How We Mutilate Ourselves

This may be the most disturbing thing I’ve heard about young diabetics yet: “Teenage Diabetics Skip Vital Injections.” Youngsters in Scotland admit reducing their insulin doses because of the pressure to stay slim. Many actually think it’s cool, and I’m sure that goes for plenty here in America as well.

Gadz! Generations of girls have of course been told that you have to suffer to be beautiful, right? But I can’t think of anything scarier than the combination of body image issues and eating disorder that is anorexia paired with Type 1 diabetes. And what teenagers lack most, of course, is long-term thinking. They will pay so dearly for these years of starving themselves and letting their BG run high just to wear the smallest possible jeans size now.Anorexia_1

I don’t like to admit it (even to myself), but the fact is, I was anorexic in my latter high school/early college years: diet pills, starvation diets, forced vomiting — the works. I still wonder if the diabetes now is somehow related to damage I may have done my body during that dark period. And I often deliberate on what I would tell my girls if they start to go in that direction.

In high school, I remember girls heavier than me commenting in the locker room about wishing they could “catch” anorexia for a while, just until they got thin. This is not some virus that you catch! This is a warped view of your own body and the world in which one often hates oneself and feels wretched and hopeless. In my experience, it takes a very long time to reverse the process. If you’re dealing with diabetes as well, you need help. Luckily, there are lots of proactive programs and support groups these days. Two groups called ANAD and ANRED look like a good place to start.

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10 Responses

  1. Kerri.
    Kerri. June 5, 2005 at 6:56 am | | Reply

    I went to the Clara Barton Camp for Diabetic Girls for six summers, and I remember the older campers (ages ranging from 14 – 18) talking about skipping injections. “It works out good that I just skip my shot and I lose weight. That’s a win-win,” they offered. I never skipped any shots for that reason when I was a kid. Never understood why they did it. It seemed wild that they were having this destructive conversation at Diabetes Camp, of all places.

  2. Robert Ruby
    Robert Ruby June 6, 2005 at 10:27 am | | Reply

    Here’s a more pleasant article that is on the ESPN.com home page today:

    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=drehs/050606&num=0

  3. Martha O'Connor
    Martha O'Connor June 6, 2005 at 10:27 am | | Reply

    A few days after our son was diagnosed, I went to Amazon to find books about diabetes. One of the first ones I found was this memoir, Needles, written by a girl who did this very thing. http://tinyurl.com/8nwoy

    That was one of those burst into a puddle of tears until dinner kind of days.

  4. Martha O'Connor
    Martha O'Connor June 6, 2005 at 10:27 am | | Reply

    A few days after our son was diagnosed, I went to Amazon to find books about diabetes. One of the first ones I found was this memoir, Needles, written by a girl who did this very thing. http://tinyurl.com/8nwoy

    That was one of those burst into a puddle of tears until dinner kind of days.

  5. Martha O'Connor
    Martha O'Connor June 6, 2005 at 10:27 am | | Reply

    A few days after our son was diagnosed, I went to Amazon to find books about diabetes. One of the first ones I found was this memoir, Needles, written by a girl who did this very thing. http://tinyurl.com/8nwoy

    That was one of those burst into a puddle of tears until dinner kind of days.

  6. Kerri.
    Kerri. June 6, 2005 at 2:17 pm | | Reply

    Martha,

    You must read “Sweet Invisible Body” by Lisa Roney, if you haven’t already. It is exactly the kind of book I want to write. Describes the emotional aspects of being diabetic, as well as giving accurate descriptions of how a low or high blood sugar feels. I have read this book countless times. I hightly recommend it.

    I also read “Needles” and another one by the mother of a diabetic child, but I can’t recall the name (I leant it to my mom and she hasn’t given it back yet.). Both worthwhile reads. But they pale in comparison with Roney’s book.

    There. That’s my book plug for the day.

  7. Alexis Gallisa
    Alexis Gallisa June 7, 2005 at 11:02 am | | Reply

    One of the things these teenagers may also be feeling is that taking their full dose of insulin is dictating their hunger. As my body’s blood sugar lowers my desire for food increases. Although glucose tablets can sometime be a remedy, my body is used to using food as a way to raise my blood sugar. Its one thing to simply be hungry, but to be mentally pushed to eat by the affects of insulin can be frustrating and very unsatisfying. I would be interested to know if this study is simply stating that these kids are taking less insulin and therefore must have high blood sugar, or are the kids simply lowering their medication so that they don’t have to eat as much and still effectively controlling their blood sugar.

  8. AmyT
    AmyT June 7, 2005 at 12:53 pm | | Reply

    Alexis:
    Interesting question… but, having been there myself I can say with authority that obsessing about being thin is more a CONTROL issue than a hunger issue.

  9. Alexis
    Alexis June 8, 2005 at 6:38 am | | Reply

    Which I guess is my struggle with insulin at times, the feeling that insulin is controlling my desire to eat rather than how a normal person would simply eat when they were hungry.
    I don’t doubt that these kids may be lowering their insulin to try and stay thin, but I wanted to raise the point that they may still be in control of their blood sugar. I certainly hope that they don’t obsess over their weight and develop an eating disorder. Insulin and diabetes is a tricky and frustrating thing. You spend a lot of time keeping your blood sugar in control and exercising, and yet many diabetics who are in good control seem to gain that extra weight which isn’t any good for them either.

  10. DensityDuck
    DensityDuck June 8, 2005 at 11:38 am | | Reply

    It seems to me that the reason Type-I diabetics often gain weight is that the dieticians assume that they are eating more (sometimes much more) than they actually do. You say “yes, I eat three times a day”, and the dietician goes to the government-issue Food Tetrahedron and says “okay that’s four servings of carbs, three servings of fruit, two milk, three meat…” when in fact you mean that you have a donut in the morning, a tuna sandwich for lunch, and a big plate of pasta for dinner.

    Really, that’s one of my biggest annoyances about diabetes treatment–it’s that so little effort is put into making the treatment regimen flexible. At Lunch, You Will Eat Three Carbs, And You Will Take Nine Units Of Insulin. Of course, since diabetes is still something your fat grandmother has, I guess that’s not going to change.

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