Hard Habit to Break: How to Speak to Someone Who Binge Eats

Virtue, indeed, is in the middle. To a large degree, too much of a good thing is poison. We can say this is true to just about anything in life. A diligent student who studies too much without attending to his physical needs such as eating will end up less than taking the exams, for instance. On the other end of the spectrum, while food truly nourishes us, overeating can drastically affect our health.

Binge eating, for instance, if not corrected, can result in eventual weight gain. But that’s just the least of one’s worries. Once a person’s overweight, the list of life-threatening diseases due him get longer by the day. Top of that is cancer and heart disease.

Knowing all this, you certainly will feel concerned if someone in your inner circle displays binge-eating behavior, especially if you’re in a restaurant. It’s a natural reaction, especially if that someone you love. You’re inclined to stop them from falling into a steep pit. Know, however, that even as the impulse will tell you to lambast your loved one to behave, don’t. That action could be counterproductive.

If you want to help, be aware that restraining yourself is best. Certain words, when uttered, can have a negative psychological effect on a person struggling with an eating disorder. Below are phrases you should never say to someone who binge eats.

Never say, “We need to talk now”

You may wonder why someone would throw himself to food. And ask yourself: Why would someone eat non-stop, fully knowing that such actions are destructive to one’s body?

Indeed, it’s easy to be simplistic. And yet, know that binge-eating is not just a whimsical act that someone does out of the blue. It’s a severe eating disorder. We all are guilty of overeating every once in a while. The holiday season can attest to our second or third meal in a single evening. But binge-eating is excessive eating that’s out of control.

As serious as this eating disorder is, medical professionals should handle it. Expert talk therapy via Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), for one, has been proven effective to rein in binge-eating disorder in an individual when things go out of hand.

So when you get your special someone’s attention and tell him/her that you need to talk now, it’s telling that person you’re correcting his/her behavior right then and there.

That sends the message you don’t actually care. Instead, aim to talk to when the person’s willing and ready. Better yet, find a place where they would feel a lot more comfortable such as home or personal space.

This means that if you have a friend eating with you in a restaurant, and she’s binge eating, don’t stop her. Instead, let her be. Talk to her at the right time and the right place.

couple with conflict

Never say, “You need help”

Of course, they need help. Will you let someone cram food into your mouth if you’re hungry? Of course, not, right?

Your precious someone may not be willing to get help at this very moment. They may not realize they have a problem. As it’s their life, they should make a choice.

Make them realize they have your back whenever they decide to get help. A way to get your statements right is to stop using “you” comments such as “You’re eating longer than usual.” Instead, start your comments with an “I.” For instance, say, “I’m starting to worry about you. If you want to talk, let me know.”

Never Mention Weight Issues

Just don’t bring the topic up. It can be counterproductive. Whether they’re thinning or gaining weight, never talk about their weight. They may even view “you look alright” or “you look fine” statements as veiled criticisms. This can trigger them to binge eat even more. Again, it’s a vicious cycle. Someone with a binge eating disorder could eat everyday meals only to find their eating lead to more binge eating.

In addition, worries about dieting or weight can lead to more binge eating. So never mention weight, not even your own.

Never Mention Food Choices

Words can trigger emotions in someone struggling with binge eating. Another critical topic you should not bring up is food choices. So whether you’re suggesting or criticizing doesn’t matter. Just leave the options to them. If you want someone to influence them right, the therapist or diet experts should do so and not you.

Never Say, “But you look fine”

Many binge-eaters don’t start fat. They carry excess baggage only after some time. So your loved one could look fine, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have an eating disorder.

Remember, people with this eating disorder often eat in hiding. Saying they look fine implies you think they’re not battling an eating problem and should not seek needed help.

Words do matter. Instead of provoking negative behavior, show your loved one you care about them right from the get-go. Words such as “I am here for you if you need me” are therefore spot-on. With that in mind, sometimes the most sensible thing you can do is not to talk but to give them your ear and listen.

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