If someone you love has binge eating disorder, you might wonder how to talk to them about it. Maybe you're afraid the person will get upset or mad. Or maybe you aren’t sure of the right words to use.
As long as you're thoughtful about what you say and how you say it, it's okay to have the conversation. These tips can help you:
Don’t say: “We need to talk right now.”
Talk to your loved one when they are ready and willing. Opt to chat in a place where they feel comfortable -- for example, their own home, instead of a public space. It’s best to avoid places where food is involved, such as a restaurant.
Don’t say: “You have to get help.”
Your loved one might not be ready to get help -- or even admit that they have a problem. It’s up to them to decide they want to get better.
Let them know that you’ll support them if and when they want help. One way to do this is to always avoid “you statements.” For example, “You’re eating too much,” or “You’re worrying me.” Instead, use “I statements” -- “I’m worried about you. I'm here if you want to talk.”
Don’t say anything about weight.
Never mention your loved one’s weight, regardless of whether they look thinner, heavier, or the same as usual.
Even statements that you mean as positive (“You look just fine!”) can be misunderstood and viewed as criticism. Plus, worries about weight or dieting can make a person more likely to have a binge. That’s why it’s important not to discuss your own weight or eating habits in front of them, too.
Don’t say anything about food choices.
Even if your loved one is trying not to binge or has recovered from binge eating disorder, it’s not up to you to criticize, praise, or judge their food choices. Leave that up to their therapist, dietitian, or treatment team.
Binge eating disorder isn’t just about food. It’s a mental illness. Getting better involves much more than “not overeating.”
Don’t say: “But you seem fine.”
What if your loved one isn't overweight? Or what if they don't behave in ways that seem unhealthy to you?
The bottom line is that they can still have an eating disorder. Chances are your loved one doesn’t overeat in front of you, since most people with binge eating disorder binge in secret.
Saying or implying they are fine can make it seem like you don’t think they need or should get help.
But Do Say...
- “I care about you.”
- “I want you to be happy and healthy.”
- “I’m here for you when you need me.”
- “I’m going to support you through this.”
- “I won’t share what you tell me with anyone else without your permission.”
- “I won’t judge you.”
Also, remember: Sometimes the best thing you can do to support someone with binge eating disorder is not to talk, but to listen.