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To request an interview with Jenni, contact Amber McGinty at media@jennischaefer.com. (Please only use this email if you are a member of media.)

For speaking inquiries, please visit the Speaking page to complete the inquiry form.

Jenni's Mailing Address:

PO Box 40806
Austin, TX 78704
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Jenni (left) and Shannon (right)
Shannon (Right) and me (Left) celebrating the release of my second book, “Goodbye Ed, Hello Me,” in 2009

When I first learned about Shannon Cutts and her work, I knew that this woman was about to make a big difference in countless lives. At the time, mentoring in eating disorders wasn’t really talked about much. Shannon and her nonprofit MentorCONNECT started this conversation on an international level. I immediately supported MentorCONNECT, because I knew that such a program would have been incredibly helpful in my own healing from an eating disorder. In early recovery, my mentor, Emily, gave me hope when I lost it. By sharing her journey, she helped me see that maybe, just maybe, I could fully recover, too.

Today, related to various topics, I serve as a mentor to many people, including my five-year-old nephew, Aiden. Through mentoring, I assure that I am always growing as a person. Being a mentor helps me to stay accountable. When I encourage my mentee to meditate (I haven’t recommended that to Aiden just yet!), I need to follow my own advice. If you have been strong in your recovery for at least twelve consecutive months, consider becoming a mentor with MentorCONNECT. As Shannon says below, it just might change your life forever.

This post is one in a Life Without Ed Birthday Blog Series celebrating both recovery and the Tenth Anniversary Edition of the book, which was just released.
In March, stay tuned for the audio book.

Meet the Mentor In YOU
by Shannon Cutts

I often tell our new volunteer mentors on MentorCONNECT, the global eating disorders nonprofit mentoring community I founded in 2009, that when I first started mentoring I had no idea it would change my life forever for the better.

At the time, I was pursuing my passion for songwriting (basically by playing for free at any little hole-in-the-wall that would have me). One night after a coffee shop show, a young woman asked me to come share my recovery story at her treatment center.

Please understand—at that time I was inversely interested in sharing anything at all—recovery or otherwise—that might require me to speak in public.  Nooooo way. Thanks but definitely no thanks.

But the young woman was very insistent. She started writing me letters. She called the treatment center events coordinator and gave him my address and my phone number. Then he started calling and writing. Finally, a year later, I caved in and agreed to speak.

This single experience completely altered the course of my life.

While speaking at the treatment center (all the while shaking in my shoes and quite sure I was actually going to pee on the “stage”) I met three groups of women of all ages who were in various stages of recovery. When I got back home, there was a letter waiting from one of the women. She had several questions for me. As I read her questions one by one, the thought occurred to me, “Hey, I can actually help her with that! And that! And that!”

It was tremendously empowering. While my recovery was growing stronger by the day, after a 15-year battle with both anorexia and bulimia, more than just my body had been compromised. To be honest, I still didn’t see too much worth in me (except perhaps for my dogged determination not to die at home in my bed from a sucky eating disorder—if I was going to go young, I wanted to go in style, like 007 saving the world from terrorists).

Beating Ana by Shannon Cutts
Post a comment below about your mentor and be entered into a drawing to win a signed copy of Beating Ana!

So when it dawned on me I actually had valuable insights that might help another human being – well, bring it ON. I wrote her back with alacrity, and this initial communication launched a mentoring partnership that spanned several years and eventually led to publication of my first book, Beating Ana: how to outsmart your eating disorder and take your life back. In the book, I share correspondence from five of my longtime mentees, offer insights into their recovery questions and explain the tools I developed to recover from my eating disorder.

It was while writing Beating Ana that I began to really take this “mentoring thing” seriously. I realized that, just like recovery itself, the priceless opportunity to mentor others had totally transformed my life forever for the better. It was perhaps the most worthwhile use of a life I could ever comprehend. I wanted to keep doing it forever. Today, thanks to MentorCONNECT, it looks like my dream is finally coming true.

This month is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (February 23 – March 1, 2014).

This year, MentorCONNECT and NEDA have once again partnered to co-host our 4th annual “NEDAwareness Week Virtual Walk,” a unique nationwide awareness event that uses social media to generate awareness, offer hope, and raise funds for both organizations to continue offering our free recovery support programs and services.

