Thursday, February 28, 2013

Disorders and Issues . . . . .

This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and if you asked me if I have an eating disorder my answer would be no.  The theme of NEDA Week this year is “Everybody Knows Someone.”  In high school I had a close friend who ate so few calories and exercised so much that she passed out in class, yet she still thought she was fat.  That’s one “someone” I know.  I’ve read posts this week by others in the DOC (you can find many, if not all, of them linked on this Diabetes Advocates post), and have found a few more “someone's”.  And now, I’m taking a good long look at my own relationship with food.

Along with seeing food as nourishment and fuel, I realize that I also view it as a reward.  After going to the endo and getting a good A1C, I always indulge in an extra special dinner to celebrate.  If I’m going through a rough time, I think nothing of picking up a treat at the grocery store.  When I want to do something extra nice for Pete I’ll often bake one of his favorites, chocolate chip cookies or brownies, to show him just how much I love him.  K.C. loves her wet cat food in gravy, and when I really want to spoil her I’ll give her an extra big scoop.  In my mind, FOOD = LOVE.

I also  realize my food choices often reflect my mood.  Bored?  Lonely?  Feeling blue?  You can trust I’m likely to reach for chips or chocolate . . . . and more than one servings worth.  Or I might cook up some (carb-loaded and creamy) comfort food in an attempt to sooth myself.  Does it fill the hole in my life?  Nope.  Will I try it again next time I’m feeling that hole?  Yup.

And lastly, I find myself thinking about the past.  I look back to my teen years when anything with sugar was off limits, unless I was low.  I’ve written before about my realization that my response to low blood sugars is quite Pavlovian.  I also remember sneaking sweets up to  my room and hiding the empty wrappers under my bed.  This was particularly easy when I worked at the grocery store after school - I smuggled the forbidden foods in after working late and smuggled the wrappers out to be tossed in the store’s trash bins.  It was also easy when I had candy bars to sell for my Color Guard fundraiser - I’m pretty sure my best customer was me.

I also think about the fact that all of those years being denied certain foods has made me unwilling to consider any food off limits today.  I think about how tough it was living on the exchange diet, often being unable to eat when I was hungry or forced to eat when I wasn’t.  I remember the regimented life of certain foods at certain times in certain amounts.  Quite frankly, it sucked, and I have a hard time believing it didn’t have a big part in shaping my relationship with food today.

Even now, I have to constantly count carbs, and think about how many I can eat at without killing a perfectly good blood sugar reading.  I have to determine if I should program a regular bolus or a dual-wave bolus.  I need to wait 20 minutes after bolusing until I can eat.  If I’m full half way through my meal, I need to finish all of the carbs on my plate anyway so I don’t go low.

And now, if you ask me again if I have an eating disorder, I would still say no.  But if you ask me if I have a healthy relationship with food?  If you ask me if I think I’m free of food issues?  Well,  I would also have to say no.


  1. Well said, Karen. So many of us have a messed up relationship with food because of diabetes. I'm throwing a stink eye in the exchange diet's general direction as we speak!

  2. I agree with Kim, so well said. I've often thought about how strange my relationship is with food these last three years since my diagnosis, but I hardly remember anything else. Now that I'm back on MDI, it's weirder than ever. So glad I avoided those days of the exchange diet!

  3. Exactly. Exchange System = "unable to eat when I was hungry and forced to eat when I wasn't." Bam-diggity-bam. Well said, my friend.

    But I LOVE your post!

    It will be interesting to see in 10 or 15 years how PWDs relationships with food change because of counting carbs vs. counting exchanges. Great post. Thanks

  6. The exchange system kept us going. I remember explaining to a new T2 what a beer exchange was. 1 beer = 1 slice bread

  7. This is a post that I wish more people could read. Maybe we could each make copies and leave them slipped in between the old magazines at our Endos' offices.
    And I really despise that I have to keep eating sometimes, just because I bolused for it.

  8. This post was basically everything I've ever thought about with regards to diabetes and my relationship with food. It's nice that I'm not alone in feeling this way. The exchange system was SO destructive! It would be really interesting to see some research about how many people with diabetes develop eating disorders, I bet it's more than we think. Thanks for posting this! And thanks for bringing awareness to NEDA week. I used to work at a treatment center for women with eating disorders, and it is a cause close to my heart because of that. Thanks!

  9. We Are Diabetes works very hard to support any diabetic who is suffering from body image issues or eating disorder behaviors!


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