Type 1 Diabetes and Bingeing

By June 6, 2012

I am a 33 year old Type 1 diabetic (14 years and counting). I’ve enjoyed some years of great control, have been able to have two healthy children and have become an exercise instructor to complement my active lifestyle. Here’s the problem – I’ve always binged a little, even before my diagnosis. I began seeing a counselor almost a year ago, seeking help for my late night food disasters. Her theory is that as I learn to control stress, the binges will drop off again. I don’t know. I wouldn’t call the stress in my life extraordinary. My binges ARE my stress!! So, I guess my question is this. What steps can I take to end this “addiction?” I’m reading Rhodes’, “Life Inside the Thin Cage.” I understand the idea that we shouldn’t be obsessed with diet. But I’m afraid if I let go anymore I’ll get really sick. Diabetes brings some special considerations to the table, don’t you think? I’m not overweight but I have gained 10 pounds this year from the heavy binges. Is Weight Watchers a good option? I have a lot to live for. How can I get control of this mess? – Deb

Dear Deb,

First, I want to congratulate you for the years of great blood glucose control you’ve had in the past. Getting through two pregnancies and having healthy children is a real blessing. You must have worked hard and taken good care of yourself. Your active lifestyle is to be commended as well.

Now, we’ll address the issues you are facing today. With Type I diabetes, you DO have to be more careful about what you eat—timing, composition, amounts. This is something you know well. The goal is to find a place of balance, to support good blood sugar control and health—without being obsessive.

Don’t fret over the 10 pound weight gain over this past year. What’s important is that you take steps to stop your binges, now. Seeing a counselor is very important, but maybe you need to take a step back and assess the situation. Getting help for binge eating is a process that takes time and patience, but if you feel no progress has been made over the last year, maybe you are not seeing the right person. A therapist who specializes in eating disorders is usually the best option (See “Finding Treatment for Eating Issues”). But if you have a good connection with your current counselor and are better off than a year ago, keep plugging away.

Since the priority at this point is to get at the root causes of your bingeing, Weight watchers would not be your solution. You have the knowledge and tools to eat well and control your blood sugar, because you have been successful in the past. You need support in getting back on track. I think that an updated assessment by a Registered Dietitian would be very valuable in your situation. Ideally, a professional who has experience with both diabetes and eating disorders would be the most helpful. You need individualized attention, not general recommendations from Weight Watchers.

In the meantime, perhaps there are some behavioral changes you can implement to help curb your late night binge eating. What soothing activities can you substitute to help calm yourself? Check out “Overeating? Break the Cycle” for some possibilities. In addition, “Why We Overeat” might provide you with some fresh insight.

With the right support systems in place, things WILL get better. Be encouraged by your past success. Food doesn’t have to have so much power over you, and you can put it back in perspective.