2017 NEDA/BEDA Conference Review: Part I

Caregivers, treatment providers, and survivors gathered for an informative and empowering conference hosted by The Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) in partnership with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). The 2017 BEDA conference was titled “Building Resilient Communities Through Collaboration.” This annual conference is considered vital to promoting informed conversations around binge eating disorder (BED), body image and weight shaming, and marginalized communities.

The 2017 BEDA Conference

The event kicked off with a powerful keynote address titled, “Eating Disorders in Marginalized Populations: What is the Impact of Food Insecurity?” presented by Carolyn Black Becker, PhD, FAED, and Keesha Middlemass, PhD. According to NEDA.org,  “Dr. Becker pointed out that highly palpable foods are heavily marketed to people with lower income, which is problematic and often deeply unethical.” The efforts of Dr. Becker and Dr. Middlemass intend to inspire others to increase diversity in a field that has “traditionally prioritized white, cisgender, upper-class women.” Their presentation aimed to promote work with marginalized communities that most need it.

A second aim of the presentation was to de-emphasize the need for weight & height statistics in such studies as such individuals “already face weight stigma and may not have access to a scale.” The pair feels that moving forward, height & weight data is unnecessary as it doesn’t affect the results of the research and could be excluded.

Eating Disorders and the Jewish Community

Next up, Temimah Zucker, LMSW, and Melissa Orshan-Spann, PhD, CEDS, led the general session called “Treating Eating Disorders within the Context of the Jewish Community.” Zucker shared that as a result of “protective value” within the Jewish community, denial of and resistance to eating disorders is ever present.

Additionally, Zucker reported that there may be a number of factors that contribute to denial/resistance of eating disorders and related treatments such as traditional gender roles (men are allowed to present themselves in different ways, but women’s roles tend to be focused more on outward appearance) and juxtaposing paradigms (Jewish mother emphasizing food at all times juxtaposed with a superwoman ideal–young, thin, white, wealthy, fashionable, etc.). The goal of this presentation was to promote the use of rituals in therapy such as storytelling to heal, and exploring the power of prayer to reconnect the patient with an internal belief system and move away from shame.

The Development of Binge Eating Disorder

Later in the day, a panelist of Dieticians spoke to the barriers they have faced in their own practices and personal experiences with BED. Sunny Sea Gold moderated what was deemed a “powerful panel” on weight stigma and binge eating disorder called “Opening Doors to the Right Rooms.” One panelist after the next shared their own unique experiences. Panelist Aaron Flores called for increased intersectionality and collaborative work stating “Accessibility cannot occur without intersectionality, which would ensure that conversations can be had that incorporate our varied identities.”

According to a study published in 2001, 83% of BED patients reported some form of childhood maltreatment. Amy Pershing, LCSW, ACSW spoke to trauma and BED in her presentation “Unsafe as a Way of Life: The Role of Complex Trauma in the Development of Binge Eating Disorder.” Pershing’s approach to treating individuals who have experienced significant trauma is grounded in a belief that “it’s helpful to come from a place of empowerment to reduce stigma.” Pershing promoted that professionals explore with clients the way they want their bodies to heal, such as through yoga, drumming, choral singing, etc. Pershing maintained that there is tremendous hope for healing from BED and complex trauma.

Finally, Competence and Confidence: Exploring the Intersections of LGBTQ+ Individuals and Eating Disorders” by Erin McGinty, MS, LPC, and Aimee Becker, BA discussed the treatment of members of the LGBTQ+ community by outlining important definitions and related resources. The pair also delved into microaggressions (casual, everyday degradations against marginalized populations). Examples were given as to how this may present In therapy (Ex: “I have a gay friend!”). Other warnings were presented such as warning about the dangers of assuming LGBTQ+ clients need treatment, and the tendency toward having a heteronormative bias.

Check back in with us for BEDA/NEDA: Part II next week!