Here to help
Recovery is possible and the not-for-profit website DEDA is a great place to start if you have an eating disorder or know someone who does.
DEDA (Diabetes and Eating Disorders Awareness) was founded in 2015 by Lisa Ingle, a registered general nurse from Hamilton, who realised there was a need for online support for people with diabetes affected by an eating disorder.
The website, which is run by volunteers, also offers support and information for families who may be worried about their loved one’s relationship with food.
Lisa, who has had type 1 diabetes since childhood, said: “There is awareness of eating disorders and of diabetes but less awareness about the difficulties people with both conditions face. I just saw a need and decided to do it.
“People with diabetes have a slightly unusual relationship with food. And a lot of people are on the spectrum. Early intervention is absolutely critical, it’s just so dangerous if you leave it to the later stages. There is hope and recovery is possible but you need to seek help.”
The DEDA website has information about different kinds of eating disorders from the most common Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) to bulimia, diabulimia (restricting insulin intake to control weight) and anorexia.
Lisa runs the website voluntarily, fitting it in between her paid job as a nurse and looking after a young child. New Zealand and Australian volunteers help her support and advocate for people who make contact via the website.
“We advocate for people and put them in touch with professionals so they can get the help they need, either through their diabetes team, or we may suggest they ask their GP for a referral to an eating disorder service,” she adds.
DEDA volunteers understand the challenges of having diabetes and an eating disorder. Experiencing these two illnesses brings an entirely new set of challenges to recovery, and they are there to help – see www.deda.org.nz.
All the information on the DEDA website is academically referenced and verified by experts in the field to ensure information is accurate.
It includes a checklist of symptoms common in people with diabetes and an eating disorder, suggestions for concerned loved ones, and lots of tips and stories for people who are living with diabetes and an eating disorder.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE AN EATING PROBLEM?
Not sure if you have a problem with food?
If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you may benefit from seeking advice from your doctor, nurse or DEDA:
• Eat large amounts of food at a time?
• Reduce the amount of food you eat?
• Avoid testing your blood sugar levels?
• Not want to eat around other people?
• Feel guilty about treating a low blood sugar?
• Have strict rules about food and/or exercise?
• Adjust your insulin doses because you are worried about your weight?
Always talk to your doctor or nurse if you are worried about your diabetes or think you may have an eating problem. They are there to help.
Life in Recovery
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of nine. As I learnt to adjust to daily insulin injections, life resumed the way it always had.
However, as my representative sport level increased and academic pressures mounted, I developed an overwhelming sense of inadequacy and developed an eating disorder.
For the next six years I flew under the radar, flirting with recovery while dually pushing the boundaries on food restriction and excessive exercise. My HbA1c was impeccable, I had straight A grades, and went on to represent Otago in netball. I was smart enough to manipulate my food intake to lower my insulin requirement, while maintaining good blood sugars. I never purposefully missed a single dose of insulin, but did everything in my power to lower the amount I needed.
With my eating disorder, I never purposefully restricted my insulin intake but with my reduced calorie intake and excessive exercise, less insulin was required. My diabetes management was of the highest priority and I gave myself the appropriate amount of insulin to manage my diabetes accordingly throughout the duration of my eating disorder. Any hypoglycaemic episode was treated appropriately so my diabetes was always well looked after and almost in a way was a protective factor for my eating disorder.
However in 2013, I found a reason to pursue recovery. I found a barbell. I came to understand that if I wanted to perform, to lift more weight, to be better, I had to fuel my body to allow it to do so. I realised my body was going to give me what I gave it. If I wasn’t going to respect my health, my body would surrender and shut down. I am now enjoying living in full recovery, work as a doctor, and am a volunteer for Diabetes and Eating Disorders Awareness (DEDA).
Life with type 1 diabetes means your schedule can be very regimented. It is a disease which demands a lot and gives little in return. However, treat it well and it will place no limitation on what you want from life.
Lisa and Zoe shared their stories in the Autumn issue of Diabetes Wellness magazine. Subscribe to Diabetes NZ today to receive your copy.
To read back issues, visit here.
*All the information on the DEDA website is academically referenced and verified by experts in the field to ensure information is accurate. It includes a checklist of symptoms common in people with diabetes and an eating disorder, suggestions for concerned loved ones, and lots of tips and stories for people who are living with diabetes and an eating disorder.
**This article is linked to the Blog 'Does my child have an eating disorder', which you can read here.