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Recovering from diabulimia: Imogen's story

Imogen poses and smiles next to a castle in the background.


Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 12 years old.

I urge anyone struggling with diabulimia, or any eating disorder for that matter, to be brave and seek help. It will be worth it.

Imogen was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 12 years old. After struggling with an unhealthy relationship with food during her teen years, she was diagnosed with diabulimia whilst at university.

Living with diabulimia led Imogen to experience several dangerous, diabetic complications. However, after accessing support she was able to establish a healthier relationship with food and better manage her diabetes. She now tells her story to encourage those who are struggling to seek help.



I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 12 years old. I was losing lots of weight, became very skinny, and I seemed to constantly be thirsty and needing the loo.

My family noticed I was unwell and took me to see the GP. My blood sugar levels were tested and were 36mmol/l, so I ended up being taken into hospital. I was kept in for a few days and started on insulin injections. In hindsight, I didn’t really accept my diagnosis from the beginning. I wasn’t really upset or annoyed, I just didn’t seem to care. I progressively neglected it more and more, and over time my family became concerned.



Struggling with body image

Over the years my diabetes caused me to have an unhealthy relationship with food. Throughout my teen years I would run my sugars high so I could lose weight. I wasn’t conscious of it to begin with but at the age of 14 I became more aware of my body image. Then by the age of 17-18 I was running my sugars high on purpose. My friends and family were aware of my battle with food, and for years my diabetes team recognised that my blood sugar levels were not what they should be.

I started university in September 2019, which seemed to be a trigger for me. I was uncomfortable in my skin and felt inferior to my peers. I was now in an environment where I suddenly realised how much I disliked my own body. I felt ugly, overweight and undesirable compared to the other girls, who I perceived to be better than me – both physically and intellectually.  

"The Libre sensor on my arm also makes me feel different to others. Living with diabetes creates a constant level of stress, you’ve got to think about it all the time and it’s a strain."

At this point I was undereating and taking laxatives to keep the weight off. It was in November 2020 that I received a diagnosis of diabulimia.  

Impact on relationships

I also struggled with alcohol consumption. My blood sugar would go high when I was drinking, so I would over inject and then go too low. I would sometimes fall asleep or was so drunk that I was no longer in control. On one occasion I had a seizure and my friends didn’t know what to do, so they called an ambulance. I know they were concerned and just wanted to help, and it was the best thing for me at the time, but I didn’t want to feel like I was being babied. 

I think my seizure led to more a parent-child relationship with my friends – but I wanted to be equal in my friendships. Looking back, I think some people didn’t accept my diabetes and I felt judged by them.  


Developing complications

After living with diabulimia for several years, I developed retinopathy problems, such as microaneurysms in my eyes. I also damaged some of the blood vessels in my feet. However, what I have found to be most damaging is the impact on my mental health. I became entirely consumed with the goal of losing weight, no matter the physical detriment it caused my body. It really scared me to realise that I was already having complications at such a young age.  


Accessing support

It was in 2020 that I started to have therapy, which helped me begin to accept my diabetes and encouraged me to look after myself better. I realised that being slim doesn’t matter if I lose my eyesight or need an amputation. I now feel that I have gained control over my health and my diabetes. I am no longer using laxatives or purposely running my sugars high. Instead, I want to nourish my body to help it function better.

I’ve spoken to dieticians who have helped me establish a healthy relationship with food. They advised me on meal options and explained the effects of poor eating and alcohol habits on my blood sugar levels, which I never really understood before. 

Looking ahead

Understanding the realities of what I was doing to my health and seeing how much my mum, dad and sister were worrying about me was the wakeup call I needed. The thing that helped me was gaining perspective. Think about in 10 years’ time, will being slim be important if you lose a limb or your eyesight? I urge anyone struggling with diabulimia, or any eating disorder for that matter, to be brave and seek help. It will be worth it. 

I have now graduated from university and I’m so excited to start my career – and my life. I’m also surrounded by loving friendships and relationships, so the future is looking bright.

Remember, whether you have diabetes or your family member or friend does, we’re here for you. Call our helpline – our trained advisors are here to answer questions or just listen to anything you’re ready to talk about.

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