Are you a drunkorexic?

Skipping meals in order to save calories to drink alcohol is becoming worryingly popular amongst young women.

Pasta or pinot grigio? A healthy meal or a half pint?

These are the kind of questions a drunkorexic considers come Friday night. They’ll normally opt for the liquid option.

Readers of women’s magazines will probably know about drunkorexia – a phenomenon which can be traced back to the cocktail bars of New York.

A drunkorexic is someone who skips meals so they can binge drink without putting on weight.

Calorie conscious

It mostly affects weight conscious young women. To them, a night on the town means an evening – or a day – without a proper meal. Either that or, feeling they need to drink to fit in, they’ll calculate how many calories they can consume before having a few drinks.

Although alcohol itself doesn’t actually contain fat, it is packed with calories. With mixers, (and if you drink more than the government's lower risk guidelines) the calories start adding up.

While it’s good to be savvy about the calories in your favourite tipple - and you can use our alcohol unit calculator to do just that - don’t let it become an obsession that encourages you to skip meals. Eating healthily before or during drinking is more the direction you want to be going in. 

Visit our calories in alcohol page for more information...

Coping strategy

“There’s huge pressure on women to drink and look thin,” says Louise Noble, chief dietitian at the Berkshire Healthcare Trust. “It means they’re often missing out on important nutrition, so they can get drunk with their mates.

“In my experience, many young women will find the only way they can cope with both is to drink rather than eat, to substitute alcohol for food."

Noble says the problem is heightened by images of celebrities "lauded" for staying stick-thin while maintaining a hectic social schedule.

Dangerous routine

Skipping dinner so you can party like (and still have the figure of) Cheryl Cole might sound harmless, but it could become part of your weekend routine.

Now dietitians have coined the term “drunkorexia” because they believe, based on their work with clients, that there is a link between binge drinking and eating disorders, though further clinical investigation into this connection is needed.

Are you a binge drinker? Find out here...

Reality check

“Someone who skips a meal to drink isn’t necessarily going to become an anorexic,” said Emma Healey, spokesperson for eating disorders charity Beat. “But it’s obviously highly unhealthy and if people are vulnerable it could be a high risk behaviour.”

Healey says the problem comes when someone’s drunkorexia means they start obsessing over food and it begins to start controlling them.

“We always groan when the media start talking about the latest ‘orexias’. The latest one was ‘pregorexia’ – mums to be who obsess over their weight. But we do come across drunkorexia in the work we do with young people, even if they don’t call it that. It’s a difficult and sensitive area.”

So, what seems like a harmless tactic to have fun and stay thin could develop into something a lot more serious.

Simply put, for the calorie conscious, it makes sense to cut back on alcohol rather than food.

Health effects of alcohol

From the second you take your first sip, alcohol starts affecting your body and mind. Some of alcohol’s effects disappear overnight – while others can stay with you a lot longer, or indeed become permanent.

Health Effects Thumbnail

The effects of alcohol on your body

Use our interactive infographic to find out what effect alcohol has on your body.

Health Effects

How to cut down

We have many tips and strategies for cutting down at home or when out and about.

Tips on how to cut down

Take a drinking self assessment

Answer some simple questions and find out what kind of relationship you have with alcohol.

Assess your drinking

Page updated: January 2014