Friday, May 4, 2012

Not a teenage issue

When people think eating disorders, they think of girls in their teens and twenties, and they think of the stereotypically emaciated models and actresses. And the media feeds on this image, showing young women in bikinis whose bellies have sagged (oh no, she's gotten fat!) or women whose backbones look like mountain ridges.

But it's blatantly untrue and damaging to ALL women, no matter what their age. I've been talking to other women about whether they compare themselves to other women they see and judge whether they are fatter or thinner than the other woman, with corresponding despondent or joyful feelings. And most of them have admitted that they do. How depressing!

And we all know that T1 diabetic women are more susceptible to eating disorders, because they have the diabetes to deal with on top of the discomfort that most women feel.

But I'm going to posit that eating disordered thoughts occur in older women as well as younger women, and that they exist in T2s and well as T1s, because all of us are dealing with food issues, regardless.

With that as an introduction, I'm going to freely admit that I have an eating disorder. I have had it since I was in my early teens. At the time, having been restricted from eating anything with sugar by overly health-conscious parents, my brother and sister and I used to spend our $1 of allowance money buying 20 candy bars each (and they were bigger in those days), and consuming ALL of them in one sitting. Looking back, I recognize that that was the beginning of binge eating, although I was not aware of it at the time.

Later on, when I got out on my own, I went into full scale rebellion, deciding that I would eat anything I wanted, however much I wanted, any time I wanted it. This developed into a habit of eating only one food at a meal, sometimes a giant portion of ice cream, and subsequent weight gain, although I was never actually obese.

Then came the diagnosis of diabetes, which caused even more feelings of rebellion. I couldn't stick to the meal plan I was given, and I was so starved that I would eat until my stomach was distended and painful, and still feel hungry. Once I went on insulin, the hunger abated, and I actually LOST weight on insulin, even though the literature says insulin causes weight gain.

But I was still bingeing, and in the summer of 2010, I started bingeing hardcore. And binged myself into a life-threatening coma. As a result, I became hypersensitive about food and began to limit my carbs. Well, at first it was only a few foods that I eliminated, but my food vocabulary got more and more limited, until I was only eating a cup of milk in the morning, a cup and a half of Greek yogurt midday, and a small hamburger patty at night.

And I lost more weight, and people kept telling me how good I looked, and I kept on trying to assuage my guilt for being fat (most recently, not even overweight) by eating less and trying to feel virtuous when I was hungry. And still occasionally bingeing. The only concession I made to the bingeing was to monitor my BGs and take insulin when I thought they had gone high enough. Needless to say, this was NOT a good way to live.

So about a month ago, I started to take steps to deal with it, which first of all, took awareness of the condition I was in, and then the willingness to do something about it. But it's HARD for someone as old as I am to admit to having a "teenage" condition, and second to actually seek help.

So I've been in treatment for about 2 weeks, and yes, it has been EXCEEDINGLY stressful and difficult. They're making me eat more than I feel comfortable eating, and making me eat foods that I had eliminated a year and a half ago. Some people can do well on a low carb diet, especially if they like a lot of different vegetables, and are creative with and like carb substitutes. But I've been a picky eater since I was tiny, and never liked to cook, so the obsession with eliminating carbs became an illness for me.

The reason I'm telling you all this is because May is Mental Health Awareness Month (or something like that), and eating disorders are a mental health issue. And they're probably a lot more common than we realize. And they're NOT just a teenage issue!


  1. Oh Natalie ... (( hugs )). Thank you for sharing this. We are all here for you, and will help you through this tough time. You can 100% do this.

  2. natalie-

    i so admire your strength and courage in talking about this. you are right- it's not just a teen issue.

    i myself deal with some emotional and binge eating, and am in treatment, so believe me when i say that i understand.

    please know that you are never alone. we're with you all the way. <3

  3. What a powerful post, Natalie. Thank you so much for sharing this and bringing awareness to an issue that I can't imagine what it's like to live with. I admire your courage on putting this out there. You've got my hugs and good vibes, too. Anything you need, please don't hesitate to ask.

  4. Thank you for being brave enough to share your brave steps Natalie. I recognize some of the same issues in myself, which is frightening, but also encouraging.

    I look forward to watching you (and our other loved ones) beat this thing, one step at a time.

  5. I am glad that you wrote this Natalie. I think you are right that we all pretty much have some eating disorders just because of having to worry about what happens with our BS or how much insulin we need to take. My family worries about me because I worry not only about the carbs and weight issues, but I have problems with a lot of foods because of gastroparesis, gluten and food allergies.

  6. I'm awed by your strength. I hope you continue to write about this as the knowledge of eating disorders is so limited.
    I wish you the best as you continue your therapy.

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