I’ve been meaning for a couple days to write about “diabulimia,” an eating disorder that’s apparently frighteningly common among female diabetics, wherein they don’t take their prescribed doses of insulin, in order to lose weight. An AP article about it came out the other day, and The F-Word and Junkfood Science have covered pretty much everything I wanted to say. Check out the latter for a horrifying story of an “18-year-old living in a 90-year-old’s body” — as in, knowing she’s going to die very soon — because she wanted to be thin so badly.
As always, Sandy nails it in one paragraph:
The take home lesson for anyone who knows a young person, whether or not they’re diabetic, is to first recognize the harm of today’s diet and thin-obsessed environment and understand these complications, according to doctors Ira M. Sacker, M.D. and Marc A. Zimmer, Ph.D. in Dying to be Thin. Most often, the early signs of anorexia or other eating disorders are missed because everyone is happy for the person involved in “successful” dieting or “taking more responsibility for managing his/her food intake. That generally positive feeling can prevail to the point where it is very difficult to see that the person’s eating habits are really not appropriate at all.”
The only other thing I’ll add is that I find this especially horrifying because I have two little diabetic cousins, 12 and 13 — just the right age to start developing eating disorders. They’re both beautiful — and thin — girls, but anyone who’s ever been a teenaged girl knows that being thin has very little to do with thinking you’re fat. Of necessity, these girls have been obsessively counting calories and avoiding sugar — i.e., chronically dieting — for pretty much their entire lives, and now they’re about to be thrown into the snakepit of high school. Diabetes already substantially increases the risk of developing eating disorders, and for these girls, taking the dieting a step further would mean inviting blindness, loss of limb, kidney failure and heart failure — not somewhere way down the line (which is already looming out there for them), but like, in their twenties.
And a lot of girls are already making that choice. Sandy mentions a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine that found 34% of diabetic young women skipped or cut down on their insulin to lose weight.
If you don’t agree with any of the other reasons I ramble about for why this culture needs to quit being so goddamned fatphobic, think of that. Teenaged girls would rather go blind at best and die extraordinarily young at worst than be fat. Something’s gotta give.