DiscoverBiographies & Memoirs

Emancipated Love Junkie

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Worth reading 😎

This book is both a memoir and self-help book! The author has a vibrant voice and a hopeful message. TW: eating disorders

Synopsis

Are you trapped inside an eating disorder? Is biting into a slice of banana bread or simply an apple challenging? If so, Rachel will guide you towards a liberated and beautiful life!

In her inspiring memoir, Rachel shares her twenty-year battle with anorexia as she travels the planet as an executive assistant, rock musician, teacher, playwright, and cookie company owner. Interspersed with humorous anecdotes and raw moments are fresh insights to pin feelings of hope onto your heart. As you replace negative thoughts with positive truths, you’ll feel empowered to join Rachel as an Emancipated Love Junkie—radiating your best self and flooding your world with joy.

Remember when you were a tiny human, gleefully running half-naked through a sprinkler with an ice cream cone in one sticky fist? This book will help you embrace that healthy goodness today, tomorrow, and the rest of your life.

Rachel Wilshusen can recall that many of her favorite childhood memories were made even sweeter by ice cream, cupcakes, and other treats. Food was consumed happily and whole-heartedly. As she got older, a voice in the back of her head dramatically changed her relationship with food. This voice told her she didn’t deserve to eat. Gone were the days where Rachel could enjoy a hearty dinner. Eating became a source of great distress. Author Rachel Wilshusen was anorexic, and doing her best to hide it from her friends. In Emancipated Love Junkie, Rachel tells us about her experiences with anorexia. Although there are triggering themes, Rachel tells her story with a hopeful message. Throughout the book, she intersperses helpful encouraging recommendations to be a voice of positivity for others who may have an eating disorder. Rachel hopes to encourage other people to become an “emancipated love junkie”.

Although Rachel’s overall message is to share her experiences with anorexia there is so much more to her story. Rachel undergoes a series of career changes and moves around the world. Rachel’s book reminded me of Eat, Pray, Love at times. It takes a strong individual to uproot her life and start over so many times. She spends time living in China, England, Canada, and the United States. It is so fascinating that Rachel has lived in so many places. She learned so much about herself by living with different people and trying new things. The ever-changing setting was also a feast for the reader’s eyes. In its own way, her career changes made me feel hopeful. Rachel had to try many different career paths and fail in many ways in order to land in a comfortable phase of her life. Her experiences eventually brought her to therapy which gave her the skills to face her eating disorder.

           The real joy of reading Emancipated Love Junkie is Rachel’s original voice. Though she is discussing a serious topic, her story is alleviated by descriptive language and an overwhelmingly positive attitude. There is a playful tone in the writing that immediately draws the reader into Rachel’s life. For someone writing about deeply personal experiences, I think it is powerful that she is so frank and hopeful in her message. Her colorful voice compelled me as the reader to stay engaged.

As Rachel said, anorexia does not look like one particular thing. Anorexia is a voice in your head that is telling you that you don’t deserve to eat. Anorexia is a constant battle with yourself every time you look at a menu. It is feeling anxiety when you are invited to a dinner party. By telling her story, Rachel is spreading awareness about eating disorders. I think there are probably many people out there that have a similar struggle with food. By reading Rachel’s story it might help someone seek the help that they need.

Reviewed by

As a kid, I always had a whimsical notion of seeing the world; I think reading started as a way to travel without actually leaving home. Through these reviews, I hope to stir excitement for reading in others.

Synopsis

Are you trapped inside an eating disorder? Is biting into a slice of banana bread or simply an apple challenging? If so, Rachel will guide you towards a liberated and beautiful life!

In her inspiring memoir, Rachel shares her twenty-year battle with anorexia as she travels the planet as an executive assistant, rock musician, teacher, playwright, and cookie company owner. Interspersed with humorous anecdotes and raw moments are fresh insights to pin feelings of hope onto your heart. As you replace negative thoughts with positive truths, you’ll feel empowered to join Rachel as an Emancipated Love Junkie—radiating your best self and flooding your world with joy.

Remember when you were a tiny human, gleefully running half-naked through a sprinkler with an ice cream cone in one sticky fist? This book will help you embrace that healthy goodness today, tomorrow, and the rest of your life.

