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How To Support Someone With Binge Eating Disorder

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You might be tempted to say positive comments about her weight or body image as you think that it can make her feel good. But such comments that you think are harmless can trigger her self-doubt and shame. Don’t try to flatter her with things like “You’ve lost weight” or “You’re not fat, are you sure you have an eating disorder?” Stay away from topics that will make her feel bad about her body.

Rosewood Centers For Eating Disorders Family Program

When an individual enters treatment for anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder, families benefit from programs that are designed especially for them. provides education about eating disorders and tips on supporting your loved one in recovery. Family group and multi-family group therapy offer a supportive and open forum for sharing experiences and learning how to better communicate with one another. Family and friends are essential for supporting and encouraging someone in recovery from an eating disorder. Rosewood Centers for Eating Disorders puts a great deal of focus on facilitating and encouraging family involvement throughout the treatment process.

How Is Binge Eating Disorder Diagnosed

If a doctor thinks a child or teen might have a binge eating disorder, they’ll ask lots of questions about their medical history and dietary habits. The doctor will also ask about the family history, family eating patterns, and emotional issues.

After an exam, the doctor may order lab tests to check for health problems related to weight gain, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obstructive sleep apnea, and diabetes.

To diagnose binge eating disorder, doctors and mental health professionals look for signs such as:

  • eating more food than most people eat in a set period of time
  • a sense of lack of control over eating
  • binge eating, on average, at least once a week for at least 3 months
  • binge eating associated with:
  • eating faster than most people
  • eating until uncomfortably full

Keep A Food And Mood Journal

Keeping a food and mood journal that tracks what you eat and how you feel can be an effective tool. It can help identify potential emotional and food triggers and promote healthier eating habits.

One study in 17 people showed that using an online self-help program that involved keeping a food diary was associated with fewer self-reported episodes of binge eating .

Several other studies also suggest that tracking your intake may be linked to increased weight loss and aid long-term weight management .

To get started, simply start recording what you eat and how you feel each day using either a journal or app.

Summary Food and mood journals can help identify triggers to address potential problems. Studies show that using a food diary is associated with fewer episodes of binge eating, as well as increased weight loss.

What To Say And Do

Eating Disorder Help

Like with other mental disorders, people who have eating disorders often lack the self-awareness to recognize they are in distress. Because shame and secrecy characterize binge eating disorder, people who struggle may not acknowledge that they have a problem.

There are many things you can do to support a family member who has binge eating disorder. Above all, be kind and compassionate, because your loved one is suffering much more than you can know.


  • Learn about binge eating disorder so you know the signs.
  • Talk about things other than food, weight, body size, calories, and exercise.
  • Discuss feelings instead.
  • Listen with respect and sensitivity.
  • Express your concern and desire to help.
  • Be available when you are needed.
  • Stay calm and be persistent; you will encounter resistance.


  • Try to solve the problem for your family member; he or she needs a qualified professional.
  • Get involved in a power struggle around eating.
  • Threaten or use scare tactics to get your loved one to change or seek treatment.
  • Focus on weight, body size, calories, eating habits, or exercise.
  • Blame your family member for doing something wrong.
  • Use food as a reward or punishment.
  • Be afraid to upset or talk to your loved one.
  • Reject or ignore your family member; he or she needs you.

There are also many things you can do to help stop weight-based bullying:

Binge Eating Disorder Can Affect A Persons Physical Mental And Emotional Health Supporting A Friend With Binge Eating Disorder Might Help Inspire Them To Seek The Help That They Need

Matt Gonzales is an award-winning content writer. He has covered the latest drug trends, analyzed… read more

With over a decade of editing experience, Tom is a content specialist for Advanced Recovery Systems,… read more

Binge eating disorder involves more than overeating. It is a psychological condition that is recognized by the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a formal psychiatric diagnosis.

Many people with binge eating disorder do not eat because they are hungry. They typically eat as a way to cope with negative feelings. If you have a friend that grapples with binge eating, you can support them in several ways.

