Eating Disorders 101: Diabulima, Exercise Addiction, and Body Dysmorphic Disorder – The Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans LLC


Today, Jacqueline, aka Fitarella, wraps up her 3 part series on Eating Disorders on Diabulimia, Exercise Addiction, and Body Dysmorphic Disorder. You can find Part 1 here, and Part 2 here. So many thanks go out to Jacq for taking the time to put all of this into words for us. It is our hope that if anyone is suffering from an ED, or knows someone who is, they will use this information and take the steps to get help.

Still with me? I know, it’s a lot of information, but it’s information we need to be aware of.  Most of these disorders don’t get the coverage they should; I really appreciate the Sisterhood for inviting me here to share it with you.  I have a six-year-old daughter, and my biggest wish is for her is to never stop loving herself and always know that she is enough and perfect the way she is.

We are all perfect just the way we are.


Not a recognized medical diagnosis, diabulimia refers to the condition in which a person with an ED, who also has diabetes, manipulates insulin levels to manage/lose weight. Manipulating insulin can have tremendous consequences. Patients who do this have higher blood sugar levels than are healthy, and as a result, become dehydrated, fatigued, and experience a breakdown in muscle tissue. Long term, it’s associated with an accelerated development of diabetic complications such as eye disease, kidney disease, and limb amputations due to vascular disease.

Warning signs for a Diabulimic:

  • Weight loss
  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Low energy
  • Nausea
  • Fruity-scented breath (a sign of diabetic ketoacidosis)
  • Decreased attention to blood sugar monitoring or insulin doses
  • Loss of blood sugar control

Exercise Addiction

Currently, exercise dependence is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as a primary disorder. The DSM-IV defines excessive exercise as exercise that “significantly interferes with important activities, occurs at inappropriate times or in inappropriate settings, or when the individual continues to exercise despite injury or other medical complications.” A person with bulimia may exercise excessively as a way to control their body weight or to compensate for a binge eating episode, instead of or in addition to purging. A person suffering from anorexia nervosa may also engage in EA to achieve weight loss.  EA might also be a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder if the exercise is meant to relieve anxiety about a feared consequence other than weight gain. Exercise addicts usually have a very strict fitness schedule to which they always adhere. They may compulsively exercise alone to avoid attracting the attention of others, including trainers and gym staff, exercise even if they are sick or injured, miss work, school, or other social obligations in order to exercise. Regardless of the reason, whether or not it is caused by an ED, the effects are harmful on psychological, physiological, and psychosocial levels.

Warning Signs of Exercise Addiction:

  • Always working out alone, isolated from others.
  • Always following the same rigid exercise pattern.
  • Exercising for more than two hours daily, repeatedly.
  • Fixation on weight loss or calories burned.
  • Exercising when sick or injured.
  • Exercising to the point of pain and beyond.
  • Skipping work, class, or social plans for workouts.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

A preoccupation/obsession with a defect in visual appearance, whether it be an actual slight imperfection or an imagined one. People with BDD may have a low self-esteem and unreasonable fears of rejection from others due to their perceived ugliness. Although some may know that their perception is distorted, the impulse to think about it is uncontrollable.  There are 2 types of BDD, the non-delusional type and the delusional type where the person has hallucinations of a completely imagined defect, or an imagined extreme exaggeration of a small defect.

Sleep Eating Disorder

SED usually falls under sleep disorders, but its a combined sleep and eating problem. Sufferers tend to be overweight and have episodes of recurrent sleep walking where they binge on large quantities of food.  Usually sufferers don’t remember these episodes, which can put them at risk for self injury.


Not a condition that a doctor will diagnose because there aren’t any guidelines for it, it has been thought of to be the “opposite of Anorexia”.  I saw this a few times when I was competing in Figure (a very feminine form of body building), usually the sufferer is constantly worried that he/she is too small, may use steroids and/or other drugs, spend excessive hours lifting weights even when they know it could hurt their health or well-being.


A compulsive craving for eating, chewing or licking non-food items or foods that have no nutrition (e.g. chalk, plaster, paint chips, baking soda, starch, glue, rust, ice, coffee grounds, and cigarette ashes.) Complications can include lead poisoning, malnutrition, abdominal problems, intestinal obstruction, hypokalemia (lower than normal amount of Potassium in the blood), hyperkalemia (higher than normal amount of Potassium in the blood), mercury poisoning, phosphorus intoxication, and dental injury.

Eating disorders are very serious health conditions that can be both physically and emotionally destructive.  People with eating disorders need to seek professional help.  There is hope and there is help. If you or someone you love needs help you can find information on treatment providers here.  Please feel free to email me anytime at [email protected]

Please see Part 1 of Eating Disorders 101 here, and Part 2 here.

Jacq has provided the Sisterhood with an extensive list links on the topic of Eating Disorders. We’ll be sharing that list of links permanently on our site as a resource to our readers.

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