I have attended many eating disorder conferences in my career, maybe a few hundred all told. I have learned a great deal along the way, had the honor of presenting a number of times, and been fortunate to meet colleagues from around the world. But something about the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) conferences has been different from the start. This year, BEDA’s third, proved to be no exception.

Maybe it’s because BEDA was founded by someone who is on her own recovery journey. Maybe it’s because the board members, including me, are particularly passionate about this cause. Maybe it’s because binge eating disorder has finally found its home and its voice. Whatever it may be, the energy at a BEDA conference is something unique and profoundly healing.

Since the BEDA 2012 Conference (hyperlink to BEDA 2012 Conference Highlights page on beda website) wrapped up two weeks ago in Philadelphia, I am still hearing about people’s experiences, professionals and laypeople alike. Attendees are talking to me about the incredible content of the presentations, skills of the presenters, and the tools and knowledge they take back to their practices and their own recovery journeys.

They talk, too, about the representation of all viewpoints about BED’s causes and treatments, about the welcoming of debate by BEDA (and there is a good deal of it!), and the sense that we are all ultimately on the same team. We are all here to best help those dealing with BED and their families, to help the culture understand the impact of weight stigma, and to create a professional standard that promotes health instead of weight cycling and shame.

People have shared with me their experiences of laughing, dancing, being with people who “get it,” feeling a sense of being able to take up their space. I felt the same way. Something different happens here; people talk about coming alive, being in their bodies. This is definitely a different sort of conference.

One of my clients, an amazing woman far along in her own journey, wrote and performed a song for the attendees this year. The song was about her relationship with her mirror. It brought the house down. Listening to her that morning, I realized how fortunate I am to be part of this organization, one that is finally recognizing as its primary mission the importance of BED treatment and research, the inherent strength and courage of those dealing with this disorder, and the need for BED inclusion in all eating disorder discussions.

As someone who has made her own journey, and who deeply cares about her clients and their work of recovery, I am, for another year, thankful.


–Amy Pershing