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Diabulimia is a new phrase for a phenomenon that is not very well-known. It is another form of bulimia, an eating disorder that typically strikes teens and young adults who are type 1 diabetics.1

It seems as though there are diabetic teens who would much rather go blind and be skinny than be healthy and potentially overweight.  What they do to achieve this goal is to willfully ignore their bodies need for insulin.  This sends the body into a state of starvation, resulting in unhealthy weight loss.  One girl2, discussing her eating disorder on Dr. Phil on the January 3, 2008 show “Shocking Trends of the New Year”3, boasted a 14 lb. weight loss in 3 short days.   Many physicians, dieticians, nutritionists believe that a weight loss of more than 2 lbs per week is unhealthy4.  That puts this girl's weight loss at over 16X the healthy limit.  Many do allow for the fact that when one first starts their weight loss journey they will see a dramatic drop in weight over the first three weeks as your body's metabolism levels out but beyond that, healthy levels are 2 lbs a week.  This is also assuming that one undergoes a healthy weight loss plan. 

The first and foremost danger of diabulimia is that eventually the body develops a life-threatening condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis.  This is what happens when there is a near complete deficiency of insulin and elevated levels of stress hormones.  Signs of ketoacidosis are fruity smelling breath, extreme weight loss, and/or muscle wasting.  Late signs include extreme lethargy, confusion, “air hunger” (patients breathe more rapidly/deeply) and/or diabetic coma. 

Diabulimia can (and most likely will if not treated right away) also result in blindness, kidney failure, neuropathy, osteoporosis- the list goes on.  It has a mortality rate of 34.8% a year, whereas diabetics have a mortality rate of 2.5% and anorexia nervosa patients a mortality rate of 6.5%5 . 

Alright, to make this a debateable topic:  There's no debating that diabulimia is a horrendous disease, as are all eating disorders, but what steps would you take to ensure your child will take their insulin?

 Would you send your child to a rehab center? 

If you couldn’t afford the upfront fee, would you go as far as to sell your house? 

Or would you attempt an outpatient treatment? 

Would you go as far as to have your child committed? 

What if your child is an adult, and therefore legally allowed to make her own decisions? 

What if you adult child has children of his/her own? 

Would you attempt to take the children away from him/her while s/he gets the help s/he needs?

Would you allow your child to skip a few injections here or there when big events, like the prom, or her wedding so she could experience some rapid weight loss and fit into a smaller sized outfit?

Do you think more needs to be done to address this and other eating disorders in schools?

Should mass-media accept more responsibility in their role with regards to ones own body image?

How much “fault” is laid on how a patient with an eating disorder was raised?