Body Image & Diabetes

I just caught this article on BUZZFEED of all places written by a young woman that explains how here body image issues were brought to the surface again after a type 1 diabetes diagnosis:

From the article:

The muscle memory of limiting what I eat came back all too quickly as soon as I had to put a number on it. With everything I consume broken up into units I can tally, I find myself imposing restrictions once again. Is it really worth taking two units of insulin just to eat that cookie? Do I really want to waste an injection on a beer? The deal I brokered with myself to gain peace meant I didn’t pay attention to the quantity and focused on the quality. Now I’ve been forced back into thinking of food as a number, a sum.

With all of the counting and examining of food that we do before and after eating, it’s no wonder that so many people living with diabetes are also (diagnosed or not) also struggling with an unhealthy relationship with food.

I thought the comments in the article were also very insightful.


I see Caleb do this. If he’s in an unfamiliar environment with food, he prefers to eat little or nothing. It’s a struggle I haven’t yet been able to overcome with him.

I don’t think that it’s bad not to eat either. I have a hard time eating enough (according to my P90X buddies…who track calories meticulously, or the more successful ones do…) as I prefer to aim at keeping my BG flatter most of the time. Some of it might involve body image a bit too, as I like being slimmer. I think I’m more annoyed than “angry” or “sad” but as Bryce points out, I’ve been at it a bit longer. I find that swearing at my meter and pump makes me feel a lot better, it sort of unloads my psyche.

I also had sort of the odd experience of essentially inventing MDI on my own, replacing my “exchange/ timing” plan with MDI (of R, eek…) to cover late night keggers and Steak and Shake runs when I was in college. I will totally waste a bolus on beer!

I feel like how I handle diabetes is similar to the author’s. Prior to losing 50+ pounds from the undiagnosed diabetes, I was a borderline obese teenager -the weight loss and the diabetes was my own wakeup call to become healthier (or I would risk a very early death). I gained some of the weight back after being put on insulin, but through the use of calorie counting and reducing my carb intake (nowhere near low-carb though), I have continued to nudge myself closer to an ideal weight for my body.

Would I eat a cookie? Maybe. Not if it’s going to send me into the 200s and make me feel terrible. I place my BG control at a higher priority than enjoying a certain food. I would gladly wait to have a certain food or not have it at all (curse you, oatmeal) if the food constantly makes me go super high despite my attempts to adjust my insulin dosage or timing. I feel terrible when I’m high, and that eliminates all my desires to have that food.

Do I have an eating issue? I honestly do not know. I read somewhere (it might have been on here) about another T1 taking an eating disorder screening test. A lot of the stuff that doctors would classify as actions a person with an eating disorder would do such as meticulously knowing what we put into our mouths, is something that us T1s need to do every day to stay alive.


Perhaps “Do you swear at your BG meter?” should be its own thread. But in any case I sure as *#@#!!! do.

I think what has helped me define my eating issues is the cookie comment you made. You say:

Nine times out of ten I’m right there with you. But on that tenth time I lose it and binge…knowing the entire time that my BGs will be through the roof. I’m not certain that what I have is an eating disorder…but it would certainly be classified as disordered eating.

This point was only fully clarified when I switched to a pump a year ago. I used to trick myself into thinking that skipping a bolus or under-bolusing had something to do with the inconvenience of grabbing my insulin pen or syringe and figuring out the dose, screwing on a needle and making the injection. But now that I just need to touch a button or two and it’s all taken care of, I still occasionally find myself skipping a bolus and I don’t really have any good excuse.

I have thought about this often since being diagnosed as T1 six years ago at age 46. I never had an issue with food…was slim most of my life. However, once I was put on insulin I did have a fear of gaining too much weight per comments my doctor made. Anyhow, I no longer worry about that part of taking insulin. However, I do think about each and every thing I eat as to how it will affect my blood sugar. Further, since getting the CGM, if I see my line looking flat, I will definitely skip eating something in favor of a smooth BG ride. Diabetes definitely changes a person’s relationship with food in ways that other people don’t struggle with.