BY: Christine Peat, PhD
DATE: 10 November 2017
The Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) recently held its 8th annual conference in Brooklyn, New York from November 2nd-4th. The theme of this year’s conference was “Building Resilient Communities through Collaboration” – a fitting theme given that this year was also the first that the BEDA conference was held in collaboration with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). The joint programming of this year’s conference reflected the efforts being made between both organizations to recognize the spectrum of eating disorders with a particular emphasis on raising awareness of eating disorders occurring in individuals in larger bodies.
The kick off to this year’s conference started with a screening of the documentary Fattitude – a feature-length film dedicated to informing people about the realities of fat shaming and weight bias. The documentary (started as a passion project by its 2 directors and funded by Kickstarter) aims to expose how fat hatred infiltrates our culture, healthcare, and education. Conference attendees were able to enjoy a private screening of Fattitude, which in many ways, paralleled BEDA’s commitment to reducing weight stigma and tackling social justice issues.
The official start to the conference agenda was a compelling keynote address by Carolyn Black Becker, PhD, FAED and her colleague Keesha Middlemass, PhD from Trinity University. Drs. Becker and Middlemass presented their ground-breaking research examining the impact of food insecurity (defined as the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food) on eating disorder behaviors and cognitions. Their mixed-methods study was recently published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders and revealed that the prevalence of clinically significant eating disorder symptoms (17%) was more than double that of what was reported in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (7%). The authors of this study summarized their findings (also summarized by our own Dr. Munn-Chernoff here) as a call to action for researchers in the eating disorders field. They underscored the importance of increasing intersectionality in our research in an effort to ensure that all individuals with eating disorders can be effectively identified and directed toward treatment.
As a reflection of BEDA and NEDA’s commitment to intersectionality, the presentations throughout the conference focused on sometimes neglected topics within the eating disorders community. Temimah Zucker, LMSW and Melissa Orshan-Spann, PhD, CEDS presented on treating eating disorders in the Jewish community, Wendy Oliver-Pyatt, MD and Chevese Turner, BA gave a dynamic presentation on public policy and higher weight bodies, and there were a range of presentations discussing the diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders comorbid with other conditions including polycystic ovarian syndrome and celiac disease. The conference wrapped up with a session on advocacy and public policy in the eating disorder field and an important discussion of black women with eating disorders on predominantly white college campuses.
In sum, BEDA 2017 was an interactive and informative opportunity for those across the eating disorder community to engage with patients, advocates, treatment professionals, and researchers in an effort to create a supportive network, to share knowledge, and to build skills. The successful collaboration between BEDA and NEDA created a conference that was filled with diverse perspectives and shared commitment to reduce the stigma of eating disorders and increase access to care.