BY: Christine Peat, PhD
DATE: November 9, 2016
The Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) recently held its 7th annual conference in San Francisco, CA from October 27-29th. The theme of this year’s conference was “Many Paths, One Journey,” which served to highlight the importance of engaging all individuals affected by binge-eating disorder (BED). All too often, there exists an (incorrect) assumption that BED affects primarily white women; however this year’s conference sought to remind us all that BED (and eating disorders at large) do not discriminate. People of color, men, and non-cisgendered (individuals whose gender does not correspond with their biological sex assigned at birth) individuals are frequently “unseen” in the eating disorders community and thus BEDA 2016 invited speakers and workshop presenters to help shed light on underrepresented groups. The opening address featured a panel of three speakers (Desiree Adaway, Ericka Hines, JD, and Carmen Cool, MA, LPC) who led a broader discussion reminding us all of the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion of all persons both within our personal and professional spheres. These speakers stressed the value of diversifying our networks and identifying our own implicit biases as a way of promoting personal and professional growth as well as contributing to a larger social justice mission. In doing so, this presentation set the tone for the remainder of the conference which focused on similarly-themed social justice issues within the BED field including: recognizing and treating BED in people of color, addressing weight bias in healthcare professionals, and identifying barriers in treating men with eating disorders. In a similar vein, Dr. Ashley Solomon and her colleagues Angela Woods and Cynthia Eddington gave a particularly useful presentation on the extent to which the insurance system is (in some cases) failing those with BED and how healthcare providers can advocate on behalf of their patients to ensure that they receive the treatment they need. Additionally, our own UNC research team including Drs. Andrew Hardaway, Laura Thornton, and Zeynep Yilmaz and our colleague Jenna Tregarthen (Founder and CEO of Recovery Record) delivered a dynamic presentation on the emerging science of BED and how such science might contribute to improved diagnosis and treatment of the disorder. The research team also announced the upcoming launch of the Binge Eating Genetics INitiative (BEGIN), a new CEED research study aimed at elucidating the biological mechanisms involved in the etiology and maintenance of binge eating. The UNC team encouraged those interested to sign up for the CEED research registry to keep abreast of the launch. Thus, the goal of BEGIN is inherently tied to the theme of BEDA 2016 and of the organization’s larger mission: to use evidence-based research to facilitate increased awareness about BED any affect person and to help people overcome the disorder with access to proper treatment.
In sum, BEDA 2016 provided many opportunities to engage with patients, advocates, treatment professionals, and researchers in an effort to create a supportive network, to share knowledge, and to build skills. We are hopeful that such efforts have significant impact on a local and national level to promote collaboration between these diverse stakeholders and reduce the suffering of all individuals with BED and their loved ones.