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'Drunkorexia' phenomena prominent in young Australian women, research finds

By Docta, Jun 30, 2016 | | |
  1. Docta
    alcohol2.jpg More than half of female university students in Australia are skipping meals before a big night out so they can save calories for alcohol, an Adelaide study has found. The study, by PhD student and researcher Alissa Knight at the University of South Australia, looks into the social phenomena dubbed "drunkorexia".

    Key points:

    • Young women feel the need to drink but stay thin, study finds
    • Drunkorexia involves skipping meals in order to save calories for alcohol
    • Australia has higher incidence of drunkorexia than America
    Ms Knight said drunkorexia was the combination of two social cultures in Australia involving binge drinking and a desire to be thin. "It's a new phenomena and it sort of involves the use of distorted eating, such as starvation, dietary restriction, purging, vomiting, excessive exercise ... for the sole purpose of saving calories for alcohol use," she told 891 ABC Adelaide. "It seems to have evolved out of two quite prominent socio-cultural norms, operating in Australia for young female adults.

    "So one — you have the social norm of drinking, so in Australia it is quite a dominant cultural identity where you're almost seen as quite un-Australian if you don't have a drink in your hand at a barbecue or a club or bar — and number two is the social norm of thinness. "The problem with these two social norms is that they're actually quite conflicting because alcohol is also quite fattening with a lot of calories, so every time one goes to binge drink, they are ingesting a lot of unwanted extra calories on top of what they normally consume." Ms Knight said women taking part in the study admitted to skipping meals on a Friday night in preparation for a big night of drinking on a Saturday. The obvious concern of drunkorexia behaviour was the impact the practice was having on women's physical and mental wellbeing.

    Drunkorexia 'heightens alcohol risks'

    Ms Knight said drinking on an empty stomach can make alcohol up to 10 times more potent.
    "You're at risk for developing very serious physical and or psychological health consequences, you're looking at things like hypoglycaemia, liver sorosis, memory lapses, depression," she said. "For a lot of these young adults, most of them are at university or they're trying to obtain something similar so they can also be at risk of developing cognitive function deficits, which can obviously lead to and impact upon their learning capabilities things and so forth." She said traditional eating disorders are driven by a desire to be thin, but research showed drunkorexia predominantly appeared to be motivated by the need to drink. However, she said the additional danger of drunkorexia was the possibility the eating disorder pattern could become more prominent. She said results from the Australian research showed a higher incidence of drunkorexia than research conducted in America.

    © 2016 ABC
    Image credit: drugs-forum.com


  1. perro-salchicha614
    I most definitely am a drunkorexic. When I drink, it's almost always on an empty stomach because I want to (a) potentiate it, and (b) make up for the calories in the alcohol by not eating. I know it's really unhealthy, but I can't seem to break this pattern when I drink. I'm sure I must look very odd when I'm at a restaurant nibbling on a little plate of fries while I down a bottle of wine.
  2. prescriptionperil
    Sadly, alcohol makes me hungry. I've never fit into a standard.
  3. perro-salchicha614
    Oh, that's the perverse part... it makes me hungry too, but I still don't eat much when I'm drinking most of the time. Too many calories...
  4. Emilita
    As an Australian l will say this is outrageous and wild accusation to make *waves wine glass around*

    In all honestly l don't know a female friend of mine who doesn't do this, l do it as well. It is far deeper rooted problem than the article states.

    The only issue l have with this article is it purely addresses women but l know many men who also do exactly the same thing but don't get the tag of 'drunkorexia' but instead are just a 'mate who's had a few too many'. I know you didn't write the article but l think it is clearly one sided and doesn't actually show the true drinking culture within Australia. The men might not be eating due to desire to keep away the 'beer gut' or 'love handles' but l don't think it is mutely exclusive to Australian women.
  5. AKA_freckles
    Pretty sure this is universal.
  6. nachofish
    Alcohol also makes me hungry. It makes me crave fatty, salty foods. Where I live, outside all night clubs and bars, you can always find heaps of food stands.

    A fucked up thing that happens to me, sometimes, is that I put off eating because I am just too drunk and/or want to get drunker. It's like if I eat then I'll probably focus my energy on something other than booze, thereby wasting an opportunity to get even more wasted.

    So I like to eat before and after I drink.
  7. monkeyspanker
    I agree it's universal around the world and not just young women but, young men as well. Especially in the gay culture here in the US.

    I've been guilty of it myself over the years, I'm 6'1" and have weighed 165lbs almost my entire half century on this planet. When I drink, sometimes I crave food, sometimes I don't. I'm not sure why that is though.

