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Eating disorders and diabetes

Skipping meals or insulin, binge eating or making yourself sick after meals may be a sign of an eating disorder. This can be life-threatening or lead to serious diabetic complications. Find out how to get help.

There are things to look out for if you’re worried that you or someone you love has an eating disorder such as:

  • Skipping or regularly forgetting to take insulin. This is serious and should be discussed with your GP or diabetes team.
  • Worrying about weight gain or thinking that taking insulin will lead to weight gain. Ask yourself how much does taking insulin bother you on a scale of 1 to 10. If you score high, there may be a problem that would benefit from you talking about it. 
  • Regularly overeating in secret to cope with strong feelings, when not hungry,  or not being able to stop eating known as binge eating.
  • Making yourself sick after meals or regularly taking a lot of laxatives, known as purging or bulimia.

Diabulimia and type 1 diabetes

Diabulimia is when someone, usually with type 1 diabetes reduces or stops taking their insulin to lose weight.

This can be fatal because the insulin you take keeps your blood sugars stable and cutting insulin out means you may be putting your life at risk.

Diabulimia may not be a recognised medical term, and many people have not heard about it, but it is now better understood and professional help is available if you need it.

If you are worried about diabulimia, speak to someone you trust and go see your GP or nurse for further advice. You can also get support from the charity Diabetics With Eating Disorders (DWED) which has news, resources and a blog on its website along with dedicated Twitter and Facebook pages.

Changing your approach to insulin and food

Set yourself realistic goals, but there are certain things you can explore to make positive changes:

  • Ask yourself what you would like to change about your current situation? This can help you assess the likelihood of change.
  • Start ‘change talking’, so ask yourself what are the benefits of change and what’s stopping you from making changes.
  • Explore any techniques you have used before that worked or even partly worked.
  • Ask yourself what support would help you sort out some of your problems and move closer to the change you need to make.
  • Get help or referral from your GP.

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