By Hilary Kinavey, MS, LPC
It’s Eating Disorder Awareness week, and with all the discussion about eating disorders this week, we wanted to shed some light on Binge Eating Disorder (BED). It’s a bit more complicated than it may seem.
Dana and I attended the 18th Annual Columbia River Eating Disorder Network’s conference last weekend and learned a great deal from Chevese Turner and Amy Pershing, LCSW regarding weight stigma and BED.
BED has been in people’s lives (just as Anorexia and Bulimia in all their variations) for a long, long time, but was only recently added to the diagnostic manual (DSM-V) used by mental health professionals in 2013. This eating disorder occurs more commonly than any other eating disorder, but is the least understood and discussed. BED affects people of all shapes and sizes, ages, gender expressions, ethnicity and socio-economic classes. The criteria for diagnosis may be a little different than you think.
Misconceptions about BED are really common and very problematic for those who struggle. For example, it is often assumed that all people who live in larger bodies binge eat. This is highly inaccurate. People of all sizes struggle with BED. It is impossible to tell how people relate to food by looking at them. This stigma-raising association keeps many people (of all sizes) from seeking support for their struggle with BED. The very definition of shame and stigma is to silence.
“Any behavior change rooted in shame won’t stick.”
This misconception has influenced how binge eating has been understood and addressed by helping professionals. Unfortunately, the majority of treatment interventions have colluded with the eating disorder through focusing on food and weight instead of addressing trauma and shame that live at its very foundation. People who struggle with binge eating have been supported in thinking that they just need more “willpower” or “self-discipline” to heal the problem, instead of having their symptoms named as a way of coping. We have to go deeper.
Binge Eating Disorder, just as all eating disorders, requires that those who suffer have a chance to pause and heal their primary relationship with themselves in an environment that is free from size bias and weight stigma. Treatment that begins from compassion and weight-neutral care is paramount. When we begin to normalize body acceptance as part of the healing of stigma and body shame, those who struggle will be able to change their cycles of deprivation and frustration. The eating disorder itself can begin to shift when it is reframed as essential coping that was born from wisdom and an inherent need to survive and grow. Supportive and strength-focused treatment will foster an environment where resistance to treatment is seen as a sign of strength and self-protection.
If you are seeking help for Binge Eating Disorder, look for healing professionals that believe:
- In healing your relationship with body and food
- In your strengths and in your body
- In Health at Every Size®
- In teaching attuned or intuitive eating
- That weight stigma is traumatizing and can be healed
- In practicing body acceptance
Your body can become a place you call home – just as it is.
Hilary Kinavey, MS, LPC is a therapist and co-founder of Be Nourished. She encourages conscious and authentic living, with the courage to love yourself anyway.