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I've read my fair share of personal development style books and, having lived with an eating disorder for several years, was intrigued by this book because it takes a slightly different stance to your average self help prescription.
Life Without ED was written by Jenni Schaefer, a woman who 'battled' her eating demons and so decided to share her experiences with others. Tom Rutledge, the man with whom she worked with during her recovery, also features in this book, giving his own opinions from a psychologists point of view.
The subtitle to the book is: 'How one woman declared independence from her eating disorder and how you can too'. I found this to be quite motivating, in the sense that the experience and advice comes from someone who has been there herself, not someone who has read a textbook on the issues.
The blurb on the back gives you an idea of what to expect from this book, and the quotes suggest it's a worthwhile read. For example, Lyndsey Hall (who wrote Bulimia: A Guide To Recovery) said: "Jenni's quick wit and brilliant honesty are an inspiration to anyone trying to divorse themselves from an eating disorder... An accessible, helpful must-read!"
Whether or not you've picked up a self-help style book before, the general assumption is that most are prescriptions, telling you what to do because that's what tends to work. They often come across as being slightly holier than though, that they know best, and are often quite serious and sometimes difficult to read. I can honestly say that this book is different to the norm.
What makes it different? Jenni provides an account of her journey through her eating disorder and recovery, rather than telling the reader what she thinks we should be doing. But she doesn't recount events in a monotonous way, but rather gives each chapter life through humour.
Humour in a book about eating disorders seemed strange, if not insulting, to me at first. I must admit I was very weary of reading it after having a flick through the pages, but I changed my mind as I read on, gradually warming to her witty approach.
Jenni wrote 'Life Without Ed' in an original way by personifying her eating disorder. She named it Ed, gave it a gender, a voice and personality characteristics, and from there was able to separate herself from Ed. This seemed silly at first, but it's actually a very useful way of thinking because it allows you to acknowledge an eating disorder as being something you don't have to have, something that's not attached to you for life, something that you can, in Jenni's words, 'divorce' yourself from.
The book is 188 pages and is broken down into manageable sections, including:
Foreword by Thom
Filing for divorce - Separating from Ed
It;s not about food?! - How food is involved
Mirror, mirror on the wall - Is thin really everything?
Merry-go-round - The nuts and bolts of recovery
Ed's last stand - Surviving relapse
The hard truth - Getting serious about getting better
Believe it - What it's all about
Within each chapter, Jenni gives her own experiences and reflects on them, and we get responses from Tom to highlight the different aspects of Jenni's progression and recovery. I quite like the dynamics between Jenni and Tom, and thought this approach worked very well.
I found it fairly easy to read and it didn't feel like a chore. This is partially because it was broken down into smaller chunks, wasn't filled with jargon, had a humorous and witty approach, and wasn't direct in pushing you towards doing or thinking a certain way.
This is different to many books in this self-help genre, and although it takes a caring and comforting stance, Jenni writes in such a way as to empower you and motivate you to overcome your food/weight issues.
The only downside I think would be the approach in general, which may not be to everyone's taste. I warmed to it, but it something you need to give a chance before deciding you don't like it. It's actually quite a powerful technique, to personify an eating disorder and say you hate him, because it gives you a stance of power over it, allowing you to create a distance between it all and work towards getting it out of your life.
All in all, it's a book for those who either want to learn more about eating disorder experiences to help someone else, or for those with an eating disorder. It's well-written by Jenni, whilst providing inspiration through an original approach.
[Amazon RRP £9.99, Currently able to purchase at £7.49]