Alright, guys, here’s the truth:
I’ve been a drunkorexic for as long as I can remember, and owning up to it makes me cringe. If you haven’t heard of it, don’t be surprised. Not yet classified as an eating disorder, researchers are finally noting this ED trend that combines the worst of drinking and dieting.
The colloquialism for skipping meals or exercising heavily to “save” or burn calories, making room for drinking at night. (Basically every college girl you know.)
I ask myself this often: Just WHY aren’t we talking about this more?
And here’s the answer:
Because it’s culturally accepted, that’s why- and because ‘drunkorexia’ sounds like a term some sorority girl came up with to ”tee-hee” with her ”p-sisters” over.
It’s an epidemic that’s ignored because it’s an offspring of the far more concerning prevalence of binge-drinking culture, and as I’m about to admit (begrudgingly), I still have a tendency to hide behind said culture as I realized this weekend running back from brunch.
Ah brunch, the staple of a weekend- gathering with your friends at around 2-3pm at a restaurant offering half-priced alcohol with a meal.
My participation in this culture drives my therapist up the wall.
‘How’d you eat this weekend?’ she asks- to which I always perk up and say ‘Oh, fine!’
‘Did you eat three meals both days?’
Ummm, no. (Again, one octave higher) I brunched on Saturday so you know how that goes. (justifying, justifying, justifying)
Therapist (unamused): So, you ate one meal, and then got drunk?
….Cue the daily Monday night therapy squabble. And this is where I go into my tired explanation of how it only happens ‘on weekends’ and how on Sundays I usually don’t even drink that much at brunch.
The truth though- is that while I typically don’t drink more than one drink on a Sunday, I still found myself at brunch last weekend eating only half of a sandwich- and when I thought about it on my run back- the sole reason I did that was because I had a half-drank Bloody Mary sitting precociously beside my plate.
In short, I still tend to use alcohol as a sneaky means of compensating my eating disorder. I medicate my ED anxieties with it – and I justify not eating properly because of it as well. Though I felt like I wanted to eat more of that Grilled Cheese the other day, I turned to the Bloody Mary instead- sipping it lightly in place of food.
This ‘drunkorexic’ side of me started long before I was 21. When I first began college at 18, I remember hearing about the “freshman 15,” and seeing kids older than me coming home for Christmas break after their first semester looking completely different than the scrawny person that had left 5 months prior.
It absolutely terrified me. Already in the midst of a full-blown eating disorder, drinking alcohol further fueled the anxiety of gaining weight- yet everyone around me was doing it. Hell, I was no stranger to it. I got drunk for the first time at my ex-boyfriend’s prom when I was 16. (I think I’d had like the “fruit punch” and didn’t realize Everclear was the liquor that will put you flat on your ass) I’d drank quite casually on the weekends throughout all of high school, though never on a regular, binging basis as I was suddenly realizing college was all about.
Alcohol was everywhere- and binge-drinking was the culture. Drinking for no reason was available any day of the week. Thursdays? Thirsty Thursdays at Grubs. Wednesdays? Wine Wednesdays with the roomies. And don’t even get me started on the football tailgates. The mid-week frat parties. The Saturday Keggers. Sneaking into bars underage.
I was very much part of this culture on the outside, but on the inside it gave me a daily amount of anxiety in terms of my eating disorder. While I was obsessive about getting my exercise, I’d read enough to know that an hour long elliptical session wasn’t going to compensate 400 calories of wine and sugar.
I felt torn by my love for socializing and my weight/eating disorder- so I did what so many other people in this country tend to do as well. I cut the food- because food was not as fun as wine.
Admittedly, I’ve always been a lightweight. I’ve never needed more than 2 glasses of wine in order to ”feel the effect” of my alcohol intake, which is both a blessing and a complete curse because the moment I put a glass of wine to my lips, I can nearly feel it soothing my anxieties of the day. Everything feels lighter, dulled and subdued.
And this includes my hunger cues.
You give me one glass of wine- and I feel “full.” Whether or not it’s real is up for debate, but the moment I have a glass of wine, I tend to purposely, or unpurposely, forget about eating. I can be famished walking into a meal with my friends but drinking a glass of wine before the main entree dulls my desire to eat as much as I should.
Frankly, I love the feeling of being tipsy, and this drunorexia pattern has been my way of living for as long as I can remember. I have never had a balanced relationship between alcohol and food together. If you put a drink or food in front of me, I will want the alcohol. It’s a soother for the food.