MentorCONNECT and NEDA will be offering the Virtual Walk and other fun events all during the month of February—Jenni will be a big part of our festivities too—so please join us in any way you can!

February 1 – March 10: NEDA and MentorCONNECT launch the month-long “Virtual Walk” to raise awareness and funds for both organizations. Donations start at just $14, and you can participate for FREE just by sharing this link with your networks: http://nedawalk.org/virtualwalk2014

February 3: you can DECLARE YOUR INDENDENCE FROM ED and enter to win a FREE autographed copy of the 10th anniversary edition of Life Without Ed by Jenni. CLICK HERE TO ENTER TO WIN

February 12Jenni will present a FREE call-in event for MentorCONNECT’s popular monthly teleconference series. You can listen in for free and ask Jenni your questions. CLICK HERE TO RSVP

ANYTIME!: If you are in strong recovery (at least 12 consecutive months) from an eating disorder, you can apply to volunteer your time as a recovery mentor and “pay it forward” by offering your support to someone who is still struggling to recover. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE 

Shannon and Pearl
Shannon and Pearl

Shannon Cutts is first and foremost a birdie mama (to a very pretty and quite precocious grey parrot named Pearl.)  She is also an author, freelance writer, speaker, mentor, nonprofit director, lover of retro threads and champion of all things (and people) recovered and recovering. Visit:

Shannon at shannoncutts.com

Pearl loveandfeathers.com

MentorCONNECT at mentorconnect-ed.org

 

Are you grateful for a mentor? Who is it? How has this person enriched your life? Please post your answer below and automatically be entered into a drawing to win a signed copy of Beating Ana!

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  • Julia Deets

    I went to a support group and was assigned to a mentor. She was the first to reach out to me when I was getting help for recovery and admitting I had a ed. I remember telling her ugg I ate so many cookies..she said yes but what was your emotions your mood. I would always talk about the food but never the emotion. Now I do..and now I get where she came from. And the woman in the program also really accentuated in getting a nutritionist I was very rebellious and didnt want to do it. Afte r several months of resistance I got one and willingly work with my treatment team

    • Jenni Schaefer

      What you shared here is great, Julia! The girls in my support group were key to my recovery. Today, I have lots of friends/mentors who have been key to other things—like opening my heart to love and marriage! Thanks for commenting. I love hearing what you have to say.

  • Caitlyn Moore

    My mentor is my best friend. We met as potluck roommates about three years ago in college and we’ve been inseparable ever since. When we first met, I was at my worst, deathly sick with an eating disorder. I was very upfront with her and told her what was going on right when we first met. Surprisingly enough, she was very understanding. Since then, our friendship has grown so much. She has always been there for me through thick and thin. (literally!) We have lived together since we met and are always by each others side. I can tell her anything and everything. She can tell when something is wrong – I don’t even have to say anything anymore. I look up to her in so many ways. She has struggled with ED before, but only to a certain extent. She understands. I have grown so much closer to the Lord since I met her. She has been such a blessing in my life and has supported me in everything that I do. She has seen me go through the ups and downs of recovery and is ALWAYS there to pick me up when I fall. Without her encouragement and inspiration, I wouldn’t have gone to treatment and I wouldn’t be as healthy as I am today. I am so grateful for my best friend and mentor! 🙂

    • Jenni Schaefer

      This is beautiful, Caitlyn! Your friend sounds amazing. I’ll bet she has learned a lot from you, too. We all need people who will pick us up when we fall down! I have lots of those people in my life. 🙂

      • Caitlyn Moore

        We learn from each other everyday. I hope you are doing well!! Check your email btw 🙂

        • Jenni Schaefer

          I did check my email! I didn’t see a message from you. Did you send it to jenni@jennischaefer.com? Or Facebook? I rarely check my Facebook messages.

          • Caitlyn Moore

            Yes! I just sent you an email to that email. I got an automatic reply saying Meg would respond. oh well 🙂

          • Jenni Schaefer

            Got it! I will respond! Did you check out this link about writing? https://jennischaefer.com/resources/

          • Caitlyn Moore

            No need to reply! I have seen that yes! Thank you.