Being a Kid was Magically Delicious

My early relationship with food was clovers, blue moons, and rainbows magically delicious. I arrived in Yuma, Arizona like a box of Nerds—split in half to facilitate a shot of strawberry followed by a shot of grape. Bright pink in the face from screaming, the doctor flipped me over to reveal a deep purple birthmark covering two-thirds of my bum. Hours later, my pink and purple person was swaddled and riding through the desert heat to start the great adventure of life.

I often wonder what might have happened if my dad hadn’t left the Marines the following summer to start graduate school in Oregon. Would I have become a homegrown girl with roots in the southwestern soil? Would I have attended Arizona State and be posting pictures of my college sweetheart and our five kids on Instagram? Maybe I would have nurtured a simple reality and merrily soared through my twenties and thirties. Such alternate versions of our lives are conveniently filled with the best outcomes. When I look at my past rationally, however, I suspect I still would have fallen into thick cream along the way and struggled for years to churn my problems into deliciously sweet butter. Regardless, at six months I was whisked up north to commence a nomadic lifestyle in the homeland of Nike and Tillamook ice cream. 

As a kid, I didn’t realize my dad was a student, experimenting on cadavers by day and working at a funeral home by night to make ends meet. I’d naively inform school teachers he was unemployed and, when I dislocated my shoulder in the backyard, I hollered for my mom to take me to see a real doctor. This tantrum was surprisingly indulged, and, hours later, I was happily riding home with a readjusted shoulder and a cherry Popsicle. Being a mini American in the ‘80s was the bomb. The rules were simple: come home before dark, don’t take candy from strangers (especially those sporting mustaches), and eat the food on your plate. I sustained low expectations regarding the plate I was meant to polish. Meals at our house met the Betty Crocker cheap and cheerful standard. Parmesan clumps in green cans spruced-up spaghetti, vegetables meant canned corn or green beans, and bread crumbs stuck to cheddar cheese uplifted the saddest of casseroles. While I disliked staring down a Campbell's split pea or black bean soup on occasion, I accepted wholesome dinners as my childhood cross to bear. 

With my dad in school and three kids to feed, the impact of a sale on canned soups or any packaged foods was felt throughout the household. There was the winter we stocked our freezer with generic chocolate puddings that, once partially thawed, created a layer of skin on top I’d scrape off before plunging in my spoon. There was also the winter where we stored a crate of Captain Crunch’s Christmas Crunch in closets and under beds due to a holiday special. In this case, I was awestruck by my two older brothers’ creation of “swamp mug”. Smashing crunch berries and milk together in the bottom of our bowls, we cheerfully ate our way through a red and green slog into the spring. And then there were the winters we’d sit down to a “Pop! Hiss!” medley at dinner as my mom opened a jar of peaches, bobbing around in their juices like animals trapped in formaldehyde.

Raised in a Latter Day Saint (Mormon) household, my mom gleefully took on board the fruit preservation aspect of our pioneer heritage. Like a Miss Chiquita, but without the Latina flair, she’d boil sugar and spices, simmer berries into syrupy substances, and roll out miles of fruit leather. Although her dried and canned selections were impressive, the aromas of pies, crumb bars, and other fruity bombshells browning in the oven filled my heart with delight. During summer holidays, I became an industrious Strawberry Shortcake, plucking thousands of berries in the wild before dusting their bodies with sugar in our Berry Bitty Cafe. Adhering to the “one for me, one for the pail” policy as I laced my way through strawberry fields, I’d proudly return home scratched, stained, and burnt like Strawberry Crisp.  

By August, I was poised for the ultimate challenge in U-Picking: blackberries. I don’t mean the pathetic, six-ounce cartons sold in stores for $5.95! I mean massive amethyst beauties, bursting with flavor after reaching their juice capacity in the hot sun. While local bushes on our poor side of town were plentiful, my main employment occurred at my grandparents’ house, five hours north across the Canadian border.  