I don’t binge-drink however. Shots? Not interested. Liquor? Eh. So I can’t really relate to the girls that skip meals and then binge-drink to the point of blacking out- although I witnessed it in numerous friends in college.
I just tend to drink my 2 glasses of wine and if I start in on a third, then I’m usually borderline drunk and I’ve never enjoyed being drunk because intoxication- for me- opens up the gates to binge eating later so I avoid it like the plague now that I’m in recovery. If I am drunk, I try to wait until I’m more rational to go home and so this usually means I end up walking miles on the streets of NY sobering up with a water bottle from Duane Reede.
In fact, I recently had a date in Bryant Park- I hadn’t eaten enough and I had 3 glasses of wine so naturally, I was feeling the effect. When we left for home, this person asked if they could walk me to the subway and much to their confusion, I waved them away and said I’d walk.
TO BROOKLYN? This person said, their eyes bugging.
No, I grinned, purple-lipped as always. Don’t worry about it I’ll jump on the subway at some point.
Please just get on the subway now, they begged. You shouldn’t walk alone.
No no, I said. I do this all the time I swear. I’m fine. I’ll let you know when I’m home.
In retrospect, it probably is odd to the naked eye, but I’m still too new in recovery that I don’t always trust myself to go home drunk and alone. I find that if I walk it out for awhile, I can get a grip on myself and stop at a deli somewhere and buy a granola bar to compensate for what I replaced with wine.
Some might ask: Why do you still drink then, Linds, if it allows you this much room for manipulating?
If you’re wondering that, you have every right to- but I don’t pretend to have answers.
There are many times I avoid going out with my friends for the exact reason of recovery, but I implore you to remember that I’m also 25 years old in the most ‘alive’ city in the world and sometimes all I want in the entire world is to sit at a Sushi restaurant on a Wednesday night splitting a bottle of red wine with three of my girlfriends- giggling to ourselves about how HBO ”Girls”our lives can be.
There are many nights that I’m quite fine to do this too. There are nights that I know I need to eat regardless of what the wine dulls in my stomach, and I eat anyway. There are times I eat too much pasta and push away the wine because I’m too full to finish it- and during the weekdays I almost always regularly eat 3 meals a day because I eat both breakfast and lunch with the same person and it keeps me accountable.
So why’s this really such an “issue” in our society?
Need I even point out the obvious? The alcohol industry has increasingly targeted young people with weight-conscious marketing, tapping straight into teen and twenty-something’s body anxiety — while courting new consumers. And it’s working on a wider basis every day- encouraging the behaviors of drunkorexia.
Drinking on an empty stomach leads to more rapid absorption of alcohol, and higher levels of impairment and intoxication. So every time people purposely do it, they incur increased risks of things like sexual assault and DUIs, and, in the long run, gastritis, ulcer, and malnutrition….. etc., etc., etc.
The other reason it’s an issue is that drunkorexia tendencies lead to the same path of deception and manipulation that you find in standard eating disorders. There’s no denying that in my own experience and as I write this tonight, I’m aware that I don’t want to live my days by glasses of wine just as I don’t want to live my life calorie by calorie because I remember that I don’t find happiness or “peace” manipulating myself and those around me.
It’s exhausting to starve, and filling your body with a wasteland of alcohol non-nutrients inevitably just leaves you feeling like shit. Easier said than done though right? Obviously I still have the tendency to trick myself into thinking otherwise. That’s the hard part of recovery – you take a lazy “mental” day and it creeps back up on you the first couple years.
I go days at a time where my eating is the most normal it can be for me, and those are days that I remember a lot more about my life. Days where I eat three meals with pleasure make my life a lot more whole because it gives me the opportunity to live in the present and not be constantly focused on food. Being tipsy (or blackout) to avoid a meal isn’t any way to live- and I know that. Being drunk and making choices you’d otherwise think twice about opens up the floodgates to anxiety, depression, and isolation. It opens up the doors to larger eating disorder deceptions.
When you live your life constantly thinking about how to manipulate your weight, you start to lose control over your priorities. Throw in alcohol and WOO- those babies are thrown right out the door.
So much of a balanced life (recovery) is changing the way you think- and accepting the truths of what you do. I’m getting there, but this is just one of those truths for me:
So hey world- I am a drunkorexic, and I’m trying to learn how to be a sociable 25-year old in spite of it.
One day at a time.