‘Diabulimia’ — The Extremely Dangerous Eating Disorder No One Is Talking About

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A litany of complications are associated with type 1 diabetes— hormonal imbalance, heart problems, dehydration, eye and foot damage, among others. Monitoring blood sugar levels and incorporating insulin injections helps manage the disorder, but unfortunately, the same life-saving insulin also causes weight gain. Restricting insulin can cause weight loss, as the body cannot process glucose and rapidly begins eliminating fat and muscle.

The weight gain associated with insulin injections has provoked a deadly trend among diabetics– primarily young women. Purposefully restricting insulin in order to lose weight can result in permanent damage to the internal organs, ketoacidosis and eventual death. This scary habit has claimed the lives of many women and men worldwide, and advocates (see DWED.com) are fighting for medical recognition of the co-occurring eating disorders and diabetes– known as diabulimia.

The research concludes that women with type 1 diabetes are twice as likely to have an eating disorder than non-diabetic women. Furthermore, Telegraph reported, “around 40 per cent of women between the age of 15 and 40 with diabetes have at some point restricted their insulin to control their weight”. Many women with type 1 diabetes report feeling frustrated and isolated by their disease.

WeAreDiabetes.com points out the crucial and complex relationship with food that often accompanies diabetes. “The necessary emphasis on food and dietary restraint associated with the management of type 1 diabetes can create an unhealthy focus on food, numbers, and control. The psychological and emotional effects of having to manage a chronic medical condition such as type 1 diabetes, can also play a role.”

In an inspiring Facebook post that went viral last year, Natalie Holborow chronicled her struggle with diabulimia and how she was able to overcome the eating disorder and repair the damage she caused to her body. Diabetics have also seen success controlling the weight gain caused by insulin through exercise and/or a plant-based diet.

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