Diabulimia: Eat Anything You Want, Lose Weight and Seriously Put Your Health at Risk


Erin Williams was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 11 years old, and at 14, she decided to stop taking her insulin. Her body started to “burn through fat and muscle” and Williams lost weight quickly. Dangerous? Absolutely. But as ABC News reports, Williams actually experienced positive reinforcement:

Classmates started commenting on her weight loss and remarked that she looked great.
“You hear all these things and you’re like, ‘This is the greatest thing in the world,'” said Williams. “It takes a hold of your life like nothing else.”

Williams’ story is indicative of how our society views thin as the best possible way for a body to be, regardless of whether or not it’s healthy. Because although she was slender, Williams had what they call diabulimia — diabetes and an eating disorder. She continued to restrict her insulin doses.

Diabulimia can be terrifyingly easy to hide. Williams could eat as much as she wanted and lose weight. Her other symptoms of fatigue and irritability could be explained as the normal behavior of a teenager.

For the next decade, Williams was plagued with health problems — from high blood sugar and extreme sleepiness/fatigue to a shattered ankle:

Because of nerve damage from high blood sugar levels, Williams had been walking around on a broken ankle for months without even realizing it. Her ankle was so damaged she would have to remain in a cast for two years as it healed.
After a decade of insulin misuse, Williams, then 24, was suffering from osteoporosis.

Though Williams is well now — and has launched a site to help others — her story is a terrifying, cautionary tale. Still, apparently 30% of type 1 diabetic women “will intentionally stop taking insulin at some point in their lives to lose weight.” Plus, a study from the University of Toronto finds that teenage girls with type 1 diabetes are 2.4 times more likely to suffer from an eating disorder than girls without diabetes.

And one thing that stands out is how the compliments from her classmates affected her. What if, when she started to lose weight quickly, instead of saying she looked great, they’d voiced concern?

Diabulimia: The Dangerous Way Diabetics Drop Pounds [ABC News]

Image via Gts/Shutterstock.

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