Advice for parents to help their child who binge eats

What’s the most common eating disorder?

You may be surprised to learn that it’s not anorexia or bulimia. It’s binge-eating disorder.

Approximately two million Americans struggle with binge-eating disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The NIMH found that one in five young women report that they have struggled with binge eating, while males account for about 40% of those who report binge-eating behavior.

Although it is the most common eating disorder, binge-eating disorder was not officially recognized as an eating disorder until spring of 2013, when the American Psychiatric Association published the fifth edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Binge-eating disorder can lead to obesity and its many associated medical issues, such as heart disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Like other eating disorders, binge-eating disorder is life-threatening and it often occurs with other disorders, such as depression and substance abuse.

When a child binges, it is important for parents to take action quickly to either prevent development of binge-eating disorder or begin treatment before it becomes too advanced. What can you as a parent do to help your child stop binging – and what shouldn’t you do?


Cartoon with check mark

  • consult with a pediatrician
  • have a conversation with your child
  • set a good example
  • educate yourself about binge-eating disorder
  • act immediately

Cartoon with x mark

  • blame your child
  • avoid the issue
  • be hypocritical
  • have unrealistic expectations
  • try to treat the problem yourself

[publishpress_authors_data]'s recommendation to ExpertBeacon readers: Do

Do consult with a pediatrician

Seeking professional help should always be the first step. The pediatrician will review your child’s growth charts, including his or her growth trajectory. When the trajectory dramatically changes over a short period of time, it’s a sign there’s an issue that needs to be addressed.

Your pediatrician should be able to diagnose whether your child is ill, the extent of the illness and what should be done about it. Depending on the extent of any binging, your child may require treatment for an eating disorder, but in many cases consulting with a nutritionist and a therapist may suffice.

Do have a conversation with your child

Talk to your child in a manner that is neither judgmental nor confrontational. Your unconditional support and love is a big deal, and can help your child to recover.

Don’t say “You’re fat” or “You eat too much.” Instead, use “I” statements and specifics, such as, “I found a lot of wrappers in your room today and I'm concerned.”

Being confrontational will add to your child’s distress. Being supportive will enable your child to recognize that you’re there to help.

Do set a good example

Children learn from their parents. Children who are binge eaters often have a parent, or parents, who have exhibited binge behavior. If you are a binge eater, see your physician. You can help your child by helping yourself.

Do educate yourself about binge-eating disorder

The more you know about binge-eating disorder, the more you can help your child. By educating yourself and knowing precisely what binge-eating disorder is, you will understand what’s at stake and how dangerous the disorder can be.

It’s important, for example, to understand that binge eating represents a loss of control not only over eating, but over emotions. If your child is experiencing distress, binging is a way to find comfort.

Once you are educated about binge-eating disorder, you may be able to help identify triggers that influence your child’s binging. Once the triggers are identified, your child can learn to deal with them and that can lead to recovery.

Do act immediately

The longer you wait, the more binging will become an ingrained habit for your child and the more advanced the disorder will become. The quicker you take action, the better your child’s chances of recovery will be.

[publishpress_authors_data]'s professional advice to ExpertBeacon readers: Don't

Do not blame your child

Blaming your child for binging will only add to your child’s distress and make matters worse. Binge-eating disorder, like other eating disorders, results from a combination of factors, including biological, nutritional and cultural factors. It is not your child’s fault.

Do not avoid the issue

Parents sometimes walk on eggshells trying to avoid talking about disordered eating with their child. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. It will only worsen over time.

Do not be hypocritical

A “do as I say, not as I do” approach won’t work. Sometimes family culture encourages overeating. Obese parents often bring in an obese child for treatment. In such cases, the child will feel like he or she is being singled out. If you are approaching the subject of binging or overeating, and you are a binge eater, be certain that you address the issue yourself, too.

Do not have unrealistic expectations

Eating disorders are not cured overnight. Many people who have them recover slowly, over time.

Do not try to treat the problem yourself

Recovering from binge-eating disorder is not just a matter of eating less. Binge eaters periodically lose control over their eating. They also frequently have other emotional or psychological disorders. Treatment requires a team of qualified professionals who can address their medical, nutritional, psychological and behavioral needs.


Failure to address binge eating can lead to binge-eating disorder, a life-threatening illness. Taking action by seeking professional help and talking to your child can lead to a full recovery, so if you think your child has a problem with binging, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

Similar Posts