Drunkorexia at Denison

By Alex Lazo

POV: It’s a Friday night and you are pulling trig, except it is not 1 AM and you are not drunk. It is only 6 o’clock and your head is face down over the toilet because you want to empty out your stomach before you get ready to go out. This is one of the many unhealthy practices I have witnessed during my time at Denison, and it is happening everywhere. So let’s get real, and let’s get serious because the war on calorie restriction is consuming us at a much faster rate than we are consuming our food.

A survey, conducted by a medical publisher, found that every year 14-17% of female students and 4% of male students will report having an eating disorder. Although these numbers do not feel alarming, up to 67% of students shared that they have at one point experienced disordered eating. This insinuates that the majority of these cases go unnoticed and therefore untreated. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, yet it is so common amongst one of the most educated demographics.

One of the reasons disordered eating is so popular and normalized amongst college students is because it is addictive. College is an epicenter for eating disorders. While food deprivation or anorexia nervosa is the most common eating disorder (ED), eating disorders fall under a collection of different types: bulimia nervosa, compulsive overeating, binge eating disorder, etc., but I am going to focus on one that particularly hits college students: drunkorexia. Each is unique in its own way, but all share a common theme of mental and physical destruction.

Drunkorexia is a new ED subset that was generated based on students who calorie count. Some young adults will restrict their calorie intake throughout the day in order to compensate for the thousands of alcohol calories they will consume later that night. This poses a serious threat because, with nothing else but alcohol in their stomach, students find themselves dangerously intoxicated and unable to take care of themselves.

In 127’s latest survey, we looked into the relationship that Denisonians have with this eating disorder and partying. Based on the graph below, we can see that it has largely impacted the transgender and non-binary community as well as female students, showcasing that the problem has grown worse over time amongst women. Senior women report the most calorie restricting (22%), compared to just 5 percent of freshmen women.

Reduced eating and increased drinking exacerbate the effects of alcohol, may lead to the malfunction of the digestive system, and cause mood swings. To make matters even worse, the frequency of drunkorexia habits grow with partying multiple times a week on Denison’s campus, as shown in Figure Two. It shows the portion of students who restrict calories given the number of times they (technically their “closest friend on campus”) binge drink in the typical week. Relatively few of those who drink one night a week restrict calories (11%) compared to almost 40 percent of those constantly partying. One unhealthy habit begets more.

Alcohol consumption is not a new concept to college campuses, so why is it that we are seeing this uptick of drunkorexia? A 127 post by Sarah MacKenzie and Siobhán Mitchell first reported on binge drinking and calorie restricting using data from March 2021. Perhaps due to the pandemic trailing off, I found that pre-drinking calorie restrictions have actually decreased among men and women since 2021. Among women calorie restricting dropped from 16 to 13 percent and from 8 to 6 percent of men. Still, the demands of school make it so easy for females to fall victim to this mental illness – making uncomfortable conversations such as this that much more imperative.

Every day students face extreme pressures ranging from academic expectations, social life, and postgraduate decisions. Tending to all these demands causes some students to feel like they have less than full control over their lives. Therefore, since food consumption is one of the few things they can control, students become obsessed and addicted to micro-managing it.

In most instances, the people that engage in drunkorexia do not realize that it is even an eating disorder, they just consider it to be something of a routine pregame preparation. So while 127 may be lacking in evidence that drunkorexia is disordered on campus, treating this concept as something that is merely “typically done” is suggestive of a disorder. This makes drunkorexia that much more dangerous to our community as it downplays the frequency of this routine which enables students to neglect the severity of the act.

Alex Lazo is a political science major who is trying to figure out how to skirt around her overdue library book rental charges. If you have any suggestions, please leave a note on her car (easily identifiable due to her constant self-made parking spots).

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