Are you drunkorexic?

Sarah Roberts

You know you’re going out for a drink to unwind after work or to a party later tonight. There will be booze and its accompanying calories, so you opt for a salad at lunch or dinner. Or you skip a meal entirely.

Sound familiar?

The practice of replacing food with booze is nothing revolutionary, but it’s popped up in headlines recently with an official name: “drunkorexia.”

According to a recent report by CBS’ “The Morning Show,” 30 percent of women ages 18 to 23 restrict food calories so they can drink more and not gain weight from consuming alcohol. You won’t find drunkorexia listed as an official health disorder, and the women who reported skipping meals for martinis brushed it off as an occasional practice.

But although drunkorexia is most often considered a temporary lapse in judgment rather than a long-term diet plan (see: Reid, Tara and Lohan, Lindsay), it can have dangerous side effects.

Anyone who has consumed alcohol on an empty stomach knows the pitfalls. Yeah, you might get buzzed faster, but you’re likely to pay a price. Hugging the toilet is relatively minor compared with blackouts and incoherence, which are more likely if you drink without eating.

And if you make drunkorexia a habit, it can lead to long-term damage to your vital organs, warns Brandi Lander, a licensed clinical social worker certified in alcohol and drug counseling.

Often, drunkorexia is a symptom of some disorder, Lander said, whether it’s anorexia or alcohol abuse.

“The two go hand in hand and have overlapping symptoms,” said Lander, who works at SwedishAmerican Health System. “Restricting food so you can take in alcohol later, it’s just replacing one addiction with another.”

One factor to consider when discussing drunkorexia is a person’s mind-set, said Andy Hazzard, a server at Octane in downtown Rockford. Hazzard, who also works as an artist, doesn’t have a typical 9-to-5 schedule, which means that sometimes she finds herself done for the day at 3 p.m. She’ll have worked through lunch, so she’ll meet up with friends for some cheese, crackers and wine in the early afternoon.

That could be classified as drunkorexia, but Hazzard, 32, said she isn’t consciously denying herself food in order to get a buzz.

“It’s more of a lifestyle thing, living more of a European lifestyle,” Hazzard said. “It’s a loose environment, relaxing with friends and family and having a very light meal with some alcohol.”

Still, Lander cautions that even casual behavior can spiral out of control.

“It’s risky when people start with these behaviors and get into a pattern,” Lander said. “A lot of times people don’t necessarily anticipate becoming addicted to these patterns, but there’s a high chance of that happening.”

Rockford Register Star