As college students, we grapple with many adjustments, especially during our first semester of school. In our first semester, we have to relearn how to make friends, having just left the very safe-havens where we may have been lucky enough to have the same friends for the last decade of our lives. We have to adjust to the rigor of college classes, with no one but ourselves to remind us of upcoming tests or projects. We have to quickly develop the skill of maximizing space in our 4×4 foot dorm rooms that we also miraculously have to share with another human being. And we have to do all of this while getting enough sleep, attending class regularly, and trying to eat healthily in order to avoid the dreaded “freshman fifteen”.
This newfound independence and period of growth can be both an exciting challenge as well as an incredible stressor. On top of our persistent and inevitable expansion into independent adults, there is a murky field that we college students must learn how to navigate. This is the world of college drinking. Drinking is an established norm across many college campuses, one that many students must decide whether or not to partake in. An unfortunate consequence of engaging in the drinking culture is that students can fall into the habit of binge drinking, which according to the CDC, is having 4 drinks or more for women in 2 hours and 5 drinks or more for men. However, there is a new precarious spin that has been put on binge drinking known as Drunkorexia. And according to a University of Houston study, it is much more prevalent of a problem than one might expect.
Drunkorexia is the practice of skipping meals or exercising heavily before drinking, taking laxatives or diuretics, or vomiting after drinking. This unhealthy habit is an attempt to get drunk/buzzed faster or a way to avoid the unwanted calories that come from drinking. The unique name of this problematic behavior comes from that fact that it teeters between an eating disorder and alcoholism. The University of Houston found that of the 1,000+ students surveyed, 80% of students had engaged in at least one drunkorexia behavior, with studies at other universities, such as Rutgers, finding similar results. These behaviors were also found to be even more prevalent among members of sororities and fraternities. Also, despite the higher prevalence of eating disorders amongst young women, drunkorexia does not have a gender disparity with it being found to be just as prevalent amongst young men as it is young women.
Having myself faced the pressure to “keep up” with my friends and make sure I am having “just as much fun” as everyone else when we are drinking, this idea of not eating a meal beforehand can be pretty tempting. My own personal background and passion for health has motivated me to refrain from making some of these unsafe drinking decisions. However, I suspect that many college students who are practicing drunkorexia behavior don’t even know that they are doing it or recognize it as a problem. They are just doing exactly what everyone around them is doing. That’s why studies like the one done at the University of Houston are important in order for us to bring attention to issues such as drunkorexia that are prevalent amongst college students.
So, the next time you are going to head out with friends remember to eat a meal beforehand and take it slow with your alcohol consumption. Remember to drink water, and keep yourself and your friends safe. To be sure, your head and body will thank you later.