Table of Contents

Diagnosis Of Binge Eating Disorder

To diagnose binge eating disorder or other eating disorders, a doctor will need to:

  • do a full physical examination
  • do blood tests
  • ask questions about your health, including your emotional health and wellbeing, medical history and lifestyle.

Understanding the warning signs and symptoms and seeking help as soon as possible will help your recovery.

Identify Your Triggers With A Food And Mood Diary

One of the best ways to identify the patterns behind your binge eating is to keep track with a food and mood diary. Every time you overeat or feel compelled to reach for your version of comfort food Kryptonite, take a moment to figure out what triggered the urge. If you backtrack, you’ll usually find an upsetting event that kicked off the binge.

Write it all down in your food and mood diary: what you ate , what happened to upset you, how you felt before you ate, what you felt as you were eating, and how you felt afterward. Over time, you’ll see a pattern emerge.

Psychological Symptoms Of Binge Eating Disorder

Psychological signs and symptoms can include: 

  • preoccupation or obsession with eating, food or body image
  • sensitivity to comments about food, dieting, exercise or body image
  • feelings of shame, guilt and self-loathing, especially after a binge eating episode
  • feelings of extreme distress, sadness and anxiety, especially after a binge eating episode
  • a distorted body image or extreme dissatisfaction with body shape
  • low self-esteem, depression, anxiety or irritability.

Do:express Your Love And Support

Firstly, let the person know that you are there for them. Sounds pretty simple right? But sometimes you actually need to say it and not just assume that they know it. One of the things about Binge Eating Disorder is we get used to being secretive. We binge in secret, we eat in secret, and we tend to keep our fears and emotions close to our hearts. Nobody likes to burden others with problems, so it can be hard to know who to speak to, or even what to say. Letting someone know that you are there and that you love them no matter what, can help immensely. Even if you don’t know what to say, or if they choose not to speak about it, just showing that you care and that you will listen when needed can do the world of good.

What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eaters usually are unhappy about their weight and many feel .

Someone who’s binge eating also might:

  • eat a lot of food quickly
  • hide food containers or wrappers in their room
  • have big changes in their weight
  • skip meals, eat at unusual times , and eat alone
  • have a history of eating in response to emotional stress

People who binge might have feelings that are common in many eating disorders, such as depression, anxiety, guilt, or shame. They may avoid school, work, or socializing with friends because they’re ashamed of their binge eating problem or changes in their body shape and weight.

When kids or teen binge eat, parents may first suspect a problem when large amounts of food go missing from the pantry or refrigerator.

Binge eating is different from bulimia, another eating disorder. People with bulimia binge eat, but try to make up for overeating by throwing up, using laxatives, or to lose weight.

Getting Help For Binge Eating Disorder

BED affects almost 2% of people worldwide and can cause additional health issues linked to diet, such as diabetes, intestinal issues, high cholesterol levels and hormone imbalances. That’s not to say that if you binge eat you’ll develop these health issues, but your body may react negatively to this style of eating and it could impact your physical health as well as your mental health.

If you think you may have binge eating disorder, speak to a doctor or licensed health professional or, if you feel comfortable to do so, check in with a friend, family member or loved one to discuss your concerns. Much of what it takes to overcome an eating disorder is rooted in pushing shame aside and being honest with yourself and others about your feelings, habits and routines. 

You can also have a confidential conversation with an adviser from eating disorders charity  by calling its adult helpline on 0808 801 0677 or youth helpline on 0808 801 0711.

Dealing With Guilt After Eating

How to Help a Friend With Binge Eating Disorder

And here it is, the number 1 most read article on Recovery Warriors. It’s no surprise this article is about coping with guilt after eating. Because feeling guilty after eating only adds to more uncomfortable feelings, it’s important to learn how to interrupt the cycle of self-loathing and shame that is often experienced. This encouraging article offers insight, hope, and encouragement for everyone who is in the journey of recovering.

Take Excellent Care Of Yourself

Demonstrate self-acceptance and kindness to yourself. Avoid making any negative comments about your own eating or weight. Strive to maintain a healthy body based on sound nutrition, moderate exercise and a holistic approach to your health. The example you set will likely inspire and encourage your loved one to do the same.

