Drunkorexia and the Holidays

Posted on January 3rd, 2013
Posted in Substance Abuse

During the holiday season, calorie-conscious individuals have a difficult time choosing between the walnut fudge and the chocolate-covered pretzels on the break room table. Many sweets and other festive foods garnish frequent parties. But for some individuals it’s a choice between the calories of their favorite festive alcoholic drinks and their daily meals. Studies are showing that individuals who like to drink alcohol, but are conscious of their calorie intake, are skipping meals in order to still consume the larger amounts of alcohol that usually accompany holiday parties.

Drunkorexia is not an officially recognized eating disorder but describes those who deprive themselves of proper nutrition in order to use those calories for drinking alcohol. This combination eating disorder/alcohol abuse can produce serious health problems.

Starving During the Holidays

A study at the University of Missouri revealed that 16 percent of college students surveyed had cut food calories in order to use them for drinking. Studies found that women are three times more likely to engage in this activity than men.

Some women interviewed admitted that during the holiday season they cut food out even more so they could enjoy more festive drinks at holiday parties. These women knew that they would be indulging more at family dinners and office parties and that they would be consuming more alcoholic calories at the many holiday parties over the season. Rather than forgo the alcohol, they gave up daily meals.

Falling Into a Bad Habit

Some working women say they feel socially pressured to attend more parties with clients during the holidays. Sharing drinks with them is part of the socializing. Some are not even consciously trading calories. A long day at work and then a rush to a party may mean they skip dinner and end up having only party drinks on an empty stomach. For some, this routine may happen a few times a week for several days over the holidays. These women who are very conscious about counting their calories feel they must consume the alcohol calories at social functions, so they cut food calories out at home.

Damaging the Body and Mind

By restricting vital nutrients to the body and replacing it with something that impairs the body and mind, individuals are damaging their body long-term much more than they realize. Dr Varuna Aluvihare, a liver specialist at King’s College Hospital in London, stated that patients with cirrhosis of the liver are getting much younger. Aluvihare sees a trend of 20 and 30-year-old patients who need liver transplants. Less than two decades ago that was common in people over age 50.

Besides liver damage, those with drunkorexia are at risk for the following:

  • Malnutrition
  • Severe intoxication
  • Acute alcohol poisoning
  • Fatigue
  • Short and long-term cognitive problems
  • Other eating disorders
  • Alcohol dependence

Those who are labeled as a drunkorexic have two disorders they are battling: an eating disorder and alcohol abuse. The overlap of the disorders cautions that both must be addressed to help individuals return to a perfect balance of health.

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