This topic is somewhat controversial since there is so much room for personal preference on the part of the sufferer. There are numerous tips online about this subject, but most of the tips are geared towards helping those with anorexia or bulimia. This is solely my opinion on the matter based on my experiences. Here are my six suggestions:
Let the sufferer know that you are always available to chat with them, but don’t force them to talk about BED.
Having BED can feel very lonely. Reminding someone that you are always happy to talk to them whenever they need to helps to alleviate their feeling of loneliness. If they do talk to you, don’t ask them about their progress in recovery. Unless they bring up the topic, talk to them and treat them as if they do not have an eating disorder.
Don’t ask them why they binge. Don’t make them feel guilty or ashamed about their behaviour.
We don’t want to explain BED to you. We don’t want to defend BED as a legitimate disorder. We don’t need someone else making us feel guilty, ashamed, or crazy. We already do this ourselves.
Ask the sufferer out to the movies, to accompany you on a hike, to go to a concert…suggest any activity that doesn’t centre on food.
It’s very tempting for sufferers of BED to hide in their homes. We secretly appreciate having someone drag us out every now and then. However, most people like to go out for brunch, dinner, or drinks as a social activity. This makes us feel anxious and sets us up for a potential binge afterwards. Instead, suggest an activity that doesn’t involve food or drinking.
Give them sincere compliments.
This one is particularly controversial as many experts say comments about appearance should be avoided. But I appreciate hearing that my hair looks nice today or my outfit is really pretty. Or you can compliment them on other aspects of their lives, such as their academic, athletic, professional, or personal achievements. When we are struggling in a moment of self-hatred or self-blame, hearing an unsolicited sincere compliment from someone else can be uplifting.
Don’t try to “relate” to them by saying you “binged” too.
This tends to be more common among girls and women. If we admit to binging last night, we don’t want to hear that you also “binged” last night on a burger and fries. That is not a binge. Unless you also have BED, it makes us feel grossly misunderstood and very frustrated.
If the person hasn’t yet sought treatment, let them know what treatment options are available and that it will work for them.
If you are aware that someone has disordered eating but hasn’t yet sought treatment, help them by researching some affordable, reasonable options in their area. Don’t confront them, stage an intervention, or pressure them to enter recovery, but calmly give them your information and any testimonials of success that you can find, and let them know that they are in control of their life.