Many women with type 1 diabetes are able to manage their condition thanks to insulin injections, but weight gain is an all too common side effect that may be considered taboo to talk about.
The disordered eating that sometimes follows this weight gain is also rarely discussed.
This dual diagnosis is casually referred to as “diabulimia.”
“Diabulimia is a method used by [individuals] with diabetes to lose weight by under-dosing or failure to take insulin,” said Amy Klimek, an eating disorder program coordinator at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center.
“In the context of an eating disorder, the misuse of insulin can be grouped as a form of purging.”
Two women share their stories of recovery from the eating disorder bulimia while also living with diabetes.
Stacy Russell, 27, is in recovery from diabulimia thanks to the professional help she received at Eating Recovery Center in Denver, Colorado.
She was 14 when she was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, but only began struggling with disordered eating during her first year of college.
After eight years of suffering, she was able to get the help she needed at 26 years old. And although she considers herself to be in recovery, day-to-day life is not easy yet.
Russell said in an email that she first stumbled upon the world of diabulimia after having the flu during winter break in college.
She restricted insulin during that time due to her illness, but then noticed how reducing insulin intake and increasing blood sugar levels helped her lose weight fast.
“As I became familiar with the easy access of dropping pounds, it became something I began to do quite frequently,” she said. “I began to notice that it was something I turned to for upcoming ‘big’ events.”
She started researching to see if she was the only one who discovered this weight loss trick, and realized that this was a harmful and potentially deadly trend. However, she couldn’t stop.
“There would be stints of time I would be seemingly better and my insulin use would normalize and my sugars stabilized,” Russell said.