How to Help Someone Struggling with Binge Eating

helping a loved one who is struggling with binge eating

Written By:


Ryann Nicole

Are you looking for ways to help a friend or family member who is struggling with binge eating? It’s entirely normal to feel bewildered, unsure of how to provide the right kind of support. Eating disorders can be incredibly complex and challenging to grasp, especially if you haven’t personally experienced them. In this guide, we’ll begin by shedding light on the nature of eating disorders, with a particular focus on binge eating.

An eating disorder is a severe mental and physical illness that knows no boundaries in terms of gender, age, race, ethnicity, or body size. While the precise causes are not fully understood, research indicates that eating disorders are a complex interplay of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors.

Binge eating is a specific type of eating disorder characterized by the consumption of abnormally large quantities of food in a short time, often leading to physical discomfort. The individuals who struggle with binge eating typically feel powerless to stop this behavior.

Now, as we delve deeper into this topic, we’ll explore how you can provide valuable support and understanding to someone dealing with binge eating.

7 Things You Can Do To Help

Now that we have a grasp of what binge eating entails, it’s time to discuss some practical steps you can take to assist someone who is facing this challenging disorder:

01. Foster a Healthy Relationship with Food and Body

You might think, “But it’s not about me; it’s about them.” However, it’s essential to recognize that your own relationship with food and your body can have a significant impact on the person struggling with binge eating. They may pick up on subtle cues and behaviors, even if you’re not openly dealing with binge eating yourself.

This is why one of the most effective ways to help someone grappling with binge eating is to model a healthy relationship with food and body for them. Your actions and attitudes towards food can serve as a powerful example, and your loved one may be observing and learning from you more than you realize.

By demonstrating a balanced, respectful, and positive approach to food and your body, you can indirectly show them what a healthy relationship with food looks like. Remember, actions often speak louder than words, and your own relationship with food can influence and inspire them on their journey to recovery.

Now, let’s talk about something practical. You might have items in your house that are related to dieting – things like food scales, body weight scales, containers from diet programs, or even diet books. These things can send a message that dieting and food control are the norm. They can make someone who struggles with binge eating feel like they are constantly being watched and judged.

If you want to help your loved one who is dealing with binge eating, consider removing these diet-related items from your home. This action can create a safer and more supportive environment. It helps reduce the focus on diets and external rules around food.

However, I understand that getting rid of these things might not be easy for everyone. It can be challenging because we live in a world that often promotes dieting. If you find it hard to remove these items, it’s okay. Remember that it’s more important to work on your own relationship with food and your body, as mentioned in step 1. This can help you be a positive role model for your loved one as they work on their recovery from binge eating.

03. Goodbye to Food and Body Talk – Let’s Change the Conversation

It’s time to talk about how we can create a more supportive atmosphere. If you want to help someone dealing with binge eating, it’s essential to avoid discussing food or body image around them. Even if you have good intentions, comments about food and bodies can be more harmful than helpful.

When your loved one talks about food, their body, or their weight negatively, it’s best not to get involved in those conversations. Such discussions can make them feel even more self-conscious and uncomfortable.

Instead, let’s change the subject to things that are positive and enjoyable. You can talk about:

  • Things they enjoy
  • How their day went
  • Upcoming events or plans
  • Happy moments and positive experiences

This shift in conversation can help create a more relaxed and supportive environment for your loved one, where they don’t feel the pressure to focus on their food and body all the time. It’s about offering them a break from these topics and allowing them to engage in conversations that uplift their spirits.

04. Stay in Your Own Space

Now, this step can be a bit challenging, but it’s super important. You see, unless you’re a professional who specializes in eating disorders, it’s best to stay in your own lane when it comes to giving advice about how your loved one can heal. Your heart is in the right place, but sometimes too much advice from well-meaning folks can be overwhelming and unhelpful.

