How to Help Someone with Binge Eating Disorder (BED) - dummies

How to Help Someone with Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

By Jennie Kramer, Marjorie Nolan Cohn

Part of Overcoming Binge Eating For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Loving someone who has binge eating disorder, or BED, can be challenging. You want to be supportive, but being overly involved is counterproductive. These tips can help you find ways to be engaged without feeling overwhelmed:

  • Encourage her to get professional help. The longer BED goes untreated, the more difficult it is to overcome, so urge your loved one to see a health professional right away.

  • Be a supportive listener. Listen without judgment, this will show that you care. If your loved one slips up and binges on the road to recovery, remind him that it doesn’t mean he can’t get better.

  • Be supportive not berating. Aim for positive comments only. Binge eaters feel bad enough about themselves already; using negative language only works against recovery efforts. By being optimistic and stating how much you care, you help in a constructive way.

  • Avoid insults, lectures, or guilt trips. Lecturing, getting frustrated, or issuing ultimatums to a binge eater generally only increases stress and makes the situation worse. Instead, make it clear that you care about the binge eater’s health and happiness and you’ll continue to be there throughout the recovery process.

  • Lead by example. By eating healthily, exercising, and managing stress without food you are indirectly helping your loved one. Binge eaters (just like all people with eating disorders) need healthy examples. By being a healthy person in both mind and body, you’re supporting her recovery.

  • Don’t be the food police. One thing that’s well-intended but never helpful is monitoring what someone eats. Being told what to eat, how much to eat, being watched while eating, or hiding, limiting, or commenting on food choices only perpetuates the problem and adds layers of shame and guilt. It doesn’t add structure — it adds criticism, which only echoes that which is already always playing in the mind of the binge eater. Resist the urge to monitor, comment, or offer advice about eating. You can show your love in other ways.

  • Take care of yourself. Know when to seek advice for yourself from a counselor or health professional. Helping someone deal with BED can be stressful, and having your own support system in place helps you help your loved one.

  • Don’t focus on weight loss. Asking “how much weight did you lose?” or “how much do you want to lose?” is a natural question, but weight loss isn’t the point of treatment and may prevent your loved one from coming to you if she thinks that’s the only measure of her progress.

  • Don’t work harder than the binge eater on his recovery. The binge eater in your life needs to be doing most of the work and driving the process of recovery. It’s not that you shouldn’t help, but if you find yourself doing all the grocery shopping, keeping a calendar of treatment appointments, or having to cajole him to go to the appointments, it’s time to reevaluate. You probably have great intentions, but true recovery from binge eating requires that the binge eater herself find a reason to move forward and make progress.