  • Alexandra Hillary

    My mentor is one of my closest friends. I met him when I was struggling the most and he helped me to see that I could do so much more. With his friendship, I was able to pull myself out of that bad time in my life and am doing great. He hasn’t been through most of what I have, but his open mindedness and understanding inspires me always to be a better person.

    • Jenni Schaefer

      Thanks for sharing, Alexandra! I, too, had a guy friend in my life like that. He actually helped me to realize that men my age could be nice! (Let’s just say that I was jaded at the time.) I wrote about him in “Goodbye Ed, Hello Me” (the chapter called Seven-person Couch). Friendships are so important.

    • Jenni Schaefer

      You are the winner of the book! I think Shannon has been in touch with you. Congrats!!

  • Shannon Cutts

    Absolutely lovely post, Jenni – thanks for being SUCH a fab supporter of MentorCONNECT and mentoring!!

    • Jenni Schaefer

      Thank YOU for sharing, Shannon! I love your story.

  • Keelyan Sheeley

    My mentor is my “mom.” Her name is Diana and she was one of my managers at my last job. We became really close. My real mom and I never had a good relationship, so she took me under her wing and became my surrogate mom. She has been the biggest blessing in my life. She also dealt with an eating disorder when she was young so she could really relate to me. She knew about mine before I told her because she recognized the symptoms. She has been by my side through good times and bad times, through my suicide attempt and hospitalization, through my PHP and IOP treatments…even driving an hour after working all day to pick me up from program just to drive another hour home. When I couldn’t keep my job and apartment because of treatment, she let me stay with her and her family. Now that i’m being treated outpatient, she makes sure i’m at all of my appointments and that i’m doing my best with my meal plan. She’s become the most important person to me. I’m pretty sure she knows me better than myself. She can tell when something’s wrong without me ever saying anything. She knows when I’m doing my best and when I need to be pushed to work harder. She knows just the right thing to say and she gives the best hugs. She has brought me closer to God and has showed me His love and strength. She is the light in my life showing me that there still is hope. I wouldn’t be where I am right now without her love and support, in fact I might not even be here at all.

    • Jenni Schaefer

      Diana sounds amazing, Keelyan! Thanks so much for sharing her with us. She reminds me of my vocal coach, Judy Rodman, who helped me a lot when I lived in Nashville, Tennessee, far away from my family. Judy let me live with her, and she drove me to appointments, too. I wrote about her here: https://jennischaefer.com/blog/eating-and-body-image/writing-song-life-without-ed/ I really appreciate your posting a comment. We all need people like Diana in our lives.

  • Camille Gervasi

    My mentor: Mrs. April Winslow. A eating disorder dietitian who has saved my life multiple times. I would not be alive today were it not for her big heart and her willingness to go above and beyond for me. To this day I owe so much to her. She is actively trying to change the way eating disorders get treated and make it known how important dietitians are in the treatment of eating disorders. She has fed and re-fed me, stood by me when I was denied adequate health care by Kaiser Permanente. She took me into her home and let me live with her and her husband and nursed me back to health. She became a surrogate mom… a friend… She has done more than I could have ever imagined possible by anyone. All of this simply out of love and the goodness of her heart. She is a well known dietitian in northern California and speaks passionately about food and it’s importance in one’s ability to recover. (Without a healthy brain a person can’t really do the hard work and therapy!) She is the most authentic, straight forward person I have ever met and the only person in my life to never lower the bar for me. She sees in me what I could only dream of. Her own story, a story of difficulties and her own battle make her that much more amazing! I feel so blessed and lucky to have met her and have her in my life. I speak the truth when I say I am alive because of April Winslow. I don’t have words to express my gratitude. I would recommend her to anyone struggling with an eating disorder, the nutrition therapy and compassion that she shares is second to nothing I’ve ever known.
    I wish there were more April’s in the world!

    With Love and gratitude I share my story of the woman who saved my life and helped me get back on the band wagon! (April at Choose to Change Nutrition Services)

    • Jenni Schaefer

      April sounds incredible!! Thanks for sharing here, Camille. I had some “April’s” in my recovery; I would not have made it without them. I love what you said: “Without a healthy brain, a person can’t really do the hard work and therapy.” So true.

