Drunkorexia Is Making A Comeback

By Victoria Kim 07/11/16

Restricting food calories to save them for alcohol is not exclusive to women anymore.

Drunkorexia Is Making A Comeback

Skipping meals to get drunk faster, or drinking in lieu of eating to cut calories, isn’t a new phenomenon. You may know it as “drunkorexia,” a term used to describe the behavior that’s reportedly common among college students—engaging in disordered eating in order to negate the calories in alcohol.

But skipping dinner to “make up” the lost calories could deplete a person of essential nutrients. And since alcohol is more potent on an empty stomach, students should be wary of the potential negative consequences, says Dr. Dipali Rinker, a research assistant professor in the department of psychology at the University of Houston.

Past reports have focused on young women’s vulnerability to drunkorexia. The New York Daily News reported in 2011 that three times as many women engage in the behavior than men, and the Atlantic noted in 2013 that alcohol companies market low-calorie beer and wine as diet products to women. 

But a recent study authored by Dr. Rinker suggests that it’s not a phenomenon exclusive to women. “Our study suggested that males are just as likely, if not more likely, to engage in these behaviors,” she told Medscape

There were no gender differences for engaging in drunkorexia, said Rinker. In some cases, it was even the opposite, where men were more likely to engage in disordered eating to save calories for alcohol. “We suspect that this is because men, in general, just tend to engage in riskier drinking behaviors than women,” said Rinker.

The study’s findings are based on a survey of 1,184 college students, the majority of them from the University of Houston, who had reported imbibing heavily at least once in the month prior to the survey. 

More than 80% of the college students reported engaging in at least one drunkorexia-related behavior in the past three months, suggesting that the phenomenon is more prevalent among young people than previously thought.

Not surprisingly, students living in fraternity and sorority houses were more prone to reporting this behavior. 

Also, given that numerous studies have suggested that eating disorders and substance use disorders frequently co-occur—often in the presence of other psychiatric and personality disorders—the popularity of simultaneous disordered eating and drinking isn't shocking. Rinker says there's more research needed to further examine the phenomenon.

"It is important to realize that, in addition to the amount and/or frequency of alcohol consumption, the manner in which college students drink puts them at greatest risk for experiencing problems," she said. 

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr

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