When youth-focused festivals hit the beaches of my British Columbia town, buff bodies are everywhere. Swim wear just shy of nudity is the dress code, and anyone with a less than perfect body simply stays out of sight.
Sieukaran surveyed 227 York University students who were 17 to 21 years old. At the beginning and end of the four-month study period, she logged their eating and drinking habits. She says, “I wanted to know the effects of dieting and heavy drinking over time.”
The SFU media release reports:
Sieukaran found that of three types of disordered eating — dieting, emotional eating, and eating in response to external stimuli rather than hunger — only dieting was associated with increased alcohol-associated risk behaviours.
“With the other types of disordered eating, there was actually a decrease in those types of behaviours,” she says. “So there’s a real connection between dieting and heavy drinking.”
She adds, “It’s a special group of drinkers that we should be focusing on in terms of prevention and treatment programs.”
Next: Earlier Studies Show Similar Results
A similar study was reported in the August 2010 Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education. Freshmen at a southeastern university in the U.S. were surveyed about alcohol consumption, binge drinking and calorie intake before drinking. Of the 695 students, 14 percent reported they restricted calories before drinking, 6 percent to avoid weight gain and 10 percent to increase alcohol effects.
The risks involved were also pointed out by Dr. Victoria Osborne, assistant professor of social work and public health, in the October 2011 Science Daily report on her University of Missouri study:
“Apart from each other, depriving the brain of adequate nutrition and consuming large amounts of alcohol can be dangerous,” Osborne said. “Together, they can cause short- and long-term cognitive problems including difficulty concentrating, studying and making decisions.”
People who participate in disordered eating combined with binge drinking are also more at risk for violence, risky sexual behavior, alcohol poisoning, substance abuse and chronic diseases later in life. Osborne says women are at higher risk for health problems related to binge drinking because they metabolize alcohol differently than men. This means women can get sick faster and suffer damage to vital organs sooner than men might.
Sieukaran intends to study the motivation behind drunkorexia and told CBC:
“We are thinking that there is probably some body dissatisfaction that is linked to this, because young adults know how to get drunk anyway, they know to just drink more if they really want to get drunk, so we’re thinking the motivation is wanting to stay slim and having what they deem an ideal weight.”
Until cultural norms become more accepting, the young people on my hometown beaches will continue to sacrifice their health. For people researchers are calling “drunkorexics,” body image trumps self care.
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