  • Tegan Craig

    My mentor is someone that I will be forever grateful for knowing. She was a teacher, and my grade leader, at highschool. I became very ill with chronic fatigue in highschool and she made it possible for me to finish year 10. It wasn’t just the practical support she gave me though, it was the emotional support and her friendship that I will always remember. We had countless conversations together about life, self-pressure, wrong-doings in the world, annoyances… The list goes on. And what allowed me to take the advice onboard, to absorb what was being said rather than talking for the sake of it, was how similar we were in our characteristics and perception of the world. She “got through” to me because we were both able to so strongly relate to and understand one another. This relationship was so important to me at the time because I had lost my life due to becoming ill, lost my friends and my ability to excel at things I used to – when I felt like I was losing my identity, she kept me grounded. She helped me feel like I was still alive, still getting to experience the world. And without her words, I would’ve continued to punish myself, be frustrated and annoyed with myself and my situation. She led me to acceptance of my illness which just dramatically improved my quality of life. Once I accepted it, I learned to live with it and the boundaries it imposed while still “living”. My mentor saved my life – without her, I believe I would’ve ended up with much more serious mental health problems than I now have, which developed after leaving highschool and not having that strong sense of support from her. Even now, I’m not a student, but we remain friends and see each other when we can – because she didn’t do it as a “job”, she did it because that’s the kind of person she is. And that, to me, was huge in teaching me some self-worth. Clearly, I could go on and on, but if there is one mentor who has enriched my life, it’s her.

    • Jenni Schaefer

      Tegan – This is great! Thanks for taking the time to write about your mentor. I, too, remember teachers who made a huge difference. My high school English teacher, Ms. Carwile, always encouraged me to write. Without her, I might never have believed that I could actually write books. 🙂

  • Tammy Mormino

    My Mentor I have known for over 3 years and I will always be grateful for knowing him. He has stuck with me through thick and thin and I don’t know what I would do without him. I have done a lot of the work but he has been there for guidance and support. He has been there when a lot of people have not in my life and he truly believes in me getting well and I don’t know what I would do without him today. That person is My Therapist. I don’t believe I would still be here today if it weren’t for him. He has clearly made my life a whole lot brighter and I want to thank him for being there for support and guiding me in the right direction.

    • Jenni Schaefer

      Hi Tammy – Your therapist sounds incredible. We all need someone to believe in us. By the way: I believe in YOU! It was wonderful to speak with you last night. Keep taking those steps in recovery. You are doing great work.

  • Victoria Lynn Silva

    I have been blessed with many mentors throughout my time with an eating disorder but I would have to say that a professor from college has been one of the most influential. Dr. Snyder was never actually a professor of mine, but she taught at my school and was recommended to me by my counselor. She is just the best. She understood how to explain things to me in a way that really reached me. When I was completely consumed by anorexia, Dr. Snyder knew how to help bring me back to life. Her kind words and constant prayer are what I believe to be the only reason I made it through my freshman year of college. She never judged me for slipping back into disordered behaviors, but forced me to look at what might have caused the slip. She has loved me at my worst and still continues to be a constant piece of my support group. I have been in what I consider “strong” recovery for almost 2 months now and I know I can continue this because of the support Dr. Snyder provides me.

    • Jenni Schaefer

      Victoria… this is great. What a gift Dr. Snyder is…

      My guess is that you are a gift in her life, too!

  • Rachel King

    Fact: I am incredibly stubborn. Fact #2: I will not ask for help when I need it due to fact #1. For a long time I have viewed asking for help as a sign of weakness; that I was incapable of solving my own problems and people would *gasp* know I am not perfect. However, what I know now is that asking for help shows a great deal of strength. Asking for help shows others that you want to better yourself and learn from what they have to offer. Asking for help can be the hardest thing you ever do. However, I believe, asking for help is often the bravest and most beneficial thing you ever do. When it comes to recovery from an ED, Thom Rutledge always says, “No one, which means no one, can recover alone. And you are not the exception to this rule.” This is where the role of a mentor comes into the equation of recovery.

