Featured Article: Unraveling The Diabetic Binge

Solving The Uncontrollable Urge to Eat and Eat Despite Knowing the Consequences

By Eliot LeBow, LCSW, CDE


Hypoglycemic reactions cause many problems for people with diabetes. That is why it is so important to eat or drink something as soon as possible when a low blood glucose

reaction occurs.


Generally, people will have a snack, glucose tablet, or juice drink to counteract the hypoglycemia. However, it is possible to “overcorrect” for the low blood glucose—and start to binge. The bingeing behavior that begins can create more challenges for even the most astute person with diabetes.


What Is a Diabetic Binge?

The diabetic binge begins after the appropriate grams of carbohydrates have been ingested to handle the hypoglycemic reaction. If you continue eating after this point, it’s called a diabetic binge.


Physical reasons fuel this behavior and make it difficult to stop. There are two approaches to managing the diabetic binge and this seemingly uncontrollable behavior. This is common in most people with diabetes while blood glucose remains low even though the reaction has been taken care of; this is what I’ve seen in my clinical experience. The brain continues to release neuropeptides, continuing an individual’s hunger.


The Diabetic Binge is not an Eating Disorder

To fully understand why this is such an important issue for people with diabetes on insulin management, you’ll need to move away from how society views bingeing. I say this because the majority of diabetics don’t binge due to poor self-control during a hypoglycemic reaction.


Anorexia and Bulimia are process addictions, due to poor body image. For people with bulimia, food is used as a coping mechanism to reduce stress and negative emotions in much the same way that alcoholics use alcohol. In both of these cases, the end result is more stress and negative feelings than they were feeling prior to drinking a case of beer or drowning in a bag of Oreos.


Some people with diabetes do use food as a coping mechanism, but unlike most disorders or addictions, it is not the sole reason for their bingeing.


The Typical Hunger Cycle

Biologically, when the stomach runs out of food, our blood glucose levels drop, triggering the message to the brain that it is time to eat. At that point, the brain releases neuropeptides, which trigger hunger.


When we have eaten enough, our fat tissues tell the brain that it is time to stop eating. The brain reduces the production of neuropeptides and simultaneously releases an appetite suppressant. Unfortunately, this part of the process is not instantaneous, which allows us to overeat. If we eat too fast, more food than necessary enters the digestive system prior to the suppression of our appetite, and that results in overeating.


For someone with diabetes, there is a tendency to binge during a hypoglycemic reaction, due to the bodies natural response to low blood glucose. Many people with diabetes feel bad about eating so much without knowing that bingeing during a reaction is normal and very difficult to prevent. Many times, people with diabetes go around thinking that they have a bingeing disorder and may even become depressed over many failed attempts to stop.


Don’t Feel Guilty about Diabetic Bingeing

Here is why you shouldn’t feel guilty when diabetic bingeing occurs. A hypoglycemic reaction will send the message to the brain that it is time to eat, and the brain starts to release neuropeptides, triggering hunger...


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My therapy practice was created to help anyone living with diabetes. If believe you might be struggling with Binge Eating and need help, Please call (917) 272-4829 for more information or to schedule your first Diabetes-Focused Psychotherapy® Session.


Medical Disclaimer:

All the advice included in this blog is therapeutic in nature and should not be considered medical advice. Before making any changes to your diabetes maintenance program, please consult with your primary physician or endocrinologist.



© 2011-2023 Eliot LeBow L.C.S.W., C.D.E.,  The information on this server including all images is proprietary and comprises legally protected subject matter belonging to psychotherapist Eliot LeBow, and is displayed on the basis of viewing only. All use, reproduction, and disclosure is prohibited without the prior consent of Diabetes Focused Therapist Eliot LeBow, including all registration marks: ® Diabetes Focused Psychotherapy, ® Helping People With Diabetes Thrive!, ® DiabeticTalks, ® DiabeticMinds, ® The Diabetic Diary. All rights reserved.

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