When Worlds Collide: Diabetes and Eating Disorders
Hey everyone! My name is Christina (@firstname.lastname@example.org on Instagram), an RD-to-be interning with LK nutrition. The following is some quick information I want to share with y’all on diabetes and how it intersects with eating disorders.
When it comes to matters of health and wellbeing, diabetes is a hot topic. Diabetes is a disease that affects how our bodies use glucose. There are two types: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes is when the body cannot produce insulin, a hormone that regulates the amount of glucose in the blood. Without insulin, the cells in our body cannot absorb glucose, one of the major sources of energy for our bodies. Type 2 diabetes is when the body cannot use insulin sufficiently and as the disease progresses, less and less insulin is produced.
A popular misconception is that sugar and carbohydrates cause diabetes, but the truth is you can’t sweeten your way into diabetes. It takes a combination of factors including genetics, diet, environment, etc. for diabetes to set in. Some combination of the previously mentioned factors can trigger this vulnerability held in one’s genes.
So, what does diabetes have to do with eating disorders? Eating disorders are experienced at higher rates in those with Type 1 diabetes compared to those without diabetes (1,2). They can also occur in people with Type 2 diabetes. It is common for physicians and healthcare professionals to recommend focusing on diet and weight as part of diabetes management. Managing diabetes may involve a need to be more aware of the amount of carbohydrates in foods, a need to read food labels, and specific recommendations around exercise and insulin dosages. With so much energy focused on what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat, issues with one's relationship with food and with body can arise.
It is easy to become fixated on “shoulds” and “should nots” around food and exercise to manage diabetes, but it is important to remember that food and exercise are only one small piece of the puzzle of diabetes management. Nutritious eating and movement with diabetes can look different for different people, so there is no “one-size fits all” that works for everyone. It is also important to honor and prioritize our mental health in managing diabetes.
So, what can you do? When it comes to exercise, it may be helpful to shift the mind frame of exercising as an obligation and turning it into joyful moving. Movement that feels comfortable and brings you joy is the best exercise you can do. When it comes to eating, it is helpful to eat regularly throughout the day so that you are keeping your body energized, and so that it is getting the glucose and other nutrients needed. Having a snack 2 hours before bedtime, especially when you pair a protein and/or fat, with a carb, helps your body get through the night so that your blood glucose does not drop too low. If you would like to learn more about what managing diabetes looks like through a mindful and compassionate lens, seeing a weight inclusive, eating disorder informed dietitian may be the resource that can help! The team at LK Nutrition is ready to help guide you through this journey and provide the support you need.
Remember: you are more than your blood glucose numbers, what you eat and your weight!
1. Hanlan, M., Griffith, J., Patel, N. and Jaser, S., 2013. Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating in Type 1 Diabetes: Prevalence, Screening, and Treatment Options. Current Diabetes Reports, 13(6), pp.909-916.
2. Colton, P., Olmsted, M., Daneman, D., Farquhar, J., Wong, H., Muskat, S. and Rodin, G., 2015. Eating Disorders in Girls and Women With Type 1 Diabetes: A Longitudinal Study of Prevalence, Onset, Remission, and Recurrence. Diabetes Care, 38(7), pp.1212-1217.