Insulin-dependent girls know the dark secret that keeps off weight despite the deadly consequences
A dirty little secret is shared by many young women with Type 1 diabetes – when they skip their insulin, they lose weight.
This is dangerous and potentially life-threatening behaviour, experts in the field warn, but one that is hard to quash in a world obsessed with body image.
Psychiatrist Patricia Colton, who works in the eating disorders clinic at Toronto General Hospital, has had one diabetic patient in her twenties go blind, and another the same age suffer renal failure, as a result of avoiding their medication.
Doctors started guessing females were deliberately skipping their insulin as a weight control measure in the late '80s, Colton says, and notes that recent studies have revealed it is widespread, affecting approximately a third of diabetic young women.
Though Colton was concerned media coverage of the issue might spark copy-cat behaviour, it has become so widespread "it is too late to keep it a secret. They are wiping out 80 years of progress in diabetic medicine," says Colton, adding that the initial effects are nausea, depression and exhaustion but get more serious over time.
"It is extreme behaviour but it is tied into the mindset of our culture. They are under pressure to put a high premium on their weight, to believe that their success is based on looks."
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