A woman who grew up inside one of America’s most conservative Amish communities has revealed the shocking rules she was forced to live by until she fled at 19 years old.
Lizzie Ens lived on the ultra-strict 80-acre farm of Swartzentruber Amish in Ohio with her parents and 18 siblings.
Ens, now 38, has shared with DailyMail.com details of her early years, before entering what she refers to as the ‘modern world’ after breaking free from isolated and challenging traditionalist lifestyle.
Once adjusting to her newfound freedom, Ens went on to build a successful beauty business and help others as a wellness coach.
During her strict upbringing showers were not permitted, shaving was forbidden, haircuts were not allowed and brushing one’s teeth was not a daily activity. At 17, she lost all her upper teeth and had to get dentures in her mouth.
‘There was no electricity, no indoor plumbing, no running water, and an outhouse that was the restroom where weekly baths were done in a shared stainless steel tub of water,’ she revealed.
‘We weren’t allowed to shave so we had hair under our arms and on our legs. We weren’t allowed to use underarm deodorant, and newspaper was used as toilet paper.’
Lizzie Ens was 19 when fled her ultra-strict Amish lifestyle in 2004. She said photos and videos were forbidden. The picture was taken by an Amish friend, who had left the community. She said no one in her family had ever seen it
Ens, now 38, is a successful health and wellness coach and co-founder of a beauty company that she launched in October
The dress code was strict: a head covering, long-sleeved dresses that was bound by straight pins in place of buttons and zippers, and bras were not to be worn, instead women wore undergarments instead.
Though there are numerous sects of the Amish some not as rigid, she explained, that her sect was the ‘strictest.’
‘There was no internet. No electronics. No photos. No video. No television. Nothing from the outside world,’ she told DailyMail.com.
Ens revealed that she and her twin had once attempted to runaway – but were back two days later as her sister felt too much guilt for leaving her Amish life behind.
But two years later, on June 30, 2004, the day Ens made her daring escape. She climbed to the roof of her three-story house, removed her bonnet unleashing her long hair, and jumped 15 feet to the ground.
‘I was jumping to my freedom,’ she said. ‘I was scared, excited and relieved.
‘Scared because I didn’t know if I would see my family ever again. Relieved because for the first time in my life I had to the ability to follow my heart and my dreams.’
When she abandoned the only life she had ever known, Ens had only $20 in her pocket and in one moment walked away from her family, including, her twin sister, who she said did not want to leave.
Two days after she ran away, she told DailyMail.com that she got a job as a dishwasher at a local restaurant.
She said the people who hired her had a ‘massive impact’ on her life transition from the Amish culture to the modern world.
They were not Amish and helped give her the support and resources she needed to obtain a social security card, obtain a driver’s license and get a car.
‘They taught me how to drive. The first time behind the wheel I was terrified, but within weeks of passing my road test I was driving by myself. It was crazy,’ Ens said, who used to drove a horse and buggy.
But as she tried her best to get used to the world she believed she belonged in, Ens says ‘there was a massive culture shock,’ that took place.
‘You have no idea how little you know about the world until you start to realize how little you know,’ she said. ‘That’s when the shock starts to settle in’
Ens spoke at a function last year and sharing her journey with others. At the start of the presentation, she was wearing traditional Amish clothing (pictured) but underneath she had a stylish dress that shows the transition
One of the first things she had to learn was how to get a job and work at a regular job so she could pay bills.
‘It was incredibly foreign,’ she said. ‘I never made my own money before or had to pay rent or bills.’
She also had to get a social security number – a concept totally unfamiliar – but even the little things were mind-blowing , including a task so simple as turning on a light switch.
‘Wow this is amazing,’ she remembered thinking. ‘I don’t have to light up a kerosene lamp.’
She can still recall the feeling of experiencing her first a shower, which she described as ‘exhilarating’, once she was on the outside.
But slowly over time, Ens adapted to her new lifestyle including, beauty treatments and self care that are now and part of her everyday routine.
‘I was told all my life it was a sin to cut my hair,’ Ens said, who described her hair as hip-length.
‘When I went to the hair salon and got my hair cut it felt as if I was shedding the old version of myself.’
Shaving was another dramatic change, she explain. ‘Shaving was one of the first things I did when I left. I didn’t know what I was doing when I first bought a razor, and it was painful and took me at least two hours.’
The Amish life made her extremely ‘self-sufficient,’ something she believes the modern world is ‘craving’
Shopping for basic clothing – jeans and a t-shirt, even undergarments – were life-altering.
‘I bought my first outfit at Walmart. I wasn’t allowed to wear bras as an Amish woman so that was super exciting for me.’
She added: ‘Putting on that first pair of jeans was so surreal. I had never worn pants in my life. I felt like I was in a new body and world.’
Dining out took some getting used to, ordering off the menu and tasting a whole new range of foods.
‘We grew our own fruits, vegetables, raised our own animals and milked our own cows. Most of our food was home cooked and going out to eat was not an option or something we did,’ she said.
She described her first time going to a Chinese restaurant as interesting experience.
‘I looked at all the food and thought nothing looks good,’ she recalled, ‘So all I ate was the fruit.’
Based on her experience, she believes women in the Amish culture struggle to live to their potential.
‘I came from a very suppressed background and really had to be taught and mentored by others on how to have a voice that is one of the reasons I am here today,’ she said.
She added, ‘but I have the utmost respect for the way grew up and what it taught me as it made me the person I am today.’
Looking back, Ens feels confident she made the right decision.
‘I have no regrets. I would not be able to have the impact I have with my clients and on the world with my company if I was still there.’
Today, she said, she has a good relationship with her mom and keeps in touch with three other siblings that also left, but don’t speak to the others who remained.
She told DailyMail.com that her twin, who she hasn’t spoken to her in years, ended up marrying and is expecting to give birth to her eleventh child any day.
‘If I would have stayed, I probably would have gotten married and eventually had lots of kids just like my twin sister – which was one of the big reasons why I did not want to stay there,’ she said.
She launched Miss Commando, a company for women by women which is something she would have never been able to achieve if she would have remained in her Amish life
Ens worked hard to become a health and wellness coach, channeling all good she learned through her Amish upbringing to launch a career – something she would not have been able to achieve if she stayed.
Last year, she gave a speech, in which she shared her personal journey. She wore the traditional Amish clothing, but gave the audience a surprise when she peeled off her modest clothing revealed a stylish ‘modern’ outfit underneath to show the transition.
Unlike her twin, Ens, is a single mom of a five-year-old son. Earlier this year, she and her husband divorced after 10-years of marriage, something that is also not common practice in her former life.
These days she is busy running a business and raising her son while living her best life in Phoenix, Arizona, far away from the isolated and sheltered she once knew.
In October, she launched a women-owned company called Miss Commando that sells environmentally-friendly beauty soaps and lotions made from goats milk.
To continue her mission of sustainability, she teamed up with Michael Coleman, a distant relative of The Coleman Camping Family.
Their collaboration, she explained, is to create a movement to help utilize hemp fiber as a solution in the outdoor industry.
Her goat-based products and packaging that is stored in bio-degradable non-toxic hemp plastic containers.