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drunkorexia

noun [uncountable]

an illness in which someone restricts the amount of food they eat so that they can drink more alcohol without putting on weight

drunkorexic

noun [countable] adjective

'Drunkorexia is the name that's been given to the practice of eating less food to save room for calories from alcohol consumption …'

TCU Daily Skiff 11th November 2010

'Realising that they're going to drink heavily and not wanting to put on any weight (two large glasses of white wine contain 300 calories, the same as a Snickers chocolate bar) drunkorexics will starve themselves in preparation for a night on the town. Experts say the drunkorexic demographic comprises mainly young women …'

The Independent 17th March 2008

Have you ever been tempted to skip dessert in an attempt to cancel out the calorie content of a couple of extra beers? If so, then you might be surprised to know that your calorie-dodging strategy underpins a worrying and potentially serious medical condition known as drunkorexia.

people suffering from the condition, known as drunkorexics, will severely restrict the amount of food they eat by day so that they can drink heavily at night

Drunkorexia is a term coined to refer to the practice of restricting food intake so that more alcohol can be consumed without gaining weight. This is not just an occasional episode of skipping the chocolate fudge cake so that an extra beer won't make any difference, but rather refers to a serious medical condition, perceived by dieticians to reflect a link between binge drinking and eating disorders. People suffering from the condition, known as drunkorexics, will severely restrict the amount of food they eat by day so that they can drink heavily at night. Alternatively, they might try purging – eating and then deliberately making themselves ill so that the food they've eaten isn't properly digested and they can continue to 'fill up' on alcohol later in the day.

The typical drunkorexic is a young woman who may be exposed to a combination of social pressures – peer pressure to drink excessively in a heavy-drinking culture, particularly amongst students, and the pressure to look thin. The only way of balancing the two influences is to drink rather than eat and substitute alcohol for food, such as choosing two glasses of wine instead of the equivalent calories in a chocolate bar. In some cases drunkorexia may also be partly financially motivated – saving money on food means that you have more to spend on alcohol.

Background – drunkorexia

Though the link between alcohol abuse and eating disorders has been known of for some time, the term drunkorexia only appeared three or four years ago, and is yet to be officially recognized as a medical term. Originating in the US, it is thought to have initially been coined as a sarcastic dig at celebrities who party and drink to excess, but still manage to remain extremely thin. Over time, however, the term has taken on rather more serious overtones as it has highlighted a genuine disorder identified among weight-conscious young women.

Drunkorexia is a blend of the adjective drunk and the noun anorexia, the term for an eating disorder characterized by low body weight and an obsessive fear of becoming too fat. The form -orexia is based on the Greek word orexis meaning 'appetite', and also forms the basis of related neologisms orthorexia (an obsession with eating healthy foods) and tanorexia (an obsession with getting and maintaining tanned skin).

Following the pattern of anorexia and related form anorexic, the word drunkorexic can be used as an adjective or as a countable noun to refer to a person who has the condition.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 31st January 2011.

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