This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, an initiative to call attention to the widespread and highly detrimental dysfunctional relationship that many Americans have with food. In our Diabetes Community, it's a time to unite to focus on the very serious topic of eating with diabetes gone awry.
Stats show how significant this problem is, especially for people with type 1 diabetes who are 2.4 times more likely to develop an eating disorder than our non-diabetic peers; roughly 30-35% of women with T1D report restricting insulin in order to lose weight (a condition known as 'diabulimia'). Plus an estimated 6-8% of people with type 2 are living with a binge eating disorder.
We’ve shared some of our personal struggles with healthy eating in the past, and truly believe there's no substitute for sharing real-life stories, in terms of educating the public and helping those suffering to heal.
And no, this isn’t just a woman’s issue. Even guys like me can be living with an eating disorder, or at least have a wicked-weird relationship with food.
Today, in honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, we want to share two key resources for people with diabetes battling eating disorders -- and also two new proposed laws on this topic, so be sure to read through to the end for our Call to Action on how you can help.
We Are Diabetes - with ED-DMT1
Diabetes Advocate Asha Brown is no stranger to us here at the ‘Mine. She’s guest-blogged for us in the past about her own struggles with diabulimia, and now the incredible work she does to help others facing similar challenges. Last time we chatted with her, she had just started the organization We Are Diabetes as a much-needed resource.
"There are very few eating disorder treatment centers that have the ability and the educated staff necessary to provide safe care for a T1D, and it can be an exhausting battle with insurance if they initially do not agree to cover the cost. But there are ways to fight this! We offer a lot of information on the We Are Diabetes website on how to deal with insurance and we also have a free referral service to help find providers in your area," Asha told us at the time.
Now, three years down the road, Asha tells us the WAD foundation has been able to serve more than 200 actual clients, and more than 1,000 interactions with individuals who either needed a quick question answered or a referral provided. Well done, Asha!
For the 4th consecutive year, We Are Diabetes is partnering with the National Eating Disorders Association for what’s known as NEDA Awareness this week.
They plan to offer a blitz campaign of information and encouragement on social media. The aim is to raise awareness for ED-DMT1 -- which is the umbrella term used for D-peeps with eating disorders, as it encompasses ALL PWDs who struggle with ALL types of eating disorders, not just the more well-known diabulimia.
Asha will be presenting locally at the Park Nicollet Melrose Center in Minnesota to two very important groups: The Minnesota Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a large group of college students at Augsberg College.
Of course, Asha encourages nutritionists across the board to learn as much as possible about these D-related eating disorders – especially in the context of college students.
“Eating disorders are rampant on college campuses, so it's important to continue to focus our educational efforts on the college population,” Asha says. “Presenting to college students about eating disorders can be tricky. The presentation and tone must be very carefully crafted when it's aimed at a group of individuals who may already feel vulnerable about their body image. Otherwise you risk actually giving someone in the audience ideas of how to develop an eating disorder.”
Asha says an influx of people tend to reach out to her group following this national awareness week, so she’s done her best to keep time open to connect individually with people who need help.
If you’re interested in contacting We Are Diabetes, the best way is to reach out via the WAD website.
Another D-Advocate focused on eating disorders is Seattle-based Erin Akers, who is behind the Diabulimia Helpline aimed at PWDs living with that disorder.
Reminder: Diabulimia generally refers to PWDs who withhold their insulin in order to lose weight.
Erin was diagnosed with T1D about 17 years ago, and lived with diabulimia off and on for more than a decade before founding Diabulimia Helpline – the only non-profit org of its kind devoted to diabetes and bulimia -- in 2009.
The Helpline fields about 400 calls per year -- a third of those calls from people looking for help for themselves, a third asking for loved ones, and the remaining third being healthcare providers seeking info and resources or referrals to a higher or lower level of care.
With NEDA week here, Erin’s group is currently focusing on Screening and Detection, aimed at making people more aware of what could be happening in their lives if food and diabetes are becoming overwhelming. They're encouraging anyone feeling concerned to take this 3-minute screening test.
Take Action on Wednesday, Feb. 24
Tomorrow is a designated Day of Action in which people are encouraged to write, call, and Tweet our U.S. senators and representatives to advocate that they vote in favor of two key pieces of legislation pending before Congress:
- The Educating to Prevent Eating Disorders Act (H.R. 4153): Introduced in December by North Carolina Rep. Renee Ellmers, this legislation would create a school-based pilot program to test the impact of early interventions for students with eating disorders in grades 6 to 8.
- Anna Westin Act (H.R. 2515/S. 1865): Introduced in May 2015 by Florida Rep. Ted Deutch, this would ensure that eating disorders get the same attention and priority as other mental health issues, and it would also require educational materials to be widely available for free to both men and women. This legislation is named after a Florida woman who took her own life after struggling with anorexia.
Both bills seem like big improvements to what we have now (which is not much!) and we're all for raising awareness of the need to recognize eating disorders as serious, and even life-threatening, conditions.
This is true to the extreme in our Diabetes Community, so we hope this legislation can put more resources and attention where needed!
The NEDA has created a special 'action kit' you can download here that includes prepared Tweets, stats, statements, and more that makes it easy for you to help educate lawmakers on eating disorders and these legislative proposals.
In short, if eating disorders are on your radar at all -- or even if they haven't been till now -- this week is a great time to think about them, and help spread the word to try to get this important legislation passed.