Signs of an Eating Disorder
Diabetes and Eating Disorders
The daily management of diabetes and the focus on eating and nutrition has the potential to create a preoccupation with food. Sometimes this preoccupation becomes an obsession, building momentum until food is almost viewed as dangerous. Worrying about eating the wrong foods and using terms such as "cheating" are unhealthy perspectives that can contribute to the development of an eating disorder.
Disordered eating, or eating disorders, are serious illnesses that take their toll both emotionally and physically. For people with diabetes, the price of this condition is particularly high – resulting in uncontrolled blood glucose levels and increasing the risk for diabetes complications.
Diabetes may also contribute to the triggering factors that lead to an eating disorder - namely low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and loneliness. In many of these cases, the person with diabetes may chose to obsessively control their food and/or weight in efforts to manage their emotions.
Teens, in particular, are vulnerable to eating disorders. A teenager with diabetes may learn that poor glucose control leads to weight loss and that well-controlled glucose levels may contribute to weight gain. The term "diabulimia" has cropped up over the last few years, referencing a frightening trend within the diabetes community. This term refers to the method of weight loss by which a person with diabetes intentionally skips insulin therapy in order to keep their blood sugar elevated to a dangerous level, thus causing them to lose weight. Unfortunately, the long-term effects of uncontrolled blood sugars are often viewed as unimportant in the mind of a person with diabetes who is battling an eating disorder.
There are ways to minimize the catalysts for eating disorders, potentially preventing them entirely.
- Focus on food choices rather than food restrictions. Don't expect perfection in diet compliance.
- Avoid emotional or judgmental labels for foods or eating behaviors. Do not categorize foods as "good or bad," or say that a person is "good or bad" based on how or what they eat.
- Make exercise a part of your life, not just a method of calorie burning. Becoming involved in life-long recreational sports like hiking or tennis makes exercise more fun and can help remove the exercise obsession as it relates to diabetes management.
- Also, keep talking. Isolating and discussing the stressors in your life may help to alleviate them. Talking with family members, loved ones, or seeking professional counseling is an option. If you or your loved one exhibits the signs of an eating disorder, don't be afraid to talk about it.
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A few years ago, I wrote about a friend whose struggles with Disability left him without insulin for weeks at a time. Today, I ask those of you who follow the tradition to light a blue candle for "Tiny", who passed from this world yesterday morning. From what I know, this young man (he was no older than 37, and may not have even reached the age of 30) had early onset type 2...