Think of it like this: If your car breaks down, you’d take it to a mechanic, right? Well, when someone’s struggling with binge eating, they need a kind of mechanic too – a trained professional who knows how to help with eating disorders.

So, your job is to care for your own mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Their struggle affects you too, and you need support. Encourage them to seek help from a professional who understands their situation and can provide the right guidance. You’re like the co-pilot here, supporting them on the journey to healing, but you’re not flying the plane.

05. Be Their Safe Space

Imagine being a cozy blanket on a chilly day for your loved one. If you want to help someone struggling with binge eating, you can be their safe space. That means they should feel comfortable and relaxed around you, knowing you won’t judge or lecture them.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Share real meals with them. Sit down at the table and eat together.
  • Help them feel calm and loved.
  • Offer your unwavering support, like a cheerleader on their team.

06. Let Them Decide When They’re Ready

Sometimes, people aren’t ready for help, even when their loved ones are concerned. It can be tough to watch someone struggle, and you might want to force them into therapy or treatment. But here’s the deal: it’s not effective if they’re not willing.

Recovery has to be their decision. They need to reach that point where they truly want it for themselves. It might be tough, but it’s a crucial part of their journey. While they’re finding their way, remember that taking care of yourself (like in step 4) is super important.

07. Educate Yourself

Learning about binge eating and eating disorders can be incredibly helpful. It’s like becoming an expert on how to support your loved one. There are many resources available that can provide valuable insights.

Here’s what you can do:

Understanding more about these issues will help you provide better support and make your loved one’s journey to recovery a little easier.

In short: Eating disorders are complicated and challenging to deal with. If you want to help someone with binge eating, I understand it can be hard. But by learning more, being supportive, creating a safe environment, and avoiding harmful conversations, you’re doing a great job in assisting your loved one. It might take time and feel awkward, but your support can make a big difference in their life.

Want to hear what experiencing binge eating is actually like? 

Listen to the detailed version of my binge eating story

Must Read Books To Educate Yourself On Binge Eating

Just so you know, I do review everything I recommend. When you buy through links on this page, we may earn a commission.

Intuitive Eating by Elise Resch and Evelyn Tribole 

When it was first published, Intuitive Eating was revolutionary in its anti-dieting approach. The authors, both prominent health professionals in the field of nutrition and eating disorders, urge readers to embrace the goal of developing body positivity and reconnecting with one’s internal wisdom about eating―to unlearn everything they were taught about calorie-counting and other aspects of diet culture and to learn about the harm of weight stigma.

Health At Every Size by Lindo Bacon

Fat isn’t the problem. Dieting is the problem. A society that rejects anyone whose body shape or size doesn’t match an impossible ideal is the problem. A medical establishment that equates “thin” with “healthy” is the problem. The solution? Health at Every Size. Tune in to your body’s expert guidance. Find the joy in movement. Eat what you want, when you want, choosing pleasurable foods that help you to feel good. You too can feel great in your body right now—and Health at Every Size will show you how.

Anti-Diet by Christy Harrison

In Anti-Diet, Christy Harrison takes on diet culture and the multi-billion-dollar industries that profit from it, exposing all the ways it robs people of their time, money, health, and happiness. It will turn what you think you know about health and wellness upside down, as Harrison explores the history of diet culture, how it’s infiltrated the health and wellness world, how to recognize it in all its sneaky forms, and how letting go of efforts to lose weight or eat “perfectly” actually helps to improve people’s health—no matter their size. Drawing on scientific research, personal experience, and stories from patients and colleagues, Anti-Diet provides a radical alternative to diet culture, and helps readers reclaim their bodies, minds, and lives so they can focus on the things that truly matter.

Ryann Nicole

Licensed Therapist, Certified Nutritionist, and Virtual Wellness Coach

Ryann is a licensed therapist and virtual wellness coach who has assisted individuals worldwide in establishing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies.

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Ryann is a licensed therapist and virtual wellness coach who has assisted individuals worldwide in establishing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies.