Today I had an unsettling self-revelation. I think I’m a drunkorexic.
Not fully-fledged. And certainly not all the time. But I have been, and sometimes still am. And that’s something I’m really not proud of.
What prompted my realisation? Science.
New research is out today from the University of South Australia revealing almost 60 per cent of female university students admit to regular drunkorexic behaviour.
That means there are an alarming amount of women out there who are meticulously controlling their diet and exercise in the lead-up to a big night of boozing just so they don’t feel guilty about all those pesky calories.
What’s perhaps more alarming is that the study’s findings, published in the Australian Psychologist, don’t at all surprise me.
A large majority of my friends in one way or another do this. And they’re not university students anymore. Myself included.
Drunkorexic behaviour can be anything from restricting your diet, exercising and skipping meals to the more extreme self-induced purging in order to offset the calories you cop when binge drinking.
This is the first Australian snapshot of the phenomenon hitting Western countries, with studies already having established it as a prevalent problem amoung young people in the USA.
Drunkorexia is a nasty mash-up of alcohol abuse and disordered eating, and researcher Alissa Knight says health workers are worried about the possible mental and physical impacts.
Of the 136 women aged 18-25 quizzed by Knight, 58 per cent reported frequently trying to compensate for their drinking plans.
The most common tactics were skipping meals (38 per cent), exercising (51 per cent) and opting for lower-calorie beverages (46 per cent) — vodka lime soda, anyone?
A number of women were also going to the extreme lengths of purging, starvation or laxatives only when alcohol is on the horizon.
What this suggests, Knight says, is that while eating disorders alone are motivated by a desire to be thin, drunkorexia appears to be driven by a desire to be thin and drink a tonne of alcohol.
The problem is that both of these — drinking and thinness — are enormous, inescapable social norms forever rammed down our throats, and they are completely conflicting.
Women are trying to do the near-impossible: achieve a perfect “bikini body” while being able to down a six-pack of ciders, no worries.