Drunkorexia or alcohol anorexia is a non-medical slang term that refers to restricting food calories to compensate for the calories consumed from drinking alcohol.
The primary reason for this behavior is a fear of gaining weight. The concept is most popular among women in college, although some men are also drunkorexic. In some extreme instances, drunkorexia is associated with anorexia or bulimia.
Previous research has shown a relationship between eating disorders and alcoholism. A study found that as the amount of alcohol consumption increases, your intake of food decreases.
However, not all people with drunkorexia have eating disorders.
What Are the Causes of Drunkorexia?
Drunkorexia is found not just among college students, but studies have focused more on that population. An Australian study of women on campus found that 64% of the participants restricted food intake to compensate for alcoholic calories.
In a Canadian study, researchers found that a significant number of the undergraduates in their sample had concerns about alcohol's caloric content, and 46% of them restricted their food intake before alcohol consumption. These participants also had more symptoms of an eating disorder than the rest of the group.
Another study of 63 undergraduate students showed that women, especially overweight women, were more engaged in drunkorexia than men.
What Are the Risks of Drunkorexia?
Limiting your food calories to make space for alcohol poses a number of health risks:
- Not eating or eating too little before drinking may lead to overconsumption of alcohol.
- Your body needs several nutrients to metabolize alcohol. When you do not eat enough, you don’t have enough nutrients to help your body process alcohol.
- Uncontrolled drunkorexia can potentially lead to a much worse eating disorder.
How to Keep Drunkorexia in Check
As a college student, it is easy to give in to peer pressure and develop unhealthy habits. But if you or someone close to you engages in alcohol anorexia, it is best to tackle the situation as early as possible to prevent eating disorders and alcoholism.
Drink in moderation. According to CDC alcohol guidelines, a male adult of legal drinking age should not drink more than two drinks a day, and a female adult should not consume more than one alcoholic drink a day.
Do not restrict food calories. Your body needs nutrients to function correctly. Do not cut essential foods from your diet that are sources of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
If you are drinking on an empty stomach, your body will also take longer to metabolize alcohol. Your body needs some nutrients to break down alcohol and help you recover from a hangover. If you are concerned about your caloric intake, choose alcoholic drinks that have fewer calories or drink less than you usually do.
Seek support. If you suspect you are falling into an unhealthy pattern of limiting food calories, seek professional help. Students can talk to their campus counselors. Other people can reach out to support groups that explicitly address drunkorexia or consult a therapist.