Speaker discusses eating disorder in Russell House Tuesday
Jenni Schaefer is no stranger to college campuses.
Nineteen years ago, she was starting college at Texas A&M University. Now, she can be found on any of the hundreds of college campuses she visits each year, as she travels the country, giving talks about her struggle with anorexia nervosa.
And she’ll be the first to tell you that when she was in school, she would have never seen herself doing what she does now.
She spoke in the Russell House Ballroom Tuesday evening sharing her story with an audience of strangers who were eager to listen.
Schaefer talked about her experience with an eating disorder, using songs and props like a ballet costume from when she was a child, rejection letters from book publishers and a new addition to her left hand: her engagement ring.
She recalled wearing the ballet costume and hearing a harsh voice telling her that she was too fat and not good enough, and she remembered hearing that same voice throughout elementary, middle and high school, telling her that she wasn’t good enough at various things in her life.
She used the rejection letters as motivation to continue to stand after falling time and time again.
“I thought ‘If I can recover from [an eating disorder], if I can get knocked down that many times, I sure can get up and write a book,’” she said.
Schaefer joked that her newest prop, her engagement ring, was a sign that she has moved past her relationship with her eating disorder, “Ed,” and can now pursue real relationships, like the one she has with her fiance, Eric.
“Maybe I’ll write another book called ‘Life With Eric,’” she joked, making a play on the title of her first book, “Life With Ed.” “Now, I’m just trying to fit a man into my life. Maybe you can have me back for National Dating Week, if that exists.”
She explained that “genetics loads the gun (and) environment pulls the trigger,” meaning that perfectionism or high anxiety may come about genetically, but the surroundings can cause a full-fledged eating disorder.
When speaking about accepting one’s body, Schaefer mentioned a friend who keeps asking her to get Botox. In response, Schaefer said that Botox gets rid laugh lines, and she’d like to keep those, because laugh lines show that you have lived a full and happy life.
“If I have wrinkles, it’s because I smile a lot,” she said.
To close her talk, Schaefer sang a song that encompassed her journey to recovery and her realization that she could accept herself and be happy.
“When I look in the mirror and like what I see, maybe then I’ll be happy,” she said toward the beginning of the song.
But as the song progressed, she began to sing things like, “It’s OK to be happy” and “I’m just doing my best in this beautiful mess.”
She said although she has overcome much in her life so far, she knows she still has a ways to go.
“I like to say that I’m fully recovered from my eating disorder,” she said. “But I’m not fully recovered from life.”