“The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
While we all aspire to be eternally young, one part of youth we can all do without is the irrational sense of invincibility. That, and the overpowering need to be accepted by the “in crowd.”
With that in mind, it’s not hard to believe that the highest percentage of problem drinkers is college students. Heavy drinking, mixed with youthful hormones and naivety, leads to violence, careless sexual activity, and now something that is being called drunkorexia.
Recent Canadian research has found that young men and women are skipping meals, yet are also consuming a day’s worth of calories in alcohol. In other words, young people who want to lose weight, but still want to party, cut out the meals in order to do so and stay thin. They may also be drinking excessively with the intention of purging previously consumed food.
While it’s not yet a recognized eating disorder, the health risks of drunkorexia are very real. Weight-conscious drinkers are risking nutrient deprivation, liver damage, and death.
It’s not a problem exclusive to the U.S. or college-age kids for that matter.
“I suspect this risky behavior is more common than people think,” says Dr. Varuna Aluvihare, a liver specialist at King’s College Hospital in London, in UK’s Mirror. “This kind of activity contributes to the fact that we see people with alcohol-related liver cirrhosis at a much younger age… Any day of the week I might see 20- to 30-year-old patients with livers working at five to 10 percent of normal function and needing a transplant.”
The goal of new research from the Journal of American College Health was to see if physical activity and eating disorders “uniquely predict drinking behaviors in college students.” It also took into account social and environmental factors that influence the relationship between drinking and exercise.
What the researchers found was that college students who are dedicated to vigorous exercise, but also take part in disordered eating, are more likely to binge drink than their less active peers.
“Too often people talk about the ‘freshman 15’ as if it is a guaranteed fact of life, rather than discussing the potential contributing factors such as decreased sleep, dietary change, and a total change of environment and schedule,” says Brooke Randolph, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and resident mental health expert for DietsinReview.com. “This type of discussion contributes to young college students making drastic attempts to maintain weight rather than focusing on simple choices they can control like sleep, diet, exercise, and stress management.”
The researchers think their findings can be beneficially applied outside its college demographics. The study’s co-author, Adam E. Barry, PhD, says with additional research, “focusing on the calories associated with drinking may be fruitful in future alcohol prevention messages and programs.”