BED and The Well-Trained Clinician: Are You Helping Without Harming?

  • posted by Marci Evans
  • Monday, February 06, 2017

The Need for Well-Trained Clinicians


This blog post was originally posted on the Binge Eating Disorder Awareness Blog. I've reposted it here to spread the word! 

Binge eating disorder (BED) may seem new since it was just added to the official list of mental health diagnoses. But the truth is that using food to manage difficult internal experiences and emotions has been around a long time! While it’s official status is “young” in the eating disorder (ED) world, well-trained clinicians are desperately needed! The problem being that many clinicians haven’t been properly trained on how to treat BED, which is distinctly different than treating weight. Often, clinicians conflate the two and unintentionally create a whole host of problems!

While the ED field has a long way to go in developing substantive research to guide our treatment protocols for BED, we must borrow from related fields of research to guide our way.

The first area of research ED clinicians need to become familiar with is weight stigma. Similar to other oppressive forces in our culture, weight stigma infiltrates all of our lives in sneaky and insidious ways. And sadly, even ED clinicians are top offenders when it comes to bias and stigma relating to weight.

What is Weight Stigma?
Check out this succinct PDF on weight stigma developed by BEDA. In short, weight stigma is negative judgment, bias, assumptions, attitudes, and treatment based on a person’s size. Most importantly, when a person experiences weight stigma it makes them vulnerable for WORSE health outcomes. This means that when people are stigmatized they are less likely to get proper care and are less likely to improve in any health parameters. This is why a weight neutral approach to improving health of people suffering with BED.

Why A Weight Neutral Approach
A weight neutral approach makes no assumptions about a person’s health or habits based on appearance. And it deems every individual deserving of health enhancing interventions regardless of whether it produces a change on the scale. Two important philosophies, Health at Every Size (HAES) and Intuitive Eating (IE), provide the scaffolding and guidance for clinicians to generate interventions that will improve the health of clients without interjecting harmful weight stigma. Integrating these philosophies into the backbone of BED treatment is critical to helping without harming.

Seeking Additional Treatment
It is imperative that ED clinicians seek additional training in weight stigma, HAES, and IE. I have developed an online training for ED clinicians that is focused on how to provide nutrition specific counseling that is HAES informed, weight neutral, and grounded in research. I developed it because I am passionate about reducing weight stigma and improving treatment for people with EDs. There are relatively few resources for clinicians so I created am online training that is affordable and accessible from your own home. You can learn more about my online training for dietitians interested in eating disorder work here

Additionally, here are some other resources I recommend:

Let’s elevate the field of ED treatment and provide our clients with BED with the best possible care.