A new eating disorder termed “diabulimia” is on the rise in many teenage girls and young women with Type 1 diabetes who are looking to lose weight. “Diabulimia” is a practice in which young women purposely skip their daily insulin injections which can ultimately result in weight loss. It is believed that over 450,000 women across the United States are discovering tricks and tips on “diabulimia” through internet message boards for diabetics as well as those for individuals with eating disorders, such as pro-ana and pro-mia websites.
Even though the American Diabetes Association has known for years about people depriving themselves of their insulin injections in hopes of shedding pounds, “diabulimia” is a term that has just come about in the past few years.
Type 2 diabetes is the more common form of diabetes, accounting for about 95% of all cases. Type 2 is associated with obesity.
Individuals with Type 1 diabetes produce little or no insulin naturally because their immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas that usually make insulin. These individuals must inject insulin daily in order to stay healthy. Without insulin, a person’s cells will starve because they do not receive the insulin-delivered glucose they need to survive. The excess glucose instead builds up in the bloodstream, causing blood sugar levels to skyrocket. This results in frequent urination because the kidneys are forced to work harder to rid the bloodstream of the excess glucose. Purging the excess sugar through the kidneys is similar to the purging that a bulimic individual will do in the form of vomitting.
When an individual with Type 1 diabetes skips their insulin injections, some of the health risks can include blindness, amputations, kidney failure, coma, and early death.
Unfortunately, women with Type 1 diabetes are more susceptible to developing an eating disorder due to the strict measures associated with good diabetes management, such as watching what they eat and following a diet.