Confronting and healing from the struggles of an eating disorder through self-empowerment treatment can lead to a more fulfilling life after recovery, said an eating disorder survivor and advocate to a campus audience Thursday night.
Jenni Schaefer struggled with many eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia and binge eating before realizing her life was unmanageable and that she needed professional help. Since then, she has written two books about dealing with her eating disorders and is a health blogger for the Huffington Post. She does regular community outreach on radio and television and also works as a consultant with the Center for Change, an eating disorder treatment center in Utah.
“I used all the tools I had available to me through my support system to take that jump into recovery,” she said. “So many college students deal with body image and are constantly pressured by society to look a specific way, but food doesn’t have a moral value and should only be labeled as nutritious.”
Eating disorders affect as many as 11 million individuals in the United States each day, according to the National Eating Disorder Association’s website.
“I named my eating disorder ‘Ed’ in therapy,” Schaefer said. “Giving it a name and a voice allowed me to better confront it when I developed by own voice through the help of others.”
Sara Weber, eating disorder specialist at UT’s Mindful Eating program, said Schaefer is an example of individuals becoming healthier people after working and staying committed to disorder treatment.
Mindful Eating is one of UT’s Counseling and Mental Health Center programs and is focused on helping students assess their eating disorders, body image concerns and healthy diets.
“Jenni doesn’t just talk about going through a treatment and recovering from a disorder,” she said. “Instead, she focuses on having a positive body image and achieving a fulfilling life after it.”
Eating disorders are becoming more acceptable to talk about in public despite the stigmas that are attached to them, said Susan Ducloux, a licensed professional counselor who attended the talk after reading Schaefer’s books.
“These disorders have always been there,” said Ducloux. “While it is good that individuals suffering from them are reaching out for more help, it also reflects the increased cultural stress to have an unrealistic body image that may be affecting them.”
Schaefer said while she hopes her talks provide a relatable personal experience for individuals trying to assess a disorder, they should always seek professional support.
“A lot of the time, my talks help people spin off to get help, and that is so important,” she said. “I can inspire people, but I can’t save them.”
Printed on Friday, February 17, 2012 as: Blogger talks eating disorders, recovery