Diabulimia is an eating disorder in which individuals with Type 1 Diabetes purposefully give themselves less insulin than they require, with the intention of losing weight. The eating disorder is most common in woman between the ages of 15 and 30. According to Dr. Ann E. Goebel-Fabbri, about 30% of diabetic woman restrict their insulin to induce weight loss at some point in their lives.
There are many serious short-term and long-term consequences associated with diabulimia:
According to Diabulimia Helpline, there are several telltale signs that an individual is suffering from diabulimia:
- A1c of 9.0 or higher on a continuous basis.
- Unexplained weight loss.
- Persistent thirst/frequent urination.
- Preoccupation with body image.
- Blood sugar records that do not match HbA1c results.
- Depression, mood swings and/or fatigue.
- Secrecy about blood sugars, shots and or eating.
- Repeated bladder and yeast infections.
- Low sodium/potassium.
- Increased appetite especially in sugary foods.
- Cancelled doctors’ appointments.
Treatment for Diabulimia
The first step in Diabulimia is to break through the denial the individual may have that s/he is abusing insulin to manage weight. Unlike many eating disorders, this one may start as an attempt to control the diabetes but end up as a way of controlling weight. Those with Type I diabetes are at risk for addiction to empty carbs early in their disease as the first symptom is significant weight loss. Efforts to help the child regain the weight usually do not include clean eating, such that s/he may develop bad habits or even an addiction to carbs, fat and/or salt.
Treatment for Diabulimia resembles treatment for Bulimarexia, the combination of Anorexia and Bulimia, in as much as it often contains elements of each disorder. To the degree that the individual uses insulin to “binge” on empty carbs, the first step is to teach him or her to eat clean foods that have a healing impact on the endocrine system rather than a damaging effect.
The other essential ingredient in the treatment of the individual suffering from Diabulimia is to help the individual deal with the fear of gaining weight. As with many individual’s suffering from Anorexia, an excessively low weight seems like an accomplishment. The Diabetic is particularly at risk for having control issues, as so many things seem beyond his or her control, especially when it comes to the body’s reaction to food.
Interested in learning more about Diabulimia? We’ll be talking with Dr. Ann Goebel-Fabbri on next week’s podcast! We’ll be taking your questions live at 646-378-0494 or you can submit your questions HERE.
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