Proud2Bme | BED & Doctors: From Stigma to Support

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BED & Doctors: From Stigma to Support

By Chelsea Kronengold--For as long as I can remember, I have been told, rather shamed, by medical providers to lose weight.

Every time I went to the doctor, they would pull out the BMI chart, point to the obese category, and explain all the potential health consequences associated with my weight: type 2 diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea and death. However, time after time, doctors failed to mention the potential psychological consequences or source of my weight: Binge Eating Disorder.

NEDA defines Binge Eating Disorder (BED) as an eating disorder characterized by “recurrent binge eating without the regular use of compensatory measures to counter the binge eating.” Moreover, BED involves eating more rapidly than usual, eating large quantities of food when not physically hungry, eating alone due to embarrassment, eating until uncomfortably full and feeling self-disgust, guilt or depression after binging.

Individuals with BED tend to be more overweight than non-binge eaters. BED affects 1-5% of the general population, however, 57% of individuals suffering from BED never receive treatment. While there are many hypotheses as to why less than half of the affected population receives treatment, a leading possibility is that fat-shaming and weight-stigma in our society can prevent health-care professionals, educators, and even affected individuals from recognizing the severity of the disorder, and of receiving a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Last year during NEDAwareness Week, I shared my story of BED. I explained the physical, mental and social consequences of the disorder. I also mentioned how our fat-shaming society disapproves of people of a certain weight, making it harder for affected individuals to seek treatment. In addition from the lack of support from our weight-obsessed society, I failed to mention the lack of awareness and empathy I, and the rest of the BED community, received from medical providers.

When I was diagnosed with BED in 2012, therapists and nutritionists alike recognized my condition as a legitimate eating disorder, but the medical community was slower to catch on. Doctors continued to emphasize the importance of losing weight, rather than seeking out psychological and nutritional counseling, to “fix” my disorder. While the doctors weren’t wrong in their recommendation to lose weight, it is most effective to treat the disorder prior to treating the weight, since weight loss is not necessarily the best measure of BED recovery.

With that being said, over the past couple of year, strides have been made in the medical community. I am grateful that doctors, educators and the general public are beginning to recognize and understand BED as a complex (and common) eating disorder. I would like to encourage physicians and medical professionals to stay current with information and treatment protocols for all eating disorders, including BED.

Most importantly, I believe it is essential to share the message of hope and support, which is why I am thankful that NEDA has partnered with the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) and Shire on a National Binge Eating Awareness Campaign. It's time for medical professionals, and our greater society, to recognize BED as a legitimate disorder and stop stigmatizing those who suffer from it. 

About this blogger: Chelsea is a body image and eating disorder scholar and activist, currently pursuing a master's degree in clinical psychology from Columbia University's Teachers College. In addition to her studies, Chelsea is a consultant and program administrator for NEDA’s implementation of The Body Project. Prior to working on The Body Project, Chelsea coordinated the inaugural and second annual Gainesville, FL NEDA walks and served as the Proud2Bme National Outreach Coordinator. Chelsea has spoken on behalf of NEDA and Proud2Bme about her personal struggles with binge eating disorder and body dissatisfaction to media platforms such as Huffington Post Live, Seventeen Magazine, WebMD and SiriusXM Doctor Radio.

Also by Chelsea:

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The Bieber Debacle

How About a Name Change for Fat-Talk-Free Week?

I'm Sick of Halloween Fat-Shaming and the Pressure to Be Sexy

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