If you have a weight problem, we caution you against trying to find another new diet.

Dieting has poor long-term outcomes no matter what diet you choose. Dieting usually leads to overeating and more weight gain. You may have found that trying to achieve a target weight may have been successful in the short term, and as you revert to your normal habits and busy life that you place the weight back on, instead you could change your relationship with food.  This could include boosting your willpower, changing your mindset and managing the emotions that lie beneath overeating and we would also recommend learning about nutrition and how this can improve your mood, as we all recognise that what we eat not only fuels our body, what we eat also creates chemicals that influence our brain and mood.

Culture and Families

Some cultures are socially built around food and its consumption with families fostering overeating, for emotional or cultural reasons. Parents can also teach bad habits, like forcing children to clear everything on their plate, eating quickly, or they provide food when everyone sits down to watch TV. Research indicates that eating in front of the TV may slow down our metabolism when people are in a mild trance state and energy from the diet is less likely to be converted to heat.

Stress and Lifestyle

Some people eat more in response to stress, loneliness or anger and it is now believed that stress leads to a heightened cortisol response, which in turn favours the deposition of central fat. The causes of obesity are however complex; counselling for emotional distress does little to make people thinner. Obviously, something else is going on.

Certain changes in life circumstances can trigger weight gain (or loss) often due to changes in eating opportunities, emotional eating or changes in activity levels. These may include leaving home and having one’s own money to spend for the first time, use of alcohol, retirement, job change or redundancy, being in a relationship or breaking up.

Our society is obesogenic which means increased availability of food and less opportunity for moving around. Growth of eating areas in shopping centres, drive through restaurant chains provide largely calorie and fat laden choices on family outings.

The disappearance of the traditional family meal and the family sitting around the dinner table to eat main meals has created a culture of convenience foods which is a consequence of our changing work and life practices. Availability of food and the loss of seasonality across our food groups has reduced and not increased fruit and vegetables to be part of meals resulting in more people consuming more energy dense foods. This move to convenance over decades has also resulted in snacking which promotes obesity in childhood.


Anyone can develop eating problems. They don’t just affect people with diabetes.

How they start is complicated and can vary for different people. Some people can feel depressed and binge eat for comfort, or some can get fixated with food because of certain pressures around them.

These feelings and behaviours won’t always develop into an eating disorder. So understanding what might be causing these negative emotions can be the first step in overcoming them.

Some people with diabetes can develop an unhealthy relationship or fixation on food. This can lead to something called disordered eating behaviour or possibly an eating disorder.

Diabetes and food are closely linked. Having diabetes can mean a bigger focus on diet, weight and body image. So it’s not surprising that some people can start to feel negatively about food.

Disordered eating isn’t the same as having a diagnosed eating disorder. But the signs and behaviours are similar, like skipping insulin for weight loss, or binge eating and making yourself sick. But one can lead to the other, so it’s really important you get help before things get worse.

These eating problems are more common than you think – you’re not alone in this. And they can happen to anyone, not just because you have diabetes.


Diabulimia is a serious eating disorder that only affects people with Type 1 diabetes. It’s when you reduce or stop taking insulin to lose weight. This is really dangerous and can cause serious damage now and, in the future, too.

“I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 16 following a period of significant weight loss prior to diagnosis. When I started to take insulin, my body shape started to change, and my brain instantly made the connection between insulin and gaining weight. This led me to having many periods of stopping my insulin to influence my weight and body shape. I had struggled with an eating disorder since the age of 8, but only started receiving treatment in 2014 when I had a period of hospitalisation.

I was diagnosed with diabulimia, but back then it was an unknown condition, and the eating disorders team weren’t sure how best to treat me. Consequently, I was treated for bulimia and was discharged after 6 months as this wasn’t helping. I also hadn’t heard of the condition which made engaging in recovery very difficult. I moved to university in 2015 and my diabulimia flared up as no one was there to keep me on track. I saw my GP at the request of my flatmate, and I was signposted to First Steps ED for support whilst awaiting treatment from the eating disorder teams as there was a long waiting list. The friendly support allowed me to chat in a safe place and get feelings off my chest. I completed my degree in adult nursing and started my first nursing job. Although I am currently under an eating disorder team for treatment for bulimia and diabulimia, diabulimia is now recognised as an eating disorder and my team are much more equipped to treat me.

For those unsure of what the condition is and whether they meet the diagnosis criteria, BBC Three created a documentary looking at patients with the condition. If you’re worried, reach out for help! Looking back, I wish I reached out earlier, but I’m now on the road to recovery.”

Lived Experience

Talk to your Diabetes healthcare team

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with an eating disorder or you think you might have one, you can get specialist help from a healthcare professional.

This could be your GP, a dietitian or your diabetes specialist nurse.

Your diabetes team is there to help you with all aspects of your diabetes, including how you feel about it. Share your feelings with them. They won’t judge you and together you can make a plan to manage your disordered eating.

They might refer you to a psychologist too. Who will give you really specialist advice and support, and talk you through different treatment options like talking therapies or medication.

You can make a referral now.

Referrals can either be made by yourself, by a parent/ carer, or professional support worker. After making a referral, we aim to make contact within 10 workings days.

Private practice bookings are £45. All bookings are made in the strictest confidence and available to anyone (over the age of 16) who is currently impacted by any eating disorder, or symptoms of an eating disorder, including an individual sufferer, family member or carer. If you are referring into our private counselling service please let us know in the form.