This crucial moment in the early days of the fat acceptance movement often garners scant mention in the historical record.
In 2008, Chevese Turner founded the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) recognizing the need for an organization to advocate on behalf of individuals affected by binge eating disorder (BED) and the providers who treat them. Chevese is an award-winning activist and speaks regularly about her journey with BED, weight stigma, and the need for recognition of and access to care for those with eating disorders. It is largely through the work of BEDA under Chevese’s leadership that Binge Eating Disorder is finally recognized in the DSM-V (2013). Binge Eating Disorder occurs more commonly than any other eating disorder, but is the least understood.
Chevese is a fierce advocate of social justice in the eating disorder treatment community and has helped to directly name one of the most under-acknowledged treatment variables in eating disorders – weight stigma. When she met Rebecca Puhl, a weight bias and stigma researcher with the Rudd Center, she encouraged her to survey eating disorder treatment professionals about weight bias, and the data is eye opening. It won’t be surprising to many of you that we have a lot of work to do and we must be willing to look at and address how weight bias is impacting treatment outcomes.
We learned of Chevese when we came across this valuable article, where she reminded us:
“We are all in this boat together and in the tradition of the great social justice leaders before us, we must look at the difficult aspects of our issues, embrace our own internalization of the beliefs and behaviors that fuel the issues and injustices, and lead the way toward change.
This is not a matter of “justifying fatness” or “denying there is a problem.” This is a matter of allowing people to find their paths to well-being free of judgment and shame. It is a matter of human dignity and I encourage you to take a step back, think about what you believe about higher weight individuals and challenge these beliefs. Think about your words and how much power they hold. Think about how you have internalized the beliefs and possibly harmed yourself or others as a result. Think about what these internalized messages mean for your clients, your families, your peers, and others.”
We are grateful for her tireless efforts to make the world a better place for all bodies. We are honored to now know her as a dear friend and colleague. This past year has been a big one for Chevese. In August, she and Amy Pershing, LMSW, ACSW published a book together called “Binge Eating Disorder: The Journey to Recovery and Beyond. This highly readable, relatable book is written from a weight-inclusive, trauma-informed perspective that is a “practical roadmap for insight, resilience, and lasting change that will be useful for anyone seeking recovery and for those who support and treat them through the process of healing.” In October, BEDA announced their merger with the National Eating Disorders Association “to unify the eating disorders community and improve access to services and support across the entire spectrum of these illnesses.” In the announcement, Chevese writes, “Eating disorders affect people of all sizes, races, genders, sexual identities, socioeconomic status, abilities, and diagnoses. We are thrilled to join forces to confront harmful stereotypes and send a message that we are stronger together. Everyone is welcome in our newly combined community.”
It is our sincerest hope that Chevese is able to receive our collective gratitude for her in all of her facets; as colleague, as advocate, as friend, as fellow human being. Here’s what people had to say…
“Chevese, you are one of my nearest and dearest on this crazy path of life. There is no one who has done more for making BED, finally, part of the wider discussion of eating disorders, especially for people living in higher weight bodies. All of us in this community owe you a great debt: you have lead the way in pushing through our stories of shame, helping us use our voices to tell truth. Please know you are held in many hearts with deep gratitude. Thank you.”
-Amy Pershing LMSW, ACSW
“I treasure Chevese Turner. She is extraordinarily accomplished as an advocate for compassionate weight-inclusive care, but her true mark in this world is that all she does comes from the heart.”
-Linda Bacon, PhD
“Dear Chevese, I remember BEDA’s first conference. I remember thinking, “this is so necessary and vital, what she’s doing.” I remember learning about BEDA’s merger with NEDA. I remember thinking “this makes so much sense and is full of so much possibility for both organizations.” I remember all of our conversations in between. About nonprofit life. About deliberate action. About leadership. About truth in all the ways. What I want to say is: thank you. Thank you for the totality of your being that you poured into this work. Thank you for all of the labor – so much of it unpaid – that you gave on behalf of a community. Thank you for your unwavering commitment to social justice. Thank you for modeling vulnerability and grace. Because of you, this field is forever changed. That is a magnificent legacy, my dear friend. I can’t wait to see how your work carries forward and continues its indelible impact. I love you. Carmen”
-Carmen Cool MA, LPC
“Chevese Turner’s work has profoundly changed the world of eating disorders. The Binge Eating Disorder Association gave voice to the biggest group of people diagnosed with eating disorders, who had been leading a kind of shadow existence in the field before her work and that of others led to their specific inclusion in DSM-5. This legitimization has not been met with uniform acceptance, as the field continues to be plagued by its weight bias and stigma. I am so grateful to Chevese for doing this work, especially in this critical time of integration with NEDA and accountability for AED. Her authenticity, transparency, nuance, humor, passion, and stamina have brought all sorts of people together to make things better!”
-Deb Burgard, PhD, FAED
“I would like to acknowledge Chevese’s way of expressing what we need to hear, what is really occurring and in doing so sending out an invitation to do different, to honor and care for one another with respect and dignity, no matter what. Her words and work are potent and inspiring and as a Body Trust® Provider are part of my practice. I am grateful. I would like to thank her and wish her all the very best. I wonder if she has any idea about just how many lives she has influenced. Grateful that she is here.”