Loving and supporting our close friends and family members through challenges is part of how we develop deep and meaningful bonds.

Your ability to respectfully and compassionately stand by your loved one is a gift that they will undoubtedly appreciate. They will be better able to accept, deal with and recover from binge eating disorder when they know you are a positive and supportive person in their life.

Even though it can be painful to accept that someone we loved in dealing with binge eating disorder, it is an exceptional opportunity for you to shine through your understanding and support.

About the author:

Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC – Founder & Director

Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC founded Eating Disorder Hope in 2005, driven by a profound desire to help those struggling with anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder. This passion resulted from her battle with, and recovery from, an eating disorder. As president, Jacquelyn manages Ekern Enterprises, Inc. and the Eating Disorder Hope website. In addition, she is a fully licensed therapist with a closed private counseling practice specializing in the treatment of eating disorders.

Tip 4: Support Yourself With Healthy Lifestyle Habits

When you’re physically strong, relaxed, and well rested, you’re better able to handle the curveballs that life inevitably throws your way. But when you’re already exhausted and overwhelmed, any little hiccup has the potential to send you off the rails and straight toward the refrigerator. Exercise, sleep, and other healthy lifestyle habits will help you get through difficult times without binge eating.

Make time for regular exercise. Physical activity does wonders for your mood and your energy levels, and it’s also a powerful stress reducer. The natural mood-boosting effects of can help put a stop to emotional eating.

Get enough sleep every night. When you don’t get the sleep you need, your body craves sugary foods that will give you a quick energy boost. Sleep deprivation may even trigger food addiction. Getting plenty of rest will help with appetite control and reduce food cravings, and support your mood.

Connect with others. Don’t underestimate the importance of close relationships and social activities. You’re more likely to succumb to binge eating triggers if you lack a solid support network. Talking helps, even if it’s not with a professional.

Manage stress. One of the most important aspects of controlling binge eating is to find alternate ways to handle stress and other overwhelming feelings without using food. These may include meditating, using sensory relaxation strategies, and practicing simple breathing exercises.

How To Recognize Binge Eating

Spending time with a friend who has binge eating disorder can be difficult. People with binge eating disorder can experience several physical, emotional and behavioral changes that make it hard to maintain healthy relationships.

Recognizing binge eating disorder in a friend can be difficult because many people with the condition maintain a healthy weight. If your friend has binge eating disorder, they may deal with symptoms that may include:

  • Stealing or hoarding food
  • Expressing concerns about body weight
  • Appearing uncomfortable when eating around others
  • Exhibiting low self-esteem
  • Engaging in substance abuse

A friend experiencing binge eating disorder may routinely request to eat alone. When they do overeat, they might exhibit shame and guilt over their actions.

Tip 2: Find Better Ways To Feed Your Feelings

One of the most common reasons for binge eating is an attempt to manage unpleasant emotions such as stress, depression, loneliness, fear, and anxiety. When you have a bad day, it can seem like food is your only friend. Binge eating can temporarily make feelings such as stress, sadness, anxiety, depression, and boredom evaporate into thin air. But the relief is very fleeting.

What Causes A Binge Eating Disorder

It’s hard to self diagnose an eating disorder but a condition like this, and many other food-related mental health issues are triggered by a variety of social and biological factors. For example, it’s been suggested that people with BED may have increased sensitivity to dopamine, a chemical in the brain that’s responsible for feelings of reward and pleasure. There is also strong evidence that the disorder is genetically inherited. 

Body size and body image issues also have a role to play. People with BED often have a very negative relationship body image and many identify as being fat or overweight. The pressure to adhere to beauty standards that celebrate slimness and demonise fat bodies can wreak havoc on one’s mental health and are often a contributing catalyst to conditions like binge eating disorder. 

Do:speak Positively About Body Image

Sharing what you love about yourself and others can motivate them to do the same. I’m not talking about “oh I love how slender my legs are” but more so in acknowledging self-worth rather than what you look like, and all the amazing things your body can do regardless of your physical appearance.

