“Diabulimia” is a new term used to describe a weight-loss method usually practiced by teenaged girls and young women with type 1 diabetes mellitus. It refers to skipping doses of insulin to avoid gaining weight. The practice is apparently becoming more common as the secret is shared on the Internet. One expert who has studied the phenomenon estimates that one third of women with type 1 diabetes have skipped or shortchanged their insulin to lose weight. Unfortunately, severe diabetic complications, including retinal hemorrhages and kidney damage, often follow misuse of insulin.
Despite its frequency, “diabulimia” is not a recognized medical condition, and not recognized by the American Diabetes Association, according to Dr. Barbara Anderson, of Baylor College of Medicine, Houston. People with type 1 diabetes product little or no insulin, so they must take insulin shots daily. Without insulin, the cells starve even while the bloodstream is burdened with too much glucose. When a person with type 1 diabetes skips her insulin, she risks coma or even death. Blindness and kidney failure are some long-term complications that may develop.
Warning signs for diabulimia include low energy, high blood sugar levels, and weight loss despite eating more. Frequent urination is another signal. When blood sugar is high, the kidneys work overtime to filter excess glucose from the body; this purging is similar to the pattern in a person with bulimia, who binges and then purges.
—Source: Eating Disorders Review, Vol. 18, No. 5
Reprinted with permission from Eating Disorders Recovery Today
Winter 2008 Volume 6, Number 1
©2008 Gürze Books