BEDA - Binge Eating Disorder Association, Inc.

In recent years, I've noticed a tentative move toward having Binge Eating Disorder included in the term "eating disorder."

Part of the reluctance of the ED world to do this is, I'm quite sure, based on prejudices about weight - putting people terrified of weight gain in the same category as people whose illness sometimes creates weight gain. Part of this is that BED hasn't been included in diagnostic ED categories until more recently - and not completely. Then there is the fact that most people still think of eating disorders as "not really about food," and there being some virtue and self-control being attached to eating and digesting less than one needs (untrue). I think it is also very common to confuse BED with "obesity" and the reverse.

The reasons BED is being incorporated more often now? I think people are realizing that all of these behaviors are rooted in the brain, and all involve restrictive eating (sometimes leading to bingeing, sometimes leading to purging and sometimes not). Another reason is practical and tactical: the "obesity epidemic" mania is bringing funding and attention to the ED world in a way that anorexia and bulimia just couldn't draw.

I will confess to being slow to incorporate BED into my own use of the phrase "eating disorders." I think I've been so eager to get people to pay attention to anorexia and bulimia - ANY attention - that I didn't want to complicate the message with all the ideological baggage out there about fat.

Well, here's an organization ready to address this slow and tentative movement toward integrating all eating disorders:
BEDA - Binge Eating Disorder Association, Inc.

I'm ready to raise my consciousness and give some serious attention to the connection between all eating disorders. Thank you, BEDA, for pushing us all toward integration and clarity!


  1. Yes, thank you BEDA - I'll pop over to your site and have a look in memory of my dear work colleague S who died as a result of his brain disease (binge eating disorder) just as surely as his sister did of hers (anorexia) - there was such an obvious genetic link there that all S's colleagues (working class people in a call centre) could see it, even if the professionals couldn't.

  2. I've always incorporated BED in with my talk about eating disorders in general. The problem is in reporting new research and treatment news, that there just isn't as much resources allocated to BED as there is to anorexia and bulimia.

    I think it is also very common to confuse BED with "obesity" and the reverse.

    The trend I am seeing now is to conflate eating disorders and obesity together in one field. I find this very troubling. While many people with BED are obese, not all obese people have an eating disorder. It's not only insulting and discriminatory to those fat people who don't have a disorder, it also further muddies the waters of a field that is already underrepresented in research and funding.

    Then there is the fact that most people still think of eating disorders as "not really about food, and there being some virtue and self-control being attached to eating and digesting less than one needs (untrue).

    I really wish you would be more sensitive in this regard, Laura. I realize and understand your position that anorexia is entirely a brain disease, and I concede that that may be true for many people. However, there are people like me for whom our disorders are, in part, a product of emotional instability and therefore are "not really about food." It really hurts me as a survivor of anorexia and bulimia turned educator and activist to constantly see my personal experiences diminished and trivialized and that is one of the prime reasons I don't read your blog more.

    Eating disorders are all about the black/white thinking. Surely, there should also exist shades of gray in the ways we go about combating eating disorders.

  3. Rachel,

    I apologize.

    I'm surprised and sad you took my post that way. And I think you may have not understood what I was saying - or I inadequately expressed it - because I don't disagree with what you've said.

    My point was to say that people are confused about the BED connection because they (incorrectly)think BED *IS* just about food but (incorrectly) think AN and BN are not. Both are wrong.

    As you know I believe eating disorders are a brain disorder - brought about by both biological and environmental factors. If you aren't born with the genes for an ED you are not going to develop one. If you are born with those predisposing traits/genes but don't experience those environmental triggers (dieting, overexercise, illness, extreme stress, hormonal problems...etc.) you may never experience one.

    My position is that without addressing the food part, the brain can't recover enough to do the thinking part. But I've never believed or said it was "ONLY about the food."

    I don't think my daughter, also a survivor, or other survivors I know, think I diminish or trivialize her illness or anyone else's. Being a brain disorder doesn't minimize the importance of environment or of the WORK of recovery, to my mind - it actually EMPHASIZES the importance of how society and loved ones respond to the person. (Otherwise I'd just be arguing for lifetime feeding tubes.) That's what all my work is about: changing the environment around the patient - beginning with but not exclusively the medical restoration. Getting rid of the blame and the anger and the shame and the wrong answers to the wrong questions. And if there are problems (and most of us have them) fixing them!

    I may lean one way in my emphasis, but I'm not black/white in my understanding or my record on this.

    I'm also a foster parent, and used to work at a rape/crisis center - I'm not naive or discounting the incidence or significance of bad parents and bad people. I'm simply a believer in getting people help for THEIR lives and unique circumstances - whatever those are. An eating disorder isn't a sign of bad things in that life - and a horrible life doesn't only deserve help when the person develops a mental illness.

    I wonder if my emphasis seems black and white to you because that is YOUR frame on me. Because I know it isn't mine of yours. I don't find your work and mine as mutually exclusive, or in conflict - and I'm not sure why you do.

    As for hurt, Rachel. Please keep in mind how much it hurts to have my experience as a parent and those of the vast majority of parents of eating disorder patients be treated in the media and in eating disorder literature and in therapist's offices as automatically worthy of blame, shame, and guilt. And that hurt makes helping our loved ones that much harder. That is why I do the work I do.

    I apologize for hurting you. I really do. I respect you, and your work.

  4. Hmmmm... I just posted about this organization last week, funny how things seem to get overlooked in the EDDigest.

    Good to see/read the dialogue taking some foundation.

    -shanti *t

  5. Rachel,
    Regarding resources, you might want to take a look at There are MORE studies on BED than either anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Many of the bulimia studies are studies of both BED and BN.

  6. As a person who has battled anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder, it has always frustrated me to not have them acknowledged as just different faces of the same problem. I'm glad to see that this is slowly changing.

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