Feel like your weight is a problem?
Many young people have issues around their weight, whether they have diabetes or not. One of the most important things to realise is that your weight is just one aspect of your overall health. While it’s important to try to maintain a healthy weight, it shouldn’t be done at the expense of your physical or mental wellbeing.
If you’re worried about your weight or body shape to the point where you consider not eating or severely restricting what you eat, vomiting or otherwise purging after you eat, exercising too much, or misusing your insulin to try and lose weight, you may be at risk of developing an eating disorder.
People with type 1 diabetes are up to twice as likely to develop an eating disorder as people without diabetes. It’s very easy to turn from necessary carb counting into being fixating on what you eat. The weight gain that typically follows diagnosis and proper treatment may also be a trigger. Eating disorders may also be linked to stress, anxiety or depression which might be an issue if you have recently been diagnosed, or if you feel your diabetes is hampering your life.
Eating disorders need to be taken seriously, and without treatment can be life-threatening. Complications from eating disorders can last the rest of your life – including weak bones, infertility or hormonal changes, issues with digestion and can lead to problems with the heart, liver, brain, nerves, pancreas and kidneys.
For people who have diabetes and an eating disorder, problems with the heart, nerves and kidneys can be worse, and complications with your eyes and blood vessels are more common. There’s also an increased risk that you’ll develop diabetic ketoacidosis, and you will be more likely to catch any infection. It is critical to recognise an eating disorder early and seek help.
While this may be scary, it’s important to know you’re not alone, and that eating disorders have a good rate of recovery when you get help. You can talk to your diabetes care team about how you’re feeling or what you’re doing – they may also be able to direct you to more specific services to help you. If you’d rather talk anonymously, you can call the Diabetes UK Helpline or contact BEAT, the UK’s eating disorder charity. There’s also a charity specifically for people with type 1 diabetes and eating disorders called Diabetics With Eating Disorders (DWED), which provides online support and resources, including other people with type 1 diabetes talking about their experiences with eating disorders.