Drunkorexia appears to be on the rise again, with many young people reportedly skipping meals in order to get drunk more quickly and reduce their calorie intake from food in order to save them for alcohol. Although it occurs in both men and women, it appears to be particularly common in young women. An Australian study published last year found that almost 60% of female undergraduates in its sample showed drunkorexic tendencies.
As alcohol is high in calories — one pint of beer can have as many calories as a slice of pizza and a small glass of wine as many as half a burger — drunkorexics choose to cut down on real meals in order to save their calories for a night out. However, calories from alcohol are ‘empty calories’, which have no nutritional value and therefore don’t benefit your body. Drinking on an empty stomach is also a quicker but more dangerous way to feel the effects of alcohol.
If you’re worried you might be engaging in drunkorexic behaviour, or just drinking too much in general, here are some tips from independent UK charity Drinkaware to help you cut down or cut out alcohol for a healthier lifestyle:
1. Watch your measures.
If you’re used to drinking large glasses of alcohol, swapping 250ml wine glasses for 125ml ones and pints for half portions means you’re automatically drinking less. Buying spritzes will also reduce the amount of alcohol you consume. Remember to check the volume too. Wines with higher ABV have more alcohol.
2. Eat up.
This is of course what drunkorexics avoid, but a healthy meal before you go out and snacks between drinks can help to slow down the absorption of alcohol and thereby help you stay in control. With less alcohol inside you and a fuller stomach, you’re more likely to also say no to an unhealthy pizza or kebab before heading home.
3. Dinner-only drinking.
Instead of opening your whole evening up to drinking, why not just allocate dinner as the time you enjoy a drink? This gives you a leisurely period of time to have a glass of wine or beer, and having alcohol only with your evening meal can help you drink less, but enjoy it more. If you stop when you’ve finished eating, it also allows your body more time to process the alcohol before you go to bed (it takes about an hour to process one unit of alcohol).
4. Tackle your triggers.
If you always have a drink to celebrate a good day at work, or commiserate a bad one, try doing something else instead. An alcohol-free dinner makes a feel-good treat, while a gym session is a great way to relieve stress.
5. Give alcohol-free days a go.
If you drink regularly, your body starts to build up a tolerance to alcohol. Medical experts recommend taking regular days off from drinking to ensure you don’t become addicted to alcohol. Test out having a break for yourself and see the results.
6. Treat yourself.
Splash out on a special bottle of wine or liquor that’s expensive enough to encourage you to savour it for a few days or months, rather than down it all in one night. This way, you’ll space out the units you’re consuming.
7. Track your drinking over time.
If you choose to drink, recording exactly what you’ve drunk during the week will tell you whether you’re keeping within the unit guidelines. The Drinkaware Drink Tracker and its various tools to track your units will also help you keep an eye on your drinking while at home or out and about.
8. Make space.
Sipping a soft drink between alcoholic drinks slows down the rate of your drinking and means you’ll drink less over the course of the evening. If you’re out clubbing, take a bottle of water with you on the dance floor, and when in a bar try opting for non-alcoholic mocktail, a premium soft drink, or a glass of water.