CHARLOTTE — Diabetes can be a life-changing diagnosis.
But for Black women, the diagnosis can come with a higher chance of developing an eating disorder.
Some researchers at UNC Chapel Hill are trying to figure out how to fix that.
“What we know in the latest research, about 25% to 40% of individuals with Type 2 diabetes might have an eating disorder,” said Dr. Rachel Goode at the UNC Nutrition Research Institute.
Goode is trying to uncover the nuances of a diabetic’s relationship with food.
Data from a support program affiliated with the University of Minnesota’s medical school found that the rate of eating disorders in men and women with diabetes is two to four times higher than in the general population.
That rate is higher for Black patients, particularly Black women.
“Often you get that diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes, you are going to meet with an educator to help you change your diet and for some that instruction can be very drastic,” Goode said. “That restriction almost makes you want it more.”
Clinical therapist Alexis Skelley has seen it in her patients with diabetes.
“We overeat, then we get stressed out and we feel guilty,” Skelley said. “We feel like we failed in some way. So this creates more of this stress and stress, and the stress-brain actually, you know, it has this drive to eat more.”
But why it’s shockingly higher for Black diabetics is still a big question. Both doctors think culture and stress play the biggest roles.
“The specific stressors that the African-American community may experience as opposed to other communities,” Skelley said.
“I think for so long, I think Black women have had the pressure to be strong. The pressure to take care of everyone else and we haven’t always been able to or felt like we’ve been able to prioritize our health and take the time,” Goode said.
As we head into a holiday season filled with food, Dr. Skelley suggests setting small goals — planning for how to get back on your plan if you slip up, and having compassion for yourself.
Meanwhile, Dr. Goode’s team is still doing interviews with patients to create a program to help. You can either call 704-250-5093 or email email@example.com to participate in the ongoing study.
The rate it shows in Black women is unknown.
The doctors think culture and stress play the biggest roles.
“The specific stressors that the African American community may experience as opposed to other communities,” Skelley said. “I think Black women have had the pressure to be strong the pressure will take care of everyone else, and we haven’t always been able to or felt like we’ve been able to prioritize our health and take the time.”
Skelley suggests people set small goals, plan how to get back on the plan if they slip up, and have compassion for themselves.
Goode’s team is still doing interviews with patients to create a program to help.