Diabulemia (Eating Disorders and Diabetes)

I never really felt weird about the things I chose to eat growing up. My sister can vouch for me; there was even a time when I put frosting on a piece of toast when I was younger (it wasn’t what I thought it would be). I love food, I love the taste, the textures, the fragrance, everything you can possibly love about food. It has never been something to be ashamed of, at least until I was diagnosed with diabetes. A few of my family members who still to this day don’t understand my condition would fuss at me for the things I was eating. It would make me so upset! I got to a point where I would hide what I was eating from certain people because I was so sick and tired of hearing them constantly tell me what I could and could not have. I’m sorry this is MY body, MY disease, YOU are not a factor in any of those things, and yet YOU are the one causing  me to feel shameful for how I am controlling my diabetes.  Ugh!! Sorry little rant, it just upsets me.

Then the other day I was going through this amazing book about what women need to factor into their diabetes. And the issue of diabetics and eating disorders popped up. There is this trend in the world of diabetes called “diabulimia”. Diabulimia is when type 1 diabetics choose not to give themselves insulin because insulin promotes fat storage and without their daily insulin injections they can lose weight.  However, for a diabetic not giving yourself insulin has more damaging effects than good. 

When you don’t give yourself insulin your body goes into starvation mode breaking down muscle and fat then turning them into ketone bodies, which are basically poisonous to your body in large amounts (I was in the hospital because of a large build up, but that’s another story). Diabulimia is harmful. Down the road not giving yourself insulin will cause, muscle breakdown, fatigue, and dehydrations, as well as increase risks of diabetic complication that can happen down the line, such as kidney disease and loss of eye sight. This is a serious condition that medial professionals are not stressing enough. It is not a medical term yet, but is known around the diabetes community. Diabulimia is easier to hide than most eating disorders because weight loss is a symptom of diabetes. Diabulimics are able to hide behind their diabetes and often get overlooked.

Some of the signs and symptoms of someone with diabulimia are:

  • ·      Tiredness
  • ·      Quick weight loss
  • ·      Depression
  • ·      Diabetic Ketoacidosis
  • ·      Moody
  • ·      Increase in diabetes complication

Distorted body image is one cause of diabulimia, but another cause can be insecurity caused by the comments others make about what a diabetic can and cannot eat. They begin to feel insecure about what they are eating and choose not to eat certain things in front of their peers. Or to blend in with the crowd they may not tell anyone about their disease and eat whatever they like without their insulin or checking their blood sugars. For me it was my grandmother who made me feel insecure and frustrated with my diabetes. She had a comment about anything I put in my mouth and felt because she had a Type 2 diabetic grandfather she knew everything there was about my Type 1 diabetes. What is hard for someone with type 1 are the comments made by others who really don’t understand that type 1 and type 2 are two completely different diseases. I did not give myself diabetes my body for some reason decided to turn on itself; there is nothing I can do to change the fact that my body produces insulin-destroying antibodies. Sorry, there I go ranting again. Man, this topic is hard for me.

But back to diabulimia, it can be caused by several insecurities, body image, wanting to be normal, and other people’s comments. It isn’t recognized by the medical community just yet, but needs to be because having an eating disorder is one thing, using your diabetes as a tool for your eating disorder is probably the most dangerous form of an eating disorder. The suggested treatment for a person with diabulemia is the same treatment as any person with an eating disorder. Team therapy is often recommended as well as the help a nutritionist. 


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