-Liz Gow, Certified Body Trust Provider, MNZAC
“Dearest Chevese, Your courage and ability to not just see but name a problem and act to do something about it, is a true inspiration. Largely because of your insistence and valiant efforts, our field’s most powerful organizations and thought leaders have made immense progress in recognizing issues of weight stigma, diversity, inclusion, and social justice in eating disorders. You have also inspired me personally to reach places where I may not have gone, and, to keep trying. You are a guide and mentor for how to be brave and speak your truth, as our silence serves no one except those who have harmed us. Thank you for all you do, but most importantly your friendship. Know that I cherish it. Cheers to you! xoxo, Janell”
-Janell Mensiger, PhD
“Chevese has brought, and continues to bring, much needed change to the eating disorder field. Her founding of BEDA allowed people with BED to realize they weren’t alone and pushed the eating disorder field to recognize BED as an eating disorder that’s just as worthy and deserving of treatment as anorexia and bulimia. Chevese continues to help the eating disorder field do better by talking about the impact of weight stigma in the field and the harm that it does. Chevese is a teacher I respect and admire in her ability to create change, center social justice, take risks, be vulnerable and authentic, and acknowledge when she makes mistakes. Chevese shared her story and talked about BED at a time when the eating disorder field was not open to these things and as such has given permission for countless others in the field to do the same. I am grateful for the work Chevese has done and feel honored to know her.”
-Rachel Millner, Psy.D., CEDS
“Dear Chevese, Your hard work and capable leadership in changing how the world understands BED and weight stigma have made such an impact on the ED treatment field and so many people’s lives. I have deep gratitude for the ways you have brought your voice, your vulnerability, and your professional skills to foster change and create space to build strength at the intersection of the fat acceptance movement and eating disorder treatment. On a personal level, the day I recognized BED and claimed it as one way to describe my life experiences, I felt an intense solidarity with so many other people who’d also been suffering in shame and silence like I had been. It has been a big piece of the puzzle in my healing process. Thank you.”
“When I think of you, Chevese, I first think of how lucky I am to know you, and to have worked (and fought!) beside you for us to be recognized in the eating disorder treatment and recovery world. Then I think of how courageous you have been as you have trailblazed the way forward for so many of us, and made it safer for so many of us to speak up and say ‘we are here – we count too’. You have changed the way eating disorders are treated here in the US, and I’m proud to know you and to have your back. All of this plus your warmth, your sense of humor, your stories about your boys, your beautiful smile – so much to love and cherish!! With deepest respect and love.”
-Lisa Du Breuil, LICSW
“Chevese Turner is a trailblazing social justice warrior. She has committed herself completely to ensuring that marginalized folx are seen and treated in this field. She centers her work around inclusion. I have seen what she has done to open doors for accessibility from working on policy, being a voice for social justice in leadership gatherings to creating safe spaces for marginalized clinicians at BEDA conferences. For me personally, Chevese has been so available to hear my thoughts and experiences in this field. Deep appreciation and LOVE for Chevese!”
-Marcella M Raimondo, PhD, MPH
“I remember the day well. I had traveled to Portland to attend my first eating disorder conference. I was a baby in this, so eager to learn and yet so incredibly scared. I took my seat, and then, there you were. You spoke about BED, something I had not yet claimed out loud for myself, but something that I knew as well as I knew myself. You spoke with passion and advocacy and I could feel my heart swell and I knew my life wasn’t quite going to be what I thought I first thought. I cried on the way home, feeling seen and validated and like I had a mission. A path that had been laid for me and a door that was wide open. I am so thankful for the work you have done and still continue to do. You put yourself in the front, staked a claim for those of us that didn’t even know we had yet had a fight to win. I am so honored to know you, honored to fight next to you, honored to add my voice to the mix that is getting stronger and louder. Thank you.”
“Dearest Chevese, With so much love and appreciation for the work you’ve done to create and build BEDA, and now to take this next big step of joining with NEDA. I’ve watched you move through the world with vision, strength and vulnerability. Please always remember that vulnerability is a strength, and that as a community we’re all here for each other. It’s been an honor to learn from—and contribute to—BEDA over the years, and I’m excited to see where your continued leadership takes our active and vibrant movement in the years to come. With gratitude and love, Judith”
-Judith Matz, LCSW
“It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Chevese is a visionary in the eating disorders field. I could see that from the moment I met her. She called for recognition and respect on behalf of those affected by binge eating disorder before the illness had an official diagnosis. Chevese says what needs to be said, and I have witnessed again and again how her courage is contagious. She is a bold, brave, authentic changemaker like no other. I’m proud to call her a friend and look forward to much more change making ahead. Punk rock kindred spirits!”
-Claire Mysko, CEO, NEDA
Chevese allows this work to be personal, which directly challenges the top-down, medical model, and expert stance that creates distance between providers and those living with eating disorders. Her heart – and her own healing – informs her work which has allowed many more folks to see their suffering as an eating disorder instead of as a “failed dieter.” Her precedent has disallowed ignoring the impact of weight stigma in the ED field (although many still try). Our friendship with Chevese has revealed her tireless commitment to this work, literally putting everything she had and could source into advocating for equal treatment for folks with BED as well as those experiencing eating disorders in larger bodies and other marginalized intersections. Body Trust® would not be what it has become without Chevese’s influence. And we cannot imagine the state of the field without her commitment, generosity, and fierce and tenacious advocacy. We can imagine that Chevese is reading this wishing she could acknowledge the privilege she brings to this work. We are grateful she has used it in such needed and decisive service.