Surviving an Eating Disorder with Type 1 Diabetes


Editor’s Note: We Are Diabetes is now accepting applications for additional Mentors. The next Mentor Training Program, supported in part by Beyond Type 1, launches in June. If you have experience with type 1 diabetes and an eating disorder, please consider applying.

There’s a bit of irony surrounding my type 1 diabetes (T1D) diagnosis: I found out I had type 1 diabetes at my intake assessment for eating disorder treatment!

I’d been in full eating disorder recovery for over five years, but in the six months prior to being diagnosed, a few life stressors triggered my depression and my body image issues came back. At this time, I noticed I was losing a lot of weight and it was triggering more disordered thoughts for me. I ended up getting extremely sick before I accepted that I most likely needed inpatient treatment for my eating disorder.

At my initial assessment, my blood sugar was nearly 33.3 mmol/L600 mg/dL and I was immediately sent to a local hospital. I learned how to give myself shots and count carbs and started to absorb all of the information I would need for my life moving forward. It was very overwhelming. The reality of being diagnosed with T1D, and the grief process that comes with a chronic disease diagnosis, along with my disordered thoughts about food and body image, had become all-consuming.

A month after my T1D diagnosis, I returned to treatment and got support for my eating disorder, but I was still not ready to embrace my new life with diabetes. Before I hit “rock bottom,” I was almost never connected to my pump and I stopped wearing my continuous glucose monitor (CGM). I barely had the energy to get through the day. My treatment team suggested a higher level of care (inpatient) many times to me, but I didn’t think I needed it—I didn’t realize how sick I was.

I was finally threatened with being committed to treatment. I remember begging everyone on my treatment team to give me one more chance. I told my team if my blood sugar wasn’t under 16.6 mmol/L300 mg/dL by later that week I would go to inpatient. They agreed.

It was at that moment, when I almost got everything taken away from me, that I decided to channel my stubbornness into a new direction: recovery! I decided I didn’t want to feel sick anymore, and I wanted the chance to have a baby, and a life that was not dictated by an eating disorder. I realized on that day that I couldn’t ignore my diabetes any longer. I couldn’t stay in denial and hope it would just go away.

I finally started being honest with my support system. I continued outpatient treatment and every week I became stronger—physically and mentally. My husband and I returned to discussing our dreams of starting a family, something we’d both wanted for a very long time.

Three months after my rock bottom moment, I found out I was pregnant! I couldn’t believe after all I had put my body through that I was able to conceive a child. I had a very healthy pregnancy and I’m so thankful for my miracle baby, Blake.

I’ve always loved being able to help others, it’s truly my passion. However, I’ve realized I can’t help other people until I’m able to help myself. I hope my story of eating disorder recovery and diabetes acceptance is able to reach someone out there who feels alone. Please know: there is hope, there is healing and there is a light at the end of tunnel!

WRITTEN BY Julie Vagle, POSTED 01/29/19, UPDATED 08/04/23

Julie Vagle was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes during an assessment of her eating disorder. She fought through the mental and physical hardship of her disorder to form good diabetes management habits. She now spends her time with her husband and their son, Blake.