter Jenni Schaefer explains some of her struggles and things that she did to help separate her Ed thoughts from her thoughts. At the end of each chapter the psychiatrist would have a couple of pages to give some helpful activities that he and Jenni would do.
One of the first ones was to write a declaration of independence from Ed. I didn’t do this one yet because I still am not completely ready to part from him. One of the other activity’s I did though was having two chairs in front of me and one chair is for Ed and one is for me. When I have an Ed thought I sit in his chair and say it and when I think I have a me thought I move to my chair and I have a conversation with Ed. This helped a lot because it got me to see how Ed’s thoughts truly weren’t my own and they sounded a lot like Jenni’s Ed thoughts as well. Although I agree a lot and believe a lot of what Ed says it was good to start to slowly try and separate us two and that’s how I will begin to completely “divorce” Ed as Jenni says. Another thing was just writing out what Ed wants me to do in the moment like not eat or look at my belly and then write out what I should do and to begin to disobey Eds commands. Sometimes when I can’t disobey them I can still just work on disagreeing. For instance,
Ed: you look fat you should stop eating so much
Me: I agree that I look fat but I will not stop eating or skip a meal
Ed: but if you keep eating like this you will get fatter
Me: no your wrong, I’m eating because I’m hungry and I’m not over doing it so I’ll be fine
I may be able to say these things to Ed and sometimes they work but other times Ed has a louder voice. Nevertheless, I’ve been able to tell when Ed is telling me something now. I recognize his statements and I find it funny that I’m able to tell with somethings that its rubbish and its Ed trying to ruin me.
One of the last activities that Jenni did was write a loss-list. Just like in any relationship there is going to be things that you miss from a person when you break up. There will be good and bad things just like with Ed. This activity got me to write down things I won’t miss about Ed and things I will. Writing this stuff down made me realize I won’t miss a lot of Ed things. Ed made me hungry, angry, mean to my loved ones, he made me not want to see my friends, he made me restrict myself from foods I love or use to love, he made me hate my body and start to hate a lot of things I use to love. It’s just so annoying to have all these things I hate about Ed but find myself going back to him all the time because one reoccurring thought of gaining weight takes over my mind.
There were many other great activities to do in the book. A lot of the stories that Jenni told were helpful as well. One thing she said that keeps popping up in my mind is that Ed hasn’t helped me. If I look at the progress of my eating disorder and how I’ve strived to lose weight and look better, Ed hasn’t gotten me there, he’s made it worse. With Ed around I’m just going to dislike my body more and more. Then again, some days I’m really proud of how skinny I’ve become and I realize from reading the book those proud moments aren’t healthy. This is Ed telling me all this restriction and dieting and working out has been working and I should keep going. Ed likes to pull this statement on me when he thinks I’m trailing from his goal.
Something that really hit home was Jenni’s chapter called Realistic. It short and simple;
At the end of the book I was closer to recovery then I was before. Although I’m still on the fence and just at the beginning of starting to fix my eating disorder, it’s enough because just starting to distinguish between Ed and the real you is the beginning. I would highly recommend this book to anyone struggling or not. Jenni Schaefer has another book called Goodbye Ed, Hello Me which I will be reading next. This week I start my individual treatment with a dietitian and social worker and I’m looking forward to finally divorcing Ed and being happy again, because for a while I didn’t think it was possible. The odd time I do still think that I will have these thoughts for the rest of my life but from reading Jenni’s story it helped me realize that my life isn’t defined by my bad days.
Schaefer, J. (2003). Life Without Ed. In J. Schaefer, Life Without Ed (p. 154). New York, United States.
Scheafer, J. (2003). Life Without Ed. New York, United States.