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Beating eating disorders, even without a "cure"

Posted Apr 20 2009 11:03pm
I couldn't help but think about eating disorder recovery when I read this article: Diabetes? Some beat it, but are they cured?

Some people with Type 2 Diabetes are able to control their blood sugar through the euphemistic "lifestyle changes," namely eating "healthier,"* losing weight, and exercising, to the point that they no longer need medication.

"For right now, we're not saying they're cured, but the bottom line is ... good glucose control, less infections," said Sue McLaughlin, president of health care and education for the American Diabetes Association. The organization has no estimate of how many people fall into that category...

Doctors caution that, for some diabetics, lowering blood sugar may be only temporary. Stress, weight gain and other factors can push it back to unhealthy levels.

"Blood sugars can come down to normal. Then the issue is how long does that last?" said Dr. Sue Kirkman, vice president of clinical affairs for the diabetes association. "Sometimes people start putting weight back on and their blood sugars come back up."

In other cases, patients are diagnosed so late that blood sugar levels can't be brought back to normal, even with weight loss, she said. As the disease progresses, even those who made diet and lifestyle changes might eventually have to go on medications.

That's one reason Wagner and some other diabetics who've managed their disease through diet and exercise are also reluctant to consider themselves "cured."

"American culture, our environment, is not conducive to having good health," said Wagner. She believes diabetes will always be lurking in the background, waiting for her to slip.

And, though it sounds a little ominous, I think an eating disorder will always be waiting for me to slip. I don't believe recovery is all doom and gloom, but I'd be really stupid to forget that I am and will always be vulnerable to an eating disorder. American culture isn't conducive to eating disorder recovery, either, which only adds to the need to remain vigilant.

Here's the thing: we don't know how many people recover from an eating disorder only to fall back down the rabbit hole decades later. We know relapse is common and recovery can be a long and difficult road. We know that malnutrition is almost always the first step both in the initial descent into an ED and into relapse. We know that normalizing eating habits goes a long way in treating ED thinking. But we don't know about "cures," if there is one, if there will ever be one.

For me to stay healthy, I can't brag about how little sleep I'm getting or how stressed I am. These things make me nutty, which tends to lead to food restriction. Food restriction leads to overexercise and overexercise leads to stress fractures and The Boot. I can't go on a diet and expect a positive outcome. I can't be carefree about food and eating- I need to make sure I'm eating enough of EVERY different food group and that I'm getting enough fats and proteins.

In spite of this, I do believe that it's possible to go on and life a happy and fulfilling life. I don't think I will be dealing with food phobias and urges to exercise myself half to death forever. I tell myself it could be worse. I have people to support me on this journey, to get my back when Ed starts calling again.

*A "healthy diet" isn't one specific thing, hence the quotation marks.
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