Examples  “I love my lips, they look great with lipstick”, ~ “I’m not going to let my weight stop me from wearing this bikini, I like it and I feel comfortable”,  ~ “I am loving my hair at the moment it feels so healthy” or  ~ “I love my curves” .

Sure, share your achievements too, like if you have a toned stomach, but just be wary that it might make your B.E.D person feel a bit shit. We like to feel proud of you, but also don’t want you to rub it in… Maybe find a nice way to bring it up…. or maybe just tell it to others ? 

Learn To Tolerate The Feelings That Trigger Your Binge Eating

The next time you feel the urge to binge, instead of giving in, take a moment to stop and investigate what’s going on inside.

Identify the emotion you’re feeling. Do your best to name what you’re feeling. Is it anxiety? Shame? Hopelessness? Anger? Loneliness? Fear? Emptiness?

Accept the experience you’re having. Avoidance and resistance only make negative emotions stronger. Instead, try to accept what you’re feeling without judging it or yourself.

Dig deeper. Explore what’s going on. Where do you feel the emotion in your body? What kinds of thoughts are going through your head?

Distance yourself. Realize that you are NOT your feelings. Emotions are passing events, like clouds moving across the sky. They don’t define who you are.

Sitting with your feelings may feel extremely uncomfortable at first. Maybe even impossible. But as you resist the urge to binge, you’ll start to realize that you don’t have to give in. There are other ways to cope. Even emotions that feel intolerable are only temporary. They’ll quickly pass if you stop fighting them. You’re still in control. You can choose how to respond.

For a step-by-step guide to learning how to manage unpleasant and uncomfortable emotions, check out HelpGuide’s free Emotional Intelligence Toolkit.

I Know It’s Difficult But I’m Proud Of You

How to stop binge eating disorder, Stop overeating ...

This is so helpful to hear. Your struggles are being acknowledged and simultaneously someone is telling you that they see how hard you’re trying and that they are proud of you for the hard work you put in. Because although hanging on the sofa with a tub of ice cream seems like the perfect night in for you, for someone recovering even a small bite can be a struggle. And it helps when someone recognizes that you are trying, and it can motivate someone to keep on swimming.

Step 2: Dont Skip Your Meals

Aim to eat at least three meals and three snacks a day, no more than 3-4 hours apart.

Eating regularly combats two dangerous dieting behaviours: delaying eating and caloric restriction .

Studies have shown that these two dieting behaviours can  lead to many negative health outcomes, including binge eating, psychological impairment, depression symptoms, and anxiety symptoms.

Eating regularly and flexibly will help you gain more control over your eating by eliminating problematic forms of dieting, minimizing any urges to binge, and reducing your frequency of binge eating.

Plus you’ll love the sustained energy you’ll have throughout the day!

How to do it? Plan! Plan! Plan! Each night, plan and write down when you’re going to eat your meals and snacks. Don’t stress about what to eat, because the initial focus is on gaining momentum, stability, and regularity.

We’ll cover how to modify the contents of your food in Step 4.

You might want to eat based on your body signals . But these signals are usually disrupted in those who binge, which means you’ll find it hard to distinguish between hunger and satiety.

That said, once you’ve adopted a consistent pattern of regular eating, these cues should eventually return, making you much better able to follow a pattern of intuitive eating.

How To Help Someone With An Eating Disorder

If a friend or relative has an eating disorder, such as , orbinge eating disorder, you will probably want to do everything you can to help them recover.

You’re already doing a great job by finding out more about eating disorders and how to try to support them – it shows you care and helps you understand how they might be feeling.

Getting professional help from a doctor, practice nurse, or a school or college nurse will give your friend or relative the best chance of getting better. But this can be one of the most difficult steps for someone living with an eating disorder, so try to encourage them to seek help or offer to go along with them.

