The final day of the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) National Conference titled “Building Resilient Communities Through Collaboration,” continued to highlight the unique experiences and reflections of caregivers, survivors and treatment providers.
A highlight of the day’s line-up included a session titled “Life After NBC’s ‘The Biggest Loser’: The Experiences and Perspectives of Former Reality TV Contestants.” Keynote speakers Darren Moore, PhD, LMFT and Kai Zwisteria (former contestant) discussed their unique experiences with the show and the shaming associated with it. Zwisteria shared stories that contestants including herself were often “tempted” and filmed giving into such temptations which only served to promote stigma against heavier bodies. Zwisteria stated that many participants felt traumatized by attempts to develop drama within the series such as extreme weight loss measures, isolation from loved ones and promoting interpersonal conflicts. Zwisteria reported that she was not provided with aftercare once cameras stopped rolling, a feature that would have been beneficial to her overall physical and mental health and well-being. Zwisteria feels that “there is something inherently wrong with connecting drastic weight loss measures to winning a cash prize” and even calls it “predatory” in nature.
A passionate afternoon session entitled “Prioritizing Public Policy: Where the Eating Disorders Field Stands and Where We Go from Here,” was led by BEDA’s Public Policy Manager, Kerry Donohue. Donohue, among a team of panelists, discussed various ways that the ED community can join together to make a difference in public policy and public perception of ED. The panel promoted that the community band together to bring the fight against weight stigma to the state and national level. Panelists feel the most effective approach would start with state legislatures and emphasized grassroots movements and programming. Chase Bannister, MDIV, MSW, LCSW, CEDS (EDC) stated, “There is a world of difference between insisting on someone doing something and creating an atmosphere that nurtures us to want to do something.” Panelists requested that attendees speak “with one united voice” in an attempt to enhance public policy around eating disorders.
Later in the afternoon Mazella Fuller, PhD, LCSW, CEDS and Charlynn Small, PhD, CEDS spoke to a common misconception that black women don’t get eating disorders. Their presentation was titled “What Are You Hungry For? Black Women with Eating Disorders on Predominantly White College Campuses.” Dr. Small spoke to the experience of black women who continue to struggle with issues around their skin tone, hair, and body shape and community crises such as a lack of food availability, lack of quality food, single motherhood, issues with father/daughter relationships and higher rates of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. All the aforementioned factors were identified as potential contributors to the development of eating disorders, specifically BED, in the community. Dr. Small highlighted the desire for equity and respect for black women on college campuses and a desire for “merit scholarships, internships, externships and an opportunity to be seen as someone who earned the right to be at these institutions….black women are hungry for understanding.” Dr. Fuller and Dr. Small emphasized that with the various issues young black women are facing in society today, it is time for professionals to start listening.
BEDA shared on their website a full list of the conference’s informative sessions. Click here to read more if these topics are of interest to you. As always, it was an informative and inspiring conference. Columbus Park will be sure to utilize the novel information, various outlooks and intervention suggestions provided to us at this event to inform our practice.