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Drunkorexia - are you a victim?

11th July 2012

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At some point, all of us have bargained with ourselves so we feel we have ‘earned’ a night out – a relatively harmless concept.

Yet, as with everything, there are those taking it to the extreme. ‘Drunkorexia’ is the new eating disorder which sees some fasting themselves up to three days prior to a night out to lessen the calorific effect of binging. After all, avoiding a muffin top over those hot pants is far more important than health, right?

Thursday afternoon lectures are packed with girls debating the night out ahead. Animatedly discussing their plans, they’ll loudly describe what they’re wearing, drinking and, bizarrely, eating. Determined not to let the high calorie count in alcohol affect them they’ll fast for the upcoming night, frequently only eating once a day in the days leading up to it. Proudly boasting about how little they’ve eaten, they’ll turn their heads in distain as someone walks by with a burger – all for the compliments they hope to receive in a new dress. Later, after the lack of food has backfired, their one meal will make a reappearance down the new dress and they will be taken home at twelve. Worth it? I think not.

As routine as booking taxis and taking out money, skipping meals prior to a night of boozing is mandatory for some. Health is not a concern; not only are they limiting their nutritional intake but are combining binging and fasting, a combination that scientists claim can cause problems with alcohol abuse and chronic illnesses in later life. Guzzling down Jaeger-bombs and sugar-packed alcopops on an empty stomach is dangerous, not just for those who are unsure of their limits, and with high levels of intoxication come the risks attached; embarrassment, stupid mistakes, not to mention far graver consequences. I accept that it is not just girls taking part in this new ‘trend’, or that it is even a new concept. Even though it has only recently been given a name, with the media spotlight only finding it of late, many have been eating less to drink more for years.

Vogue, Elle, Glamour, GQ and their counterparts are in the firing line, with the pressure to resemble airbrushed models on front covers being blamed. Although magazines insist they promote a healthy attitude towards weight, a quick glance at any women’s magazine in the newsagents will display headlines proclaiming you can ‘lose a stone in a month’ or ‘get the bikini body you want’! Calorie counts, diets and body transformations saturate the pages.

Many will quickly protest that we are seeing development; curvier women are used in adverts and on catwalks, the Olympics have promoted fitness rather than size and size zero is now a negative, rather than inspirational, term. I don’t dispute that. Yet, a cover photo of a woman bigger than a size eight is almost always accompanied with a headline praising ‘curvy’ women. Positive? Yes, but it still points out that she is not what we would expect to see on a cover. Only when we see a woman of that size on the front of a magazine without attention being drawn to it will the attitude shift.

Although jovially termed, ‘drunkorexia’ is a serious problem and in no way should be trivialised, or make light of anorexia itself. As with any psychiatric disorder, the more it happens the harder it is to break. With health advice more accessible than ever, girls are aware of at least some the health impacts of their actions. Of course they are. Society promotes vanity to the young from an early age through magazines and celebrities to the point where it is untouchable. Simply writing a warning article is not enough. Magazines that have the most influence need to step-up, take responsibility and try and instil some sense into these girls.

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