    Journaling, drawing, crafting…whatever you do instead of behaviors, well, they can only offer so much. Sometimes you just need another person to talk to you about what you are going through, to calm you down, or to help you think through a situation. Sometimes just the presence of another person sitting with you, without even speaking, can bring great comfort when working through recovery. A mentor can offer great insight into recovery because they have been there; they understand exactly what you are going through. They can offer insight and wisdom that comes from living in recovery that many other people cannot provide. A mentor can help you stay motivated to work towards recovery and be there to support you every step of the way. For me, a big part of my recovery is someone holding me accountable for it. If there is no one there for me to be accountable to, odds are I might not work as hard. So, it is very beneficial for me to be able to have a mentor.

    EDs are a disease that tries their best to isolate us from others. They cause us to lie and want us to separate from others in order for them to flourish. All the secrecy surrounding EDs causes us to build walls and not allow others in. A mentor will be able to help you reconnect to the world around you, and offer a special bond of compassionate understanding. Once you are able to see a mentor accepting you even with all the imperfections you feel you have, you begin to start accepting yourself with those same imperfections. By accepting your perfect imperfections, you can truly begin to heal. Additionally, mentors are able to help you see the best in yourself. All too often, we have let our ED tell us there are no good qualities in ourselves. A mentor will help you break that thinking and allow you to see the good in yourself (because, like it or not, there is good in you).

    I met my mentor, Meredith, her via her wordpress blog in September of 2011. There was a contact section that said something to the affect of, “If you ever need someone to talk to, I’m here”. So, in November, I finally shot off a quick email thinking I would get nothing in return. Boy was I surprised. What I got back was a message with such love and support that I honestly started to cry as I read it. Someone finally understood me. Meredith has had her own battles with ED and has been working on recovery for some time now. We emailed back and forth many times since then, and even became Facebook friends. In October 2012, Meredith invited me to her bridal shower and wedding. I was shocked. I knew she meant a lot to me, in my life, but I never thought I had had an impact in hers. When I met her for the first time I was speechless. Here was this woman who knows so much about me, who has helped me through some of my worst times, who has always known exactly what I need to hear (and that doesn’t mean it was always what I wanted to hear), but who I had never even heard speak. How do you even begin to thank somebody for that? What do you say to someone who has been there for you? (for my actual response, visit this post)

    To this day, Meredith and I continue our relationship. She is an amazing woman, mentor and, now, friend. I am constantly in awe of her strength, support and the extent of her generous heart. I owe a lot of my efforts in recovery to her. I am grateful for my relationship with Meredith, and wish that you are able to recover from your ED as well. Remember, together we can do this. You are stronger than you think and more resilient than you believe…you were made for recovery. Perhaps, one day, further on in your recovery, you, too, can become a mentor to someone else.

    • Jenni Schaefer

      This is absolutely beautiful, Rachel. Meredith sounds like a true blessing. And I am sure you are to her as well. That’s how mentoring works (as you know)! I love what you said: “Remember, together we can do this.” Yes!

    • Jenni Schaefer

      Rachel, thanks for taking the time to write such a beautiful post. This is really great: “You are stronger than you think and more resilient than you believe…you were made for recovery.” I love that: you were made for recovery.

      • Rachel King

        Thank you Jenni! Meredith is a genuine blessing in my life and encourages my recovery daily; I aim to do the same for her. Also, thank you for the compliment on my writing. I love writing, and hope to use it to inspire others. Thanks for all you do and all that you are. Take care!

        • First I must say…thank you! It is a pleasure to watch others find their freedom and to be even just a small part of that brings a joy to my life that is unlike anything else. Interesting enough, I remember in my early years of trying to find help I connected with Jenni and Thom, wrote what I consider now to be a subpar article on EDs for my college newspaper, and thought that somehow that meant I was recovered. Ha, little did I know. Life with ED had existed for years prior to that and would continue for years afterward. Many life events took place before I was able to thrust myself into recovery with everything I had and not look back. When I wanted to look back, I reminded myself of why I had chosen recovery in the first place: to LIVE! So much has happened since the very moment I made the decision to truly recover and having the opportunity to continue connecting via social media, retreats, etc. with two VIP in my recovery journey has been a blessing. To be considered a mentor is not a title I take lightly. My only goal has been to show others that life without ED DOES exist. That coming out of the darkness was worth every ounce of energy I put forth. May you, Rachel, continue to fight for your life because you, my dear, and many others, are so very worth it!!!

  • Jill White

    I’m hoping to win your book!!! 🙂