NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – There’s a new type of eating disorder that has some diabetics taking dangerous chances to lose weight.
It’s a combination of diabetes and bulimia that some are calling “diabulimia.”
As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported, this isn’t the kind of bulimia where you binge and then purge. Bulimia has also come to mean some other extreme forms of getting rid of calories, such as laxatives or excessive exercise.
In this case, diabetics are misusing their insulin as a way to lose weight.
Heather Stuckey has been living with type one diabetes since she was 12 years old. The 48-year-old never thought her diagnosis would spiral into a serious eating disorder.
“I had a natural force within me that could just melt away the calories,” she said.
It’s called diabulimia, when diabetics purposely manipulate the insulin they’re taking to shed pounds.
“It was such a secret. I thought, this is kind of cool in a way. Look, I can do this, and nobody knows about it, and I can get away with it. And look, I can lose weight,” said Stuckey. “I had no idea that this is an eating disorder.”
The Renfrew Center for Eating Disorders has been seeing more diabulimics like Stuckey.
“Without this insulin, basically that sugar stays in the blood and kind of spills out into the urine, rather than being used as energy,” Regional Nutrition Manager Allison Alderman said.
Alderman says, in essence, diabulimics are choosing not to control their diabetes, allowing their blood sugar to stay dangerously high and risking health issues from thinking problems, to muscle loss and infections.
“You can get dehydrated, severe weight loss, cramping. You can also see kidney damage,” she said.
Other long-term high blood sugar risks include heart disease, stroke, amputations and blindness.
Stuckey said she still struggles with her body image.
“When I look in the mirror now, I see — let’s try to take care of ourselves, let’s try to do the best we can today to be healthy,” she said.
Too much insulin leading to too low blood sugar can be lethal in the short-run, while high blood sugar can lead to serious complications over the long-term. That’s why diabetes is such a hard disease to manage – balancing insulin and blood sugar to stay in a healthy zone.