Sticking rakes, gloves, and a rickety ladder out the back of my grandparents’ car, we’d drive past the outskirts of town and into an enchanted forest of bushes overloaded with gems. Readjusting my baseball cap, I’d race out of the car with my pail swinging on my arm, determined to let no berry in sight shrivel and die. My mom tackled the most dangerous work, leaning our ladder against a sturdy bush and stepping up with a rake in hand to reach the loftiest branches. I understood her willingness to risk her life for the best of the season as I stripped low hanging boughs of heavy clusters, immune to sharp thorns that drew blood beneath the surface of my clothes. Once our pails were filled beyond capacity, we’d return home for my grandpa and I to sift through hordes of scrubbed up beauties in preparation of their final act. My grandpa always opted for a giant bowl of vanilla ice cream overloaded with berries. I preferred to wait as my gram blended cream and berries together into a lavender milkshake. Freshly showered and sucking ice-cold berry bits on their porch, life was unabashedly perfect. 

* * *

Winter arrives early in Oregon. Every October 31st, I’d race out the door with my witch costume barely fitting over my parka to scour the neighborhood for SweeTARTS, Laffy Taffys and bite-size Butterfingers. Channeling the Cheshire Cat, I’d exhale circles of breath high into the darkness while keeping an eye out for early snowflakes. Inevitably, thick flakes appeared ahead of Turkey Trots and I’d rush the season by decking our halls with red garlands and festive window stickers. My mom’s canning skills are impressive, but it’s baking where the women in our family triumph, and Christmas was the coup de gras. What our holiday parties lacked in spiked punch my mother compensated for with towers of cookies and bars highlighting the season’s finest fillings, frostings, whipped creams, crusts, and glazes. I gazed in admiration as my mom transformed into a Christmas angel on these nights, shining in glittery dresses and high heels as she rushed to fill this glass and replace that tray of treats. As Andy Williams clicked off on our cassette player and my dad hunted down rogue scarves and coats, I’d watch from the window as my mom embraced departing guests who rushed into the cold moonlight with a rosy, sugary glow. She was the hostess of my dreams and I planned to someday smell, look, and act exactly like her.  

Most years, we’d devour scads of my mom’s bakes before driving up the coast to gobble-up my gram’s holiday desserts. With bars and cookies dancing in our heads, we’d cram into Rosie, our loyal station wagon, and I’d sing “Over the River and Through the Woods” on repeat, until an older brother ordered me to cut it out. It wasn’t a sleigh, but I felt the enchantment of a winter wonderland as whirling snowflakes landed on my window. Once we arrived, I’d rush up the steps in pursuit of grandparent kisses and my gram’s Royal Dansk tin that only appeared at Christmas. This was the tin filled with two layers of butter cookies, snugly layered in white, ruffled sleeves. I didn’t realize every cookie—regardless of shape— was made of the exact same dough; consequently, I felt certain the pretzel variety were the tastiest.  

Although I flaunted an unbridled love of desserts, I wasn’t blind to bodies and weight. On the contrary, I was frightened by fatness and shied away from chubby family friends who seemed intent on acquiring hugs from small girls. For the time being, however, even without a pair of LA Gear kicks to up my four square swagger, I was a happy and uninhibited superstar. With a sporty side matching a solid set of brains, I quickly realized there are gold stars (rewards and prizes) for being the best, and that I could reach my ponytail high above this bar. Staring at sparkly stars one chilly summer night as my dad pointed out the Big and Little Dippers, my heart was struck by their glorious perfection. I subconsciously resolved to shine bright like a diamond in every facet of life as a perfect daughter, a perfect sister, a perfect student, a perfect pianist, and, someday, a perfect hostess in glitzy dresses and high heels. 

Self-Love Gem: See with childhood eyes

As small children we see the world as a wondrous and beautiful place. As we grow older and encounter judgements and stings, however, many of us develop an inner voice that leaks fear into our minds and pushes our essence—our true self—to the fridges. We become stuck in a war with our critic for years, attempting to manifest strength while often feeling like a fraud who is undeserving of Kudos or happiness. Thankfully, with understanding and support (as outlined in the following chapters) we can release our inner critic to once more see the world through our joyful, childhood eyes.

About the author

Rachel is a vibrant writer with degrees from the UPenn, UCL, and the University of Cambridge. After her battle with anorexia, she wrote Emancipated Love Junkie to embolden others to follow her path towards Recovery. Coastal runs and biting into donuts are her favorite ways to spend sunny mornings. view profile

Published on July 07, 2020

Published by

50000 words

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

Reviewed by

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