Marie Claire Australia - 01.05.2018

(Ben Green) #1


protective gaze, that insulin restriction
became a way of life.
“Moving to London, I discovered I
could function OK without much insu-
lin,” says Georgie. “I had a job in admin,
which didn’t require much energy.” For
the first time, nobody was checking up
on her, either, so it was easy to let things
slip. “I’d take a little bit after meals and
if I needed to be in a bikini, I’d cut it
back even further. It made me tired, but
I also looked good. Gradually I hated
taking it. From a healthy weight I lost
about 25 kilos in a year.”
For diabetics, insulin afects body
weight in two ways. When they begin
using it, it can cause an initial weight
gain. Yet if they stop or skip doses, the
body typically starts attacking itself.
“Without insulin, the body panics and
has to find another way to get energy,”
explains Jacqueline Allan, director of
UK organisation Diabetics with Eating
Disorders. “It starts cannibalising
itself, which means it burns fat and
muscle tissue and eventually tissue
from major organs. In some people,
mostly women but increasingly a lot of
men, this practice becomes chronic.”


ritish teen Lisa Day was diag-
nosed with type 1 diabetes
when she was 14. Almost
immediately, she began ex-
perimenting with insulin restriction,
and weight loss followed. Her family
sent her to an eating disorder clinic that
understood little about diabetes.
The lack of understanding of her
condition meant her struggles with
insulin continued on and of for the
next decade. She was left with serious
health problems and, tragically, passed
away due to complications from her
diabetes on September 12, 2015. She
was just 27 years old.
“It’s just such a waste of life,” her

sister, Katie Edwards, said. “If she’d had
the proper care, maybe it would have
turned out diferently. Lisa fell through
the cracks. She had a great diabetics
doctor who she got on well with, but
they didn’t know much about the eating
disorders. She then went to an
eating disorders clinic, but they didn’t
know much about diabetes.
“Trying to get her the right help was
like banging your head against a brick
wall. There’s a massive gap in care.”
Mother-of-two Elizabeth Tomas
from the US also died waiting for
appropriate treatment. “No-one around
our area had even heard of diabulimia,”
her mother, Betty, told marie claire. “I
was searching the internet for diabetic
advice because I knew something
wasn’t right.” Elizabeth spent 10 years
in and out of hospital, yet no-one would,
or could, do anything to help her.
“I said to her, ‘You are going to be
30, skinny and dead and I will be 50
and raising your children. That is not
OK,’” Betty remembers. Betty’s awful
prediction turned out to be correct. She
now cares for Elizabeth’s eight-year-old
daughter and five-year-old son.
“Almost four years after her death,
I’m still angry,” she sighs. And echoing
the frustration of a whole community,
she adds: “I don’t follow the support
pages anymore because young girls are
still dying when they shouldn’t be.”
Dr Hart says that without better
understanding of the condition, more
girls and young women will lose their
lives. “Insulin misuse has been rec-
ognised as a significant problem since
2005 , but in Australia nothing has
changed in 12 years. We need an


10 %
of all diabetes cases are type 1*

90 %
of all diabetes cases are type 2*


1.7 million
Australians have diabetes.
This includes all types of diagnosed
diabetes (1.2 million known and
registered) as well as silent,
undiagnosed type 2 diabetes
(up to 500,000 estimated)*


males (5.7%)
had diabetes than

females (4.6%)
in 2014–15 and, as with many health
conditions, the rate of diabetes
increased with age^

“Trying to get [Lisa]
the right help was like
banging your head
against a brick wall.
There’s a massive
gap in care”

  • Katie Edwards, sister of Lisa Day

After years of battling diabulimia,
Georgie (left) is now in recovery;
Lisa Day (centre) and mum-of-two
Elizabeth Tomas (right) died due
to a lack of appropriate treatment.


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