Saving calories to go drinking?
The idea of rationing food so there are calories to spend on alcohol is not new. Girl groups laugh about it. College students do it. But it could be a dangerous habit for those in your group who have social and anxiety problems.
Sixteen per cent of college students in a recent U.S. survey admitted to combining disordered eating and binge drinking. The practice — which has been coined “drunkorexia,” was three times more common in women than men, according to research at the University of Missouri.
“The report doesn’t surprise me and I’d imagine there could be a similar pattern in Canadian students,” says Lauren Dixon, a social worker in the Eating Disorders and Addiction Clinic at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto.
Drunkorexia is not a formal diagnosis but rather an identified pattern of behaviour, she adds. The appeal for students is that they prevent weight gain, get drunk faster and save money.
But kids are toying with powerful forces here, warns Dixon.
“If it’s a trend among friends to use alcohol meal-replacement, some young women in the group may be significantly more vulnerable than others to have the behaviour develop into a full-fledged eating or alcohol disorder.”
Both problems emerge, she says, from the same fundamental difficulty with managing emotions and social interactions.
Victoria Osborne, from the University of Missouri, warned that drunkorexia can have shorter-term consequences such as having difficulty concentrating, being more at risk for violence, engaging in risky sexual behaviour, developing alcohol poisoning, and damaging vital organs. Her research has not yet been published or peer-reviewed.