People to Know: Lorraine Platka-Bird, PhD, RD
Four years ago I was a 19-year-old with type 1 diabetes and an eating disorder. My diagnosis: diabulimia. I had spent six years of my life committing destructive, self-harming, almost lethal behavior, but I was finally ready to get help.
I searched for treatment facilities, but what I found was disconcerting. There were no programs designed to deal with the very specific complexities that come with having both diabetes and an eating disorder. In fact, most of the eating disorder treatment centers wouldn't accept me as a patient because of my diabetes. The very disease that had pushed me into my eating disorder was keeping me from getting help for it.
Fast-forward four years. I'm now in recovery from my eating disorder (thankfully), but thousands of girls all over the country find themselves in the same situation I once was in. Recent studies suggest that one in four 18- to 35-year-old women with diabetes has diabulimia, a disorder in which a person with diabetes reduces insulin doses or stops taking insulin altogether in order to control weight.
The good news is that those who struggle need no longer fight alone. Center for Hope of the Sierras, located in Reno, Nev., was the country's first residential treatment center to develop a program specifically for those with diabetes and eating disorders. And at the head of that program is nutrition expert Lorraine Platka-Bird, PhD, RD.
After recommending Center for Hope to our clients for almost two years, I finally had the pleasure of talking with Lorraine. In addition to teaching the girls how to listen to their bodies, she also reeducates them on diabetes management. As head of the diabetes program, she masterfully guides patients as they walk the fine line between giving up control of their eating disorder and taking control of their diabetes.
Erin Akers is the founder and CEO of DiabulimiaHelpline.org, the country's only nonprofit organization with a focus on education, support, and advocacy for people with diabulimia.