Over 100 people filled the UMC’s multi-purpose room for author, singer/songwriter and National Eating Disorders Association chairman Jenni Schaefer’s talk about eating disorders and body image; topics ranged from neuroscience to friend circles.
Schaefer discussed the issues and solutions her two books about eating disorders focused on, and Ed, the personification of her eating disorder.
“‘Life without Ed’ is more hopeful because it gives specific tools to get better. ‘Goodbye Ed, Hello Me’ looks at underlying issues such as body image, perfectionism and society,” Schaefer said. “‘Almost Anorexic’ offers encouragement to those who have sub-clinical eating disorders.”
Though Schaefer’s own eating disorder began at a young age, she didn’t seek help until much later.
“I first had eating disorder-related thoughts at age four,” Schaefer said. “No one gave a clinical diagnosis until college. I got help after college and took many years to get better.”
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Telling someone about her eating disorder helped Schaefer take the steps to conquer it. After she took the initial step and told someone she sought out professional help.
“I voiced my eating disorder to someone and they advised that I seek professional help,” Schaefer said. “I did and got a treatment team to help me.”
She strongly advocated that anyone struggling with body image or preoccupation with food voice it.
“My message is one of hope,” she said. “I encourage people to call or tell someone. Ed loves silence. Though recovery is challenging, it is well worth it.”
Schaefer’s strive for perfection facilitated the problems that she was having with her eating disorder. Schaefer said that being thin was the one aspect of her life that she though she could control.
“At my worst as a perfectionist, I sat on my bed doing nothing,” she said. “The ultimate part of perfectionism is procrastination. I thought, ‘I’m not perfect; so why do it?’”
Eventually, Schaefer was able to master her battle with perfectionism.
“I strive for excellence instead of perfection,” Schaefer said.
According to Schaefer, eating disorders manifest themselves and continue to grow when a person is isolated. Reaching out for help is the first step to recovery.
“If you are here(the conference), you have already broken through a huge wall,” Schaefer said.
Once Schaefer sought out professional help, her therapist encouraged her to talk to her eating disorder, one that she later named Ed.
“Ultimately it was helpful,” she said. “But Ed spoke first. He was near entirely in control of my life at that point. I used to think I was an eating disorder.”
Since battling her eating disorder and taking control of her life, Schaefer has renamed Ed to Societal Ed.
“Our society has an eating disorder. We give moral quality to food,” she said. “For example, ordering a cheesecake is ‘bad’. Societal Ed often manifests as friends who want to group diet, but Societal Ed himself has different traits for everyone. He treats bodies as something to be controlled, hence temptations to get plastic surgery or make alterations to weight.”
Piper Jackson, a 21-year-old junior international affairs major, said that a part of recovery is recognizing an eating disorder and confronting it.
“Recovery stems from personifying Ed,” Jackson said.
Lex Cummings, a 23-year-old senior international affairs major, said that Schaefer’s talk was applicable to her career.
“I work with high schoolers and a lot of them deal with issues such as eating disorders and perfectionisms,” Cummings said. “There are lots of things to contend with that you cannot see.”
Cummings said that Schaefer’s concept of a Societal Ed was correct, particularly when involving women.
“In our society, everything is frequently focused on how we look,” Cummings said. “Women get judged on appearance instead of what we speak.”
Schaefer concluded the lecture with a song played on her guitar and a message of hope for the audience.
“It is okay to be happy,” Schaefer said.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Roxanne Smith at Roxanne.email@example.com.