You can support them in other ways, too:

  • Keep trying to include them – they may not want to go out or join in with activities, but keep trying to talk to them and ask them along, just like before. Even if they do not join in, they will still like to be asked. It will make them feel valued as a person.
  • Try to build up their self-esteem – perhaps by telling them what a great person they are and how much you appreciate having them in your life.
  • Give your time, listen to themand try not to give advice or criticise – this can be tough when you do not agree with what they say about themselves and what they eat. Remember, you do not have to know all the answers. Just making sure they know you’re there for them is what’s important. This is especially true when it feels like your friend or relative is rejecting your friendship, help and support.

How To Talk To Your Friend About Treatment

Not everyone who has binge eating disorder understands the importance of treatment. Talking to your friend about seeking treatment for binge eating disorder might inspire them to get the help they need.

Before bringing up the topic to your friend, do some research. Learning more about treatment and what it involves can better prepare you to hold a conversation with your friend with binge eating disorder. If they have questions, you might be able to answer some of them.

When talking to your friend about treatment, remember the following:

  • Be nonconfrontational
  • Express your concern for their health
  • Talk about how treatment can help them better manage their symptoms of binge eating disorder
  • Mention how it is against the law for therapists and counselors to reveal information about their patients
  • Provide them with treatment resources
  • Many treatment centers across the United States treat co-occurring disorders, like binge eating disorder and substance abuse. If you or a loved one experience substance use and mental health disorders, contact The Recovery Village. An admissions representative can talk to you about what to expect from treatment and how it can improve a person’s health.

    Do I Have A Binge Eating Disorder

    Recognising certain behaviours in yourself can be incredibly challenging but spotting them in someone else can make it easier to understand your own mental health and how you behave around food. 

    Someone you care about may have a binge eating disorder if they appear to fluctuate between eating very little and eating a lot of food, especially very quickly, if they attempt to conceal how much they eat, store up supplies of food, or struggle with weight and body image. 

    Supporting Someone With Binge Eating Disorder

    PDF file

    This booklet is for anyone supporting someone with binge eating disorder. It will help you understand more about binge eating disorder, and offers guidance on how to approach someone you’re concerned about, help them into treatment, and support them during recovery, as well as looking after yourself. It also suggests further useful resources.

    So There You Have It Warriors Our 8 Most Read Recovery Warriors Articles Of All Time

    Make sure you don’t miss any of them. We hope they bring you insight, wisdom, and encouragement for your journey. And remember, Recovery Warriors is a place of community, where people come together to share what we’ve been through and what we have learned. If you have a story of hope and healing or a valuable tip or lesson that can help others, and you want to write for us, we want to hear from you so we can share your story. For more information, visit our Write for Us information page.

    Behavioral Symptoms Of Binge Eating And Compulsive Overeating

    • Inability to stop eating or control what you’re eating.
    • Rapidly eating large amounts of food.
    • Eating even when you’re full.
    • Hiding or stockpiling food to eat later in secret.
    • Eating normally around others, but gorging when you’re alone.
    • Eating continuously throughout the day, with no planned mealtimes.

    Some Of The More Common Signs Of Binge Eating Disorder Are:

    Binge Eating Disorder

    If someone is developing binge eating disorder, often changes in behaviour are noticeable before changes to physical appearance. Signs include:

    • Buying lots of food
    • Organising life around bingeing episodes
    • Hoarding food
    • Compromise of education and employment plans

    Binge eating disorder is a mental illness, and you might notice changes in the way you or someone you know feels before physical symptoms become obvious. Psychological signs include:

    • Spending a lot or most of their time thinking about food
    • A sense of being out of control around food, or a loss of control over eating
    • Feeling anxious and tense, especially over eating in front of others
    • Low confidence and self-esteem
    • Feelings of shame and guilt after bingeing
    • Other mental illnesses, such as depression or anxiety

    There are several physical consequences associated with binge eating disorder:

    • Tiredness
    • Poor skin condition

    Like any eating disorder, binge eating disorder can have long-term physical effects, some of which may be permanent. These include:

    • Obesity
    • Damage to the oesophagus and stomach
    • Arthritis

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