Binge Eating Disorder Association annual conference

I spent a lovely Saturday as a guest at the BEDA conference in Bethesda. Great location, great content, great people. I was pleased to see many regional people in the ED world and of course a cross-section of the field nationally. It has long concerned me that BED was an afterthought for the ED world and I celebrate BEDA's incredible focus and professionalism in changing the landscape.

This was my first time at a BEDA conference and I am so very glad I went. Each ED conference has its own flavor -- and I mean that literally and figuratively. There is a civility and reasonableness in the BED community that I find a great tonic to other atmospheres. This isn't to say that everybody agrees on everything because they don't. BED, as it makes us address issues of weight stigma and prejudice, presents a special challenge for a field that is often terribly fat-phobic.

We also have to address competing factions in the ED world: donations, sponsorship money, and travel commitments by attendees are not unlimited.

Oh, and the food was good. You won't be surprised to know that eating at eating disorder events can be  a touchy topic. I had a real breakfast there - something few conferences really do.

There are two reasons I'd recommend choosing BEDA over another conference next year: the content is excellent and diverse, and it is time to give concentrated attention to BED - even preferential attention. If you want to understand, treat, or talk about eating disorders it is not longer all right to be less informed about the most common eating disorder.

Another reason to get involved with BEDA is to see how conflict is addressed. It is not avoided, it does not send the leadership into defensive mode, and the environment is such that actual conversations and progress can be achieved. I saw this and heard about it from many people throughout the day. Conflict and differing perspectives happens: let's deal with it.

So, I was only able to attend for one day but what did I see? I was able to visit all of the exhibits. There was an entire room devoted to nonprofits, which I loved. I had some great conversations with exhibitors. Caught up with Kathleen MacDonald who is now working with Kantor and Kantor. Was interested to see which residential clinics are now offering BED services.

Must say, I was shocked to have someone offer to show me her before and after weight loss photos at an exhibit for a food addiction program. But perhaps more surprised to learn that I was the first to tell her how out of line such a thought is with most of the people I know in the ED and especially the BED world. Of course everyone should form and feel free to express their opinions but one does need to be familiar with other points of view. Hey, if you're going to be controversial you might as well enjoy it!

I didn't have enough time for many of the presentations but took special interest in one, "An Integrated Model: Working together with families and adolescents with BED" by Vazzano and Knudson which drew from the FBT model as well as the Skills-Based Treasure model and Ellyn Satter. Some take-homes in that session: that teens who binge eat are also malnourished and that "food is medicine." That structure around eating and a family approach may be as stabilizing for BED as other eating disorders. And that just as with FBT for AN and BN people can still sit through an hour of how to empower parents and still feel you have to ask a question of the presenters about selfish, toxic parents. It takes more than 60 minutes to change a paradigm.

I love the USB drive with PowerPoints and handouts each registrant receives.

Lovely lunch with Lisa Kantor and left the table with two new ideas I hope we bring to fruition soon. All this virtual stuff is fantastic but there is nothing like face to face brainstorming and engagement!

A special shout-out to Nancy Logue, Ph.D. at the Change the Message table. We had the most invigorating conversation of my day and I really appreciated our exchange.

And my puzzlement of the day: a clinic that spends one day of their family weekend on the Trauma Drama Triangle. I confess, I had to take a meditative breath before I responded to that.

Kudos to Chevese Turner and the BEDA team for an excellent event. I was warmed and inspired and still have a lot to process which is the whole point!


  1. Laura - Do you know whether the Trauma Drama Day centered on "This is the thing that causes BED" or "This is a dynamic that is really easy to fall into and can be a perpetuation factor and/or undermine treatment progress in the family"?

    Because the former - well, you know, ALL THE BLARGHHHHH. But the latter focus, I could see being useful. Who am I kidding, it's probably the former.

    The problem with all of this stuffs that springs from Attachment theory is that when the initial research was done, very little was appreciated about how much babies bring to the table on their own. Babies were then, and to an extent still are, perceived as wee Tabula Rasae (or better, Homo Rasae) whose experiences would write upon them. So when the early attachment studies were done, the observers assumed that the differences they saw in how babies responded to separation & restoration was almost soley an artifact of the environment they were experiencing. And in the 50s, 60s and early 70s, that would have predominantly meant Stay At Home Mom, since most of these studies were done on middle-class white families.

    So their observations were valid, and the way they classified attachment style and all that still has merit. They were just operating under a profoundly mistaken primary assumption.

    Now, neurologists and behavioral psychologists understand that babies have different needs and temperaments and attachment styles right from the get go. What those early experiments were showing was not what the environment had shaped the baby to do, rather it was HOW THAT BABY OPERATED IN THAT EXPERIMENTAL ENVIRONMENT. But somehow, psychotherapeutic literature and psychodynamic practice have both failed to reassess all these theories to incorporate the new information.

    This is just BAD effin science. Axiom; if your theory does not reflect the facts on the ground, your theory is invalid. And if you are not operating from sound theory, you're just practicing Woo.


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