When you’re heading out for a night on the tiles you know you’re going to be consuming ALL the calories. Mainly in your evening tipples. It’s why many rejoiced when news of skinny Prosecco dropped.
But while many of us will just chalk going out drinking as a bad night in the calorie stakes, some young women are resorting to extreme measures to ensure they don’t take a hit when it comes to piling on the pounds. And it’s putting their health at risk.
Though not yet clinically recognised as an eating disorder, ‘drunkorexia’ refers to the practice of skipping meals or dramatically reducing calorie intake from food in order to save calories for alcohol.
And according to a recent study, it’s far more common than you might think, particularly amongst women.
Findings, from the University of Houston and presented at the Research Society on Alcoholism’s annual meeting, found that a whopping 80% of the 1,200 students studied engaged in some form of drunkorexic behaviour.
“College students appear to engage in these behaviours to increase alcohol effects or reduce alcohol-related calories by engaging in bulimic-type or diet/exercising/calorie-restricted eating behaviours,” Dipali Rinker, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Houston and author of the study, said in a statement.
“Our information examines the association between these different types of drunkorexic behaviours and other predictors of problem drinking among college students, such as gender differences.”
Although alcohol itself doesn’t contain fat, it usually has a high calorie content. Throw in a few sugar-laden mixers and a night when you’re drinking more than the daily recommended allowance and you can see how the calories start totting up.
But while it’s good to be savvy about the calorie content in your espresso martini, skipping meals or drastically cutting food to balance a binge drinking session can have drastic and often unexpected effects on your health and wellbeing.
Eating Disorder awareness charity Beat advises that though drunkorexia is not a recognised clinical diagnosis, it represent a very unhealthy behaviour. Skipping meals and binge drinking is also dangerous, mainly because the alcohol’s nutritional value, in terms of calories, is very low.
But though there’s little doubt this type of behaviour is risky, it might not necessarily be connected to developing an eating disorder.
A spokesperson for Beat says that though it would depend on the circumstances, this type of behaviour could fall in the category of Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED).
In particular the purging disorder – where someone purges, for example by being sick or using laxatives, to affect their weight or shape, but this isn’t as part of binge/purge cycles – could be most closely linked.
As with all other eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia etc) Beat’s advice to people remains the same: “if you’re worried about yourself or someone you know, you should seek help immediately. The first step is usually to make an appointment with the GP.”
As well as having an effect on your mental wellbeing, regularly drinking on an empty stomach can have an adverse effect on your long term health.
“Starving yourself to drink to excess in a short amount of time can cause acute alcohol poisoning leading to confusion, vomiting and passing out,” Dr Sarah Jarvis, a medical advisor at Drinkaware told Independent.
“Doing this regularly could put you at risk of chronic health harms like liver and heart disease in the long term. You’re also more likely to go short of vital vitamins and minerals if you’re cutting your food intake, as alcohol has no nutritional value.”
As both Drinkaware and Dr Jarvis advise, though it’s good to have an idea about the calorie content in your favourite tipple, you shouldn’t let it become an obsession.
The truth is, if you are conscious of watching the calories, and many of us are, it makes a lot more sense to cut back on alcohol rather than food.
So, no more swapping pasta for Prosecco. OK?
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