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The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

One woman’s struggle with an eating disorder

An eating disorder is a life-threatening illness, according to Jenni Schaefer, who shared her experience of conquering her battle with anorexia and bulimia with St. John’s students. The event was held on Thursday, March 27 in the Little Theater.
Schaefer is a singer, songwriter and author of “Life Without Ed.” “Ed,” she stated, was the acronym name she had given her condition that stood for “eating disorder.”

Schaefer is also a regular guest on national radio and television stations, such as Dr. Phil and Entertainment Tonight. Her work has been featured in the Washington Times, the Chicago Times and Cosmopolitan. Schaefer is also a contributing author to “Chicken Soup for the Recovering Soul.”

Dr. Kathryn Hutchinson, executive director of Student Wellness introduced Schaefer to the audience.

“Somewhere along your path in life, you’re probably going to run into somebody who is struggling with something, whether it be a friend, relative… [it is important] you have that information packed away in the back of your brain,” Hutchinson said.

Schaefer began the lecture with a short story about “Ed.”

“I have never been married but I’m happily divorced,” she joked. “Ed” and she were together for about 20 years, and according to Schaefer, he was controlling, abusive and manipulative and she was never able to leave him.

Growing up, Schaefer said she used to play with her favorite toy, “Get in Shape” Barbie.

“I looked at her and actresses and billboards as what I was supposed to look like.”

Another point that Schaefer emphasized was that eating disorders do not discriminate and they aren’t a “rich, white girl’s disease.”

She said anyone can have an eating disorder despite their gender, skin color or weight size.

“I learned in therapy to treat my eating disorder as a relationship rather than a condition or illness,” Schaefer said as she recalled walking into her first therapy session.

“At that point in my life at 22, I was 100 percent consumed by the eating disorder,” she said.

Her therapist, Tom, said that the negative thoughts in her head came from Ed. Those thoughts told her that wasn’t worth anything.

“Eating disorders are really not about the food and weight,” Schaefer said. “They’re real life threatening illnesses. You see the food as a symptom on the outside when someone is struggling.”

However, Schaefer said that while still suffering from her eating disorder, she felt like therapy was a waste of time and money.

She said that with “Ed,” she felt like she would not be able to survive without him since he has been with her since she was four years old.

“It was really hard in the beginning… in recovery from any illness, you really have to learn about letting go and trusting others, and that’s what I had to do,” Schaefer said.

The concept of “Ed” was helpful in her recovery because she could differentiate between herself and the negative thoughts associated with “Ed.”

Schaefer said that people with eating disorders think that they are born with it and that they are their eating disorder.

“The metaphor gave me something to fight against-‘Ed,'” Schaefer said. “This was very powerful for my friends and family… we could all be on Jenni’s side and fight Ed.”
Additionally, Schaefer said the metaphor taught her about accountability. It helped her find her own voice and realize not to blame “Ed” for taking away her life.
Schaefer believed that she was predisposed to have an eating disorder.

“Genetics load the gun, the environment pulls the trigger,” she said.

She added that isolation will only make the condition worse and the best decision is to get professional help. Therapy helped her create her own “declaration of independence” from her eating disorder, she said.

Hutchinson said that these lectures are useful “to educate people… so that they have a wealth of knowledge to take forward with them in life.”

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