Also known as compulsive overeating, binge eating disorder (BED) is a condition in which a person frequently consumes unusually large amounts of food and feels unable to stop eating. While nearly everyone can say they’ve had occasions where they’ve eaten more than usual or more than they should, for some people, excessive eating that feels out of control and occurs regularly usually develops into binge eating disorder. If you’re struggling to be there for a loved one who has this condition, below are some tips on how to support someone with binge eating disorder that can help.
Learning how to treat someone with binge eating disorder is going to be difficult if you don’t know a thing about their disorder other than the fact that it causes overeating. Eating disorders, in general, are complex diseases that are tied to underlying psychological issues and determining these issues in your loved one can prepare you to be a solid support system for them.
With that said, we encourage you to educate yourself on binge eating disorders. Read books, search credible websites, or speak to professionals who treat BED to understand the condition as best as possible. With a better grasp of what your loved one goes through, you’ll be quicker to practice patience and compassion with them.
Do not talk about diets, body image, or food with the person. Don’t ask them if they want to diet with you or about the latest dieting fads. Don’t bring up that new diet that you saw in People magazine. While your intentions may be good, discussing their physical appearance and food habits may only make them feel ashamed, embarrassed, and unwilling to open up to you when they’re struggling.
In addition to no diet talk, you also need to be careful to avoid using certain words or phrases. For instance, while you may think you’re complimenting them by saying things like, “You’re losing weight!” or “You don’t look like you have an eating disorder,” this can be extremely triggering. Remember that BED is rooted in deeper psychological issues, so avoid making comments on their physical appearance.
Additionally, avoid hurtful comments or terms like “skinny,” “fat,” “thin,” “scrawny,” and “chunky.” It’s also important to avoid saying things like, “If you’d only stop eating carbs, you’d lose weight,” or “Why not exercise more?” As much as you might be trying to help your loved one, this is not the way to do it.
Instead, find other ideas, interests, or hobbies to talk about. Shift conversations away from appearance, weight, and body image. Instead of complimenting them on their appearance, compliment something they did or a goal they achieved. It’s common for people with eating disorders to feel as if their identities are wrapped up in their disorders, so changing the conversation can make them feel loved and help them focus on positive things.
In the midst of learning how to support someone with binge eating disorder, it’s easy to fall into the trap of ultimatums and threats. As an outsider who doesn’t entirely understand how the person feels, you’ll experience plenty of frustrating moments. In these moments, make sure you avoid using ultimatums, threats, and demeaning language.
Saying things like, “If you binge again, I’ll take your phone away,” or “If you keep bingeing, I’m kicking you out of the house” can trigger the person’s symptoms and make their condition worse. They’ll also be less likely to ask for help in the future because of your response to their struggles. Instead, be clear and honest about how you feel and remind them that you’re here to help.
Validating someone’s feelings means you’re making it clear to them that you understand them. Don’t say, “I understand what you’re going through,” but rather, “I understand that you’re angry because you really wanted that job, and you meet all of the requirements for the position.”
To validate your loved one’s feelings, you can also listen to them without judgment and simply ask them more about their experience. Let them open up to you and simply act as a shoulder to cry on. Validating their feelings doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but it shows them that you’re actually interested in what they have to say and how they feel.
As a final note, the best way to be there for someone with BED is to make sure they get professional treatment. Whether you have a friend, parent, spouse, sibling, or coworker with BED, we offer binge eating disorder help at our center for eating disorders in Philadelphia.
With the help of skilled, highly trained, and dedicated counselors, nutritionists, and therapists, we ensure that our clients have everything they need to learn how to manage their symptoms and live lives that aren’t dictated by their disorders. No matter how severe your condition is, our facility can help.
For more information about our levels of eating disorder treatment in Philadelphia, call Banyan Treatment Center today at 888-280-4763.