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Diabetic Self

November 7, 2007

Once again, I had managed to screw up the timing of catching a train back to New Jersey at Penn Station. With twenty minutes to spare, I took a stroll over to the Borders at Madison Square Garden (which is where Penn Station also is).

When pressed for time, I typically stay at the magazine section because it’s easier to browse quickly. I decided to skim through the latest issue of Self magazine, and just as the “Borders is now closing” warning went over the PA system, I caught a glance of their article on diabulimia, complete with a full page image of syringes.

I didn’t have time to purchase the magazine, so the next day when I was at the local A & P, I picked up the issue to check out what they had to say.

On my way into the city yesterday, I started reading the article. I was very suspicious about the article because the media has a tendency to either overplay or oversimplify what diabetes actually is. So I read slowly and carefully.

To be honest, I don’t know have much experience with diabulimia. Like most of you, I only learned about this illness this year. Diabulimia, for those who haven’t heard this term, is when people skip their insulin injections in order to put their body in a constant state of ketoacidosis so that their body will burn fat so they can stay thin. This isn’t the only reason why people may skip insulin injections, but for those people – especially young women – find they are gaining weight from insulin injections or are looking for a way to lose weight, skipping insulin injections appears to be the easiest and fastest. It is, of course, very dangerous.

The article in Self magazine does, in my opinion, a great job of explaining what diabetes is and how skipping insulin injections affects the body. The women that were profiled are very brave and I appreciate that they share their story. I couldn’t find any misinformation about diabetes, though someone else will have to judge the quality of their diabulimia coverage.

The only thing I will note is that the more subjective descriptions of diabetes were a bit concerning. One of the women described high blood sugar as having a “calming effect.” I’m not sure who here feels euphoric when their blood sugars stop registering on their glucose meter, but I for one turn into an uber bitch-monster from hell. You do not want me skipping my insulin!

I was also surprised to see that the author failed to mention Dr. William Polonsky and the Behavioral Diabetes Institute. One of the sections discussed how it is difficult to be treated for diabulimia because mental health professionals are not trained to understand diabetes and diabetes professionals are not trained to understand eating disorders. I am not sure if Dr. Polonsky actually does anything regarding diabulimia, but I do know that he is one of the few behavioral psychologists who specializes in diabetes. He is a medical professional who also focuses on not just our physical health but our mental health as well.

The article did discuss a place that treats people with diabulimia, called Park Nicollet, located in Minnesota. I couldn’t find anything directly related diabulimia, though they did include health psychologists in their list of staff available. If you or someone you know is dealing with diabulimia, I would contact them to find out more about their services.

As an aside, Self also includes an article with Elizabeth Perkins, who was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 44 years old. It was written in first-person and Elizabeth discusses her symptoms and how she dealt with her diagnosis. The only thing that surprised me was that she said at the beginning, “For years, I had felt right…” and goes on to list typical type 1 diabetes syptoms such as thirst and fatigue. My first thought was, “How could she go years with these symptoms without something going very wrong?” Now, was that an overstatement or does the onset of LADA actually take longer to happen than with adults?

Anyway, feel free to check out the issue (Carrie Underwood is the cover girl) and let me know what you think about either the diabulimia article or the Elizabeth Perkins article.

I was just happy to see a mainstream publication presenting diabetes in an almost completely factual way! Maybe we should send Halle a copy?

  1. November 7, 2007 10:30 PM

    Hmmm….I wonder if I can find a copy in Taipei. Sounds interesting. Anyone want to scan in a pdf and send it to me?

    You know, I am not diabulemic, nor have I ever heard that term, but when I was in high school I felt fat (I wasn’t) and wanted to lose weight, so I considered not taking my insulin shots. I never did it, thank God, but the thought did cross my mind. I guess I resented feeling hungry and having to eat so regularly with diabetes, that I figured if my levels were high then I wouldn’t feel hungry and would lose weight, like I did when I was diagnosed as a kid.

    I am not proud of this kind of thinking, but I did want to rebel against my diabetes as a teenager. Luckily, I never did anything too bad, though I did eat one too many oreos from time to time–at least with insulin and checking glucose.

  2. November 7, 2007 10:51 PM

    It sounds like she’d have to have LADA, if the onset took years. That’s one of the unfortunate things about gradual onset – some people never notice, and by the time they get diagnosed, they have complications.

  3. November 8, 2007 12:12 AM

    That’s awesome! I will have to hit Walgreens tomorrow & try to pick up a copy. Amylia, I’ll send you one!

  4. November 8, 2007 9:53 AM

    Sadly, I will have to admit that I let my numbers run slightly high right before my wedding to help me lose weight. And by slightly high, I mean in the 150s instead of the 120s. I wasn’t on the pump then, so I’m not sure my control was all that great anyway. But no worries, I got back in the game shortly after my wedding.

    From what I’ve heard of LADA, it really can take years to develop. That’s very different than the sudden-onset of Type 1.

  5. November 8, 2007 7:31 PM

    Salon just ran a big article on diabulimia today. It includes interviews with several diabulimics and some new research from the Eating Disorders Institute:

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