It was so wonderful that BED finally made it on to national TV this week. I am in awe of Lorren and Martha, who were brave enough to share their stories for the film. I am glad you chose Sarah, an expert with personal experience to speak, too, even if you did spell her name wrong.
I know the producer had a lot of footage and information to squeeze into a short 5 minute segment. Unfortunately, as someone who spent decades with BED, I have issues with the information they chose to include and way the film was edited, and I wanted to take the time to explain why.
The overwhelming focus was on food – what is consumed during a binge, and stock film of “junk food”. Random mouths eating burgers, the image filling me with disgust and horror because I know that is how people see people with BED. The interview scenes focused heavily on binge foods, with only a secondary focus on shame and compulsion.
Here’s the thing. I have never told ANYONE exactly what and how much I consumed during my worst binges, not even my therapist. I’ve shared some of my trigger foods, I even wrote a blog about one of them. But I have never needed to go into more detail, because what and how much I binged on is completely irrelevant. BED isn’t about the food itself. It’s about why I binged, whether I was in control, the impact on my life, what I was feeling. Yet these were mostly missing from the film.
And the biggest feelings were shame and disgust. The exact way those pictures of chips and burgers and pizza made me feel. Because that is the image I know people have in their heads any time BED is mentioned. It’s the reason why I didn’t tell anyone except a few GPs for over 3 decades. Not even my family. It’s also the reason why I have finally broken my silence. Stigma thrives in secrecy.
BBC, would you use these images in a report for any other eating disorder? All of them include subjective binges to some extent, yet I know you would not.
And now we come to the film’s second message, and this one hit the mark. Go speak to your GP. Except that GPs don’t believe people with BED. They know very little about BED, because they only get a few hours of training on eating disorders. If you are lucky enough to find a GP who understands, the chances are that the local Eating Disorder Service is only offering treatment for anorexia and bulimia or people with a very low BMI. I won the postcode lottery. But only after more than 3 decades of diet advice from the GPs I asked for help. I truly hope that this will change as awareness increases.
So thank you BBC for highlighting BED this week. But please, next time you report on it, can you leave the diet culture lens at home? Can you leave out the food images? Can you focus on the fact that it’s a mental illness? Can you challenge shame and stigma? Can you consider the lack of support and offer practical advice?
People with BED have been shamed, underdiagnosed, and failed by the system for so long. The BBC has the power to help change that. Please help us to be heard with respect and understanding. This report was a great start, but I know you could do so much more as an organisation. I write this in the hope that you raise this issue again, with kindness and without stereotypes, so that others don’t spend decades in pain and secrecy like I did.
Sharon, The BED Post Blog
I am also emailing this direct to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you missed the report, it is on Sarah’s Instagram account: @the_binge_eating_therapist