Diabulimia in Diabetes Health

Diabetes Health tackles the topic of Diabulimia in an article titled, “Diabetes and Eating Disorder Come Together as Diabulimia” in the August/September issue. While I’m glad that this eating disorder is increasingly gaining attention in the media, I’m concerned when the information presented is lacking in important details or incomplete. According to Dr. Hellman, president of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, “More than 90 percent of adolescents with type 1 diabetes reported missing at least one shot a month to keep weight down.”

Yikes. 90 percent is huge. I have lived with this disease for 24 years and while I struggled with bulimia in high school, I never skipped shots to lose weight but I’m sure I would have if I had figured out that omitting insulin lead to weight loss. I’m not sure how I didn’t know, or why it didn’t occur to me, why I chose to stick a toothbrush down my throat after I ate instead of skipping a shot. I’m not sure if it was because I was so scared of the complications, if I’d been shell shocked by the words, “amputation, blindness and kidney failure” that it never occurred to me to not do my shots. I don’t know. Read this quote and then you’ll see the problem I have with this article:

“It’s too easy to be true: Avoid injections-an already painful task-and drop 10 pounds like magic.”

Wait, what? The writer goes on to talk about long-term complications, the same kind of complications that scared me when I was a teenager, nerve damage, kidney failure and death. But the important details that are left out are the immediate consequences. Most teenagers, even ones with chronic illness, live in the moment and long-term complications are just that, a long way away. What’s missing from this article is that skipping insulin and losing 10 pounds does not happen like magic. Having high blood sugar makes you feel very bad. When your sugars are running high, which happens when you skip insulin, you feel very bad. It is a feeling not at all like magic, it is a feeling of being so thirsty you dream about water, it is a feeling of being so tired, that the rug between your bed and your bathroom looks like a lovely place to lie down but you have to keep going because you’ve got to pee again and when you pee, it is yellow like egg yoke and sweet smelling because you are peeing out sugar. It is not like magic at all, it is like dying a slow death.

I applaud Diabetes Health and Diabetes Forecast for getting stories about Diabulimia into print and for providing helpful resources (see www.gracenutrition.org), but I call on the to make sure their stories speak the truth.

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