    Anything involving caloric intake should be catagorized as an eating disorder with deeper mental issues to be examined? Or, am I wrong?
  8. Weltmeister
    Ive never heard of anybody doing this
  9. Beenthere2Hippie
    I don't think there is any true social or hard science behind this "drunkorexia,"Australian social phenomenon. If there is, I'd sure like to see the research. Seems the writer generalized about the tendency of all young women who drink regularly to be overly concerned with their weight.
  10. prescriptionperil
    ^^ As usual, B got that right. Damn, I took age out of the equation. Our life on this rock is so short that something, so simplistic, as young and old became meaningless.to me. Philosophically speaking, we'll all disappear in an blink of the eye.

    My dear daughter in law's speciality is eating disorders.
  11. aemetha
    Niki Bezzant: Are you suffering drunkorexia?

    [IMGL="white"]https://drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=51704&stc=1&d=1471146345[/IMGL]Disordered eating is, sadly, a serious problem. The term applies to more than what we typically think of as eating disorders: anorexia and bulimia.

    It applies to a range of behaviours around food and eating and can include an obsession with healthy eating (often fuelled by social media), binge eating and other skewed relationships with food.

    A worrying trend that has been highlighted in recent Australian research has been termed "drunkorexia", and it's distressingly prevalent in young women. This is the habit of using extreme dieting, exercise, self-induced purging, and other extreme weight-control behaviours, to offset the calorie intake from a session of drinking.

    Researchers at the University of South Australia looked at female students, and found that nearly 60 per cent of the sample group reported "frequently engaging in various disordered eating and other extreme weight-control behaviours 25 per cent of the time or more in the three months before, while at, or after a planned drinking event, to compensate for anticipated alcohol calories".

    The drunkorexia behaviours included skipping meals before a drinking event: in effect substituting alcohol for food. Even more worrying was the surprising discovery that these behaviours were practised by many young women whose eating habits were otherwise normal. "An unexpected number reported they only used behaviours such as starvation, purging, extreme exercise or taking laxatives when they anticipated the use of alcohol, such as on a Saturday night at a party", the researchers said. They point out that whereas the motivation for traditional eating disorders is an underlying desire to be thin, "drunkorexia appears to have evolved from the need for young girls to meet possibly the two most prominent social norms for young adults - drinking and thinness."

    The fact that drinking is one of the most prominent social norms for young women is incredibly depressing for us as a society. There's no reason to think the situation here is any different from Australia. We both have harmful binge-drinking cultures, and this culture still seems to be ingrained in our young people. We are getting no wiser when it comes to alcohol, and we are failing to guide our children - especially our young women - that drinking to excess is not cool, and it's definitely not healthy.

    Yet right now, we know more than we've ever known about the harm of alcohol. We know there's strong evidence alcohol causes at least seven types of cancer. We know the evidence that alcohol is good for us is regularly over-stated. We know binge drinking is especially harmful, leading to a range of short and long-term health problems. We know excessive drinking makes you look bad, causing premature ageing and weight gain. We know all of this, and yet we don't know how to change a culture in which it is normal for a young woman to consciously miss a meal or two so she can go out and get drunk.

    14 August 2016
    Niki Bezzant
    Photo: Getty Images
    The New Zealand Herald
  12. wastedxgirl
    While "drunkorexia" is not (yet) an official eating disorder, and is considered a colloquial slang term, its truths and consequences are all too real.
    The University of Florida published the most comprehensive study on drunkorexia to date in 2015, publishing their findings in The Journal of American College Health. 22,000 college students across 40 universities found that, even after controlling for race, school year, and Greek affiliation/whether a student lived on campus (the authors did not control for whether a respondent played on a sports team) - vigorous exercise, and disordered eating uniquely predicted binge drinking. In fact, those who exercised or dieted to lose weight were over 20% more likely to have 5 or more drinks in a single sitting. Students who had vomited or used laxatives in the previous month to shed pounds were 76 percent more likely to binge drink. An additional study among 227 undergrads at York University in Toronto found students who dieted and drank heavily were more likely to engage in unprotected sex and to require medical treatment for an alcohol overdose."
    On a more personal level, when I was in treatment for my eating disorder in 2006, there was a young man in his twenties there at the same time (I was at one of the only facilities in the US that treats men and women simultaneously) who was diagnosed with EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified).Turns out he dropped out of college at his parents insistence because he was starving all day, drinking every night, was severely malnourished, dehydrated, and had acute alcohol poisoning. Currently not an "officially recognized" eating disorder, drunkorexia is still very much in existense, on the rise, and though it predominantly effects young women, adults, men, drinking teens, middle aged, college, regardless of age or gender, all are at risk. Very important article.
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