Can Eating Disorders Cause Diabetes?

by | Health at Every Size

Many people may have heard about diabetes due to diet culture and anti-fat bias. However, most people do not have a comprehensive understanding of diabetes and how, or rather if, it could relate to the development of an eating disorder. Can eating disorders cause Diabetes? Let’s begin with the basics.

What is Diabetes?

There are three main types of diabetes: Type I, Type II, and Gestational. All three types are caused by insulin production issues. Insulin is an incredibly important hormone that allows glucose to enter our cells, which we need for energy. If the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, glucose remains in the bloodstream and can increase to dangerously high levels.

Type I: 

An autoimmune condition that occurs when the pancreas doesn’t function properly and, as a result, doesn’t release enough insulin.

Type II: 

Unlike Type I, the body still produces insulin with Type II diabetes. However, the pancreas either does not produce enough insulin or the cells themselves respond poorly to insulin and take in less glucose.


A form of diabetes that only occurs during pregnancy and will often cease after the mother gives birth.

Diabetes Myths

Myth 1: You Have to Restrict Carbs with Diabetes

Many individuals are told that if they have diabetes, they should restrict carbohydrates. And lose weight. This is a myth and a very fatphobic recommendation. The main goal of treatment for diabetes is to manage blood sugar levels. Restricting carbs and placing the body at an energy deficit will only exacerbate erratic blood sugar levels, which can be deadly.

Myth 2: Eating Too Much Sugar Will Cause Diabetes

Sugar often is demonized in diet culture. One reason being, the idea that increased intake of sugar will result in the development of diabetes. This is yet another myth. If this were true then everyone with a so-called “sweet tooth” would have diabetes. 

Myth 3: Diabetes Only Affects Plus-Size People

Often, people assume that only larger or plus-size individuals can have or develop diabetes. When in fact, anyone can have diabetes, regardless of body size.

How Does Diabetes Relate to Eating Disorders?

Having an eating disorder cannot cause diabetes. All types of diabetes have a stronger genetic tie than any other factor. Meaning that no matter what an individual does with food or movement, they may still develop diabetes. There is a reason why doctors ask about your family history. If your family has a high rate of diabetes, then there’s a higher likelihood you may develop it, no matter what preventative measures you take. Having an eating disorder however can place an individual at risk for hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar. This, coupled with the misinformation surrounding diabetes treatment, it’s common for people with diabetes to develop disordered relationships with food and movement.

What Do I Do If I’m Diagnosed With Diabetes?

When diagnosed with diabetes, people need to work with a team of medical professionals, including doctors and dietitians, to learn how to successfully manage their diabetes. When looking for a dietitian, we recommend that you find a HAES-aligned dietitian. Given the complexity of diabetes, a HAES-aligned dietitian will be able to help maintain stable blood sugars by satisfying hunger/fullness cues, incorporating joyful movement, and focusing on food diversity and meal consistency. Working with a dietitian who has eating disorder experience could also be beneficial, given their familiarity with disordered food behaviors that could negatively impact diabetes management.

Final Thoughts on Diabetes and Eating Disorders

Thank you for reading this resource on “Can Eating Disorders Cause Diabetes?”We know it may not always seem like it, but people with chronic illnesses, like diabetes, can still have a positive relationship with food. Having a HAES-aligned dietitian along for the journey can be quite beneficial in figuring out what does and doesn’t work for you, while simultaneously helping you manage your chronic condition.

Contact Us

Courage to Nourish is a group of eating disorder specialized dietitians. We have in person locations in Alexandria, Virginia, Columbia, Maryland. and College Park, Maryland. We offer virtual services across the state of Virginia, Washington DC, Pennsylvania, and Colorado. We offer individual nutrition therapy. As well as support groups. We would love to guide you in building a better relationship with food.

Contact us for more information. And to schedule a discovery call. Also, sign up for our client or clinician newsletter!

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Lauren Hirschhorn, RD, LD

Lauren joined Courage to Nourish because she used to work in the fitness and fashion industry. She realized how much misinformation there is about food and nutrition and vowed to support others with their relationship with food. Lauren holds a special place in her heart for working with clients struggling with women's health concerns including diagnoses involving hormonal imbalances such as PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and fertility difficulties. She also specializes in working with clients who have bulimia, binge eating disorder and those transitioning from a higher level of care. View Lauren's full bio here.

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