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Eating Disorders & Diabetes

Living with diabetes can be hard, with a lot of information available information focusing on diet, weight, body image, and having to monitor blood glucose readings. Therefore, it is not surprising that many people with diabetes struggle with their relationship with food and can develop disordered eating.

Disordered eating comes in many guises, such as skipping insulin to lose weight, or binge eating and making yourself sick. Although similar, it is not the same as having a diagnosed eating disorder. However, it can sometimes lead to an eating disorder, so it is vital to seek help before it worsens.

You are not alone - these problems are more common than you think, and they can happen to anyone. We want to help you recognise disordered eating, find out what can cause it and give you some information about how to find support.

What to look for

It's important to know the warning signs if you are concerned you have, or are worried a friend or family member may have, an eating disorder so you can seek help at the right time.

Here are some of the signs of disordered eating to look out for:

  • Severe restriction of food
  • Binge eating (eating a lot of food and not feeling in control)
  • Trying to lose weight by restricting insulin or making yourself sick
  • Exercising a lot without the proper nutrition to balance it out
  • Avoiding mealtimes or eating in front of others

Some of these behaviours can lead to eating disorders like diabulimia, anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder.

The good news is that many people who have experienced disordered eating with diabetes have been able to overcome it with the right support.

What is diabulimia?

Diabulimia is an eating disorder that happens when a person with type 1 diabetes deliberately and regularly misses or reduces their insulin intake to control their weight.

Even though diabulimia is not a recognised medical term, people tend to call it this. It is extremely serious and could become fatal if people with type one diabetes do not get enough insulin. As well as increasing the risk of long-term harm to a person's sight, feet and kidneys.

When does disordered eating become an eating disorder?

It can be hard to understand when disordered eating becomes an eating disorder. However, the primary defining factor to consider is the frequency and severity of disordered eating patterns. If you are unsure if you, a friend, or a family member have an eating disorder, you can ask a couple of the following questions:

  • Is there a pattern of behaviour?
  • Is there a severe preoccupation with food and body image?
  • Is there impairment?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, it is likely an eating disorder, and we would recommend reaching out for support.

Where can I find support?

It is important to know you are not alone, there is a wealth of support out there. Asking for help can feel impossible but once you have shared your struggles, you will be able to take the next step - seeking advice and treatment from a health care professional. Here are some options to see support.

Talk to someone

Choose someone you trust to open up to, this could be a friend, colleague, parent, sibling or anyone you feel you can talk to. Their response could surprise you. People will want to help even if they don't fully understand what you are going through.

If you would rather speak to someone you don't know, Diabetes UK have a helpline with trained counsellors who are there to listen. You can call 0345 123 2339 or email

Support for people with diabetes and eating disorders

Here are a few organisations that can offer support to people struggling with disordered eating and eating disorders:

BEAT Eating Disorders 

Anorexia and Bulimia Care 


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