Drunkorexia: Why a night out could be a warning flag

There's a party on the weekend. You know you'll be drinking, and how many calories that could add up to, so you exercise like crazy the week before and cut back so you can "indulge" on Saturday night.

Sometimes on those nights, there's binge drinking, subsequent bar food, feelings of guilt and purging. "Drunkorexia," while not an offi cial term, is being circulated as a trend among college students due to the link between binge drinking and eating disorders, reported the Los Angeles Times.

This process may seem like the norm for college students, but that's actually part of the problem, said Karen McGregor, Executive Director of Hope's Garden, a local support and resource centre for people dealing with eating disorders in London.

Partying and looking good for those parties is all part of the college culture, which is why this troubling behaviour flies under the radar.

"It really speaks to the continuum of disordered eating," said McGregor. At one end of the continuum is the clinical diagnosis of a disorder. At the other end there are the "beginning thoughts," such as excessive exercising and obsession with body image. In between involves further behaviours that could lead to a diagnosis.

The actions relating to drunkorexia are signs that someone should "examine where they are on that continuum," said McGregor.

It may seem okay to participate in this culture, but it's harmful to you and your generation, where buying into this idea that you need to reduce calories and criticize your body is the norm, she added. Young people today are "doing these behaviours because it's important how they look."

"It's the nature of what the students go through ... it's manifesting in the social scene."

It's important to keep an eye out for this kind of behaviour both in yourself and in those around you. While it is diffi cult to distinguish between a night when someone gets so wasted they vomit, or a night when they vomit because they feel guilty, it might help to look at their behaviour during the week. Are they heading into the gym way more than normal? Not eating like they used to? Avoiding social situations to stay away from food? There may be other signs.

Meanwhile, change the way you view society's messages. Rather than engage in this normalized culture of body-bashing, break the stereotypes. A report by Marion P. Olmsted and Traci McFarlane entitled "Women's Health Surveillance Report: A Multidimensional Look at the Health of Canadian Women" from Statistics Canada determined that "concerns with body image and chronic dieting are so common, they are statistically 'normal' for Canadian women." It might be time to redefi ne what's normal.

"Your generation is the generation to change it," said McGregor.

For more information to or to find support, contact Hope's Garden at 519-434-7721 or visit online at hopesgarden.org.
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