“You got to eat if you’re going to drink.” I still remember my doctor’s cautionary words from more than a decade ago before I left for college. But an eating disorder that you may never have heard of is becoming a dangerous trend, especially on college campuses. Skipping meals in order to save calories and indulge in alcohol consumption has been recently coined as “drunkorexia.” This is not a medically-classified eating disorder, but the health risks are very substantial. Skipping meals can not only lead to a higher level of intoxication at a faster rate, but it can also lead to weight gain and poor nutrition if done regularly.
Although “drunkorexia” is not mainstream medical terminology, research from the Journal of American College Health in 2012 identified 3 main characteristics of the disorder:
- Skipping meals to save calories
- Excessive exercise to compensate for alcohol consumed
- Drinking in order to purge food
Drunkorexia is most common among college students. The atmosphere that encourages excessive drinking, combined with an obsession with thinness is probably to blame for the emergence of the disorder. A survey done by the UCLA Geffen School of Medicine found that women tend to skip meals to drink more and not go over their daily calorie budget, while men tend to over-exercise before drinking to compensate for drinking more. Because of this behavior, some medical professionals say that “alcoholimia” is a more accurate name.
“Drunkorexia is a behavior associated with the need to escape and relieve painful emotions, stress and anxiety. The binge-eating or drinking numbs or turns off that feeling, so you aren’t feeling it in that moment. The difficulty is when you are done eating or restricting food, or have consumed substances, those feelings come back.” – Dr. Susan Albers, Psychologist and Author
Dangers of Skipping Meals
A given rule in any diet plan to lose weight is to limit alcohol consumption. Many dieters think they can “outsmart” their weight loss plan by limiting calories from food if they consume calories from alcohol. But calories are not all created equal. Alcohol contains many “empty” calories that do not nourish the body and a majority of those calories are stored as fat. Not to mention that when your inhibitions are lowered, and the voice of reason is silenced, you’re more likely to binge of greasy bar food.
Skipping even one meal a day can slow your metabolism, says Dr. Caroline Cederquist, a weight management expert and founder of bistroMD. Cutting our food from calories in order to drink more is not a smart part of any healthy weight loss plan. When consuming alcohol, your body is working extra hard to burn off the booze first, so all the food you eat while drinking is being stored as fat.
Dangers of Rapid-Intoxication
Anyone who has had a drink or two on an empty stomach knows how fast a light buzz can turn into deep intoxication. Consuming alcohol at a fast rate with no food to absorb and slow the inebriation process can lead to dangerous consequences. The stomach and small intestine quickly absorb alcohol, which then enters the bloodstream at a rapid rate. If your stomach is empty, this process happens very quickly. Your liver works to metabolize alcohol, but it can only work so fast and it can’t breakdown alcohol affectively if your bloodstream is flooded with it. There are many different factors about how alcohol affects you (age, weight, drug use, tolerance, etc.), but consuming alcohol without food can lead to health risks as well as dangerous behavior linked to intoxication.
Are you or a loved one struggling with alcohol addiction? If any of these binging patters seem familiar, Rock Recovery Center in West Palm Beach, Florida can help you with advice on next steps. Call our 24-hour helpline or chat live with us now.