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Drunkorexia

Drunkorexia: The new fad diet for young women—Eat less... drink more.

Mad TV’s tongue in cheek skit about weight loss called “Eat Less, Move More (Preview) ” became an instant classic by describing how easy it is to lose weight by...duh, eating less and moving more. Enter the new diet craze, particularly for young women, labeled (this is not a diagnosis) drunkorexia: "the act of restricting food intake/calories by day so one can party and get drunk at night without fear of gaining weight from the extra calories of the alcohol." In other words: Eat less.....drink more.

   

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Young women are extremely susceptible to peer pressure. From designer clothing, to makeup, to clubbing. BUT, staying thin is the most important of all. A glance at any fashion related magazine shows the ultra-thin, perfectly curved, photo-shopped and airbrushed model setting the standard for what constitutes beauty. The problem is that the average woman is 5' 4" and 140 pound while the average model is 5' 11", 117 pounds.

What is a poor woman to do if she wants to go clubbing and party hearty while maintaining a model thin-figure? Drunkorexia is the answer. Limit the intake of food in order to drink to excess later— what could be easier? Skipping dinner means you don't have to worry about those pesky calories from alcohol.

Plus, a “desirable” side effect is how much easier it is to get drunk on an empty stomach. And it’s so much more fun, hip and exciting than eating a well-balanced meal.

Drunkorexia may sound benign, but research shows this distorts the view of what constitutes healthy eating and drinking and it can serve as a trigger for an eating disorder and/or alcoholism.

In addition, with no food in the stomach, blood alcohol levels are higher and there is almost certainly an increased risk over the long term for alcohol related medical conditions, from liver disease to diabetes to dementia. Of course, these take many years to develop, so why worry about that when you’re young?

Recent studies show 30 percent of women between 18 and 23 have skipped a meal in order to drink more. Sixteen percent do it on a regular basis. For many this becomes the normal way to eat and drink. Also, this isn’t just about the young; older women and even men are now engaging in drunkorexia as well.

A graduate of the University of Texas, 22 year old Savannah reveals a chilling reality with her matter-of-fact statement: "I've done (drunkorexia) for years and I'm still healthy. And I'm skinny. That's the best of both worlds to me, so it's not likely that I'll stop doing it any time soon."

What does this say about our society when it’s more important to maintain the illusion of health by appearing thin, while drinking to excess to remain social? Another example of the power of marketing coupled with peer pressure. Clearly, conformity has no age limit, often defies common sense and trumps being healthy.

Dale Archer, M.D., is a clinical psychiatrist and author of The New York Times bestseller, Better Than Normal: How What Makes You Different Can Make You Exceptional.

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