Dieting by drinks

Rachel Jones

Too much alcohol. Not enough food. It’s an alarming new trend called ‘drunkorexia.’


Credit: DKS Editors

On Halloween night, many students were eager to go downtown.

Caught up in the excitement, sophomore Nicolette Kocsardy absentmindedly skipped dinner before rushing out to have fun. After a night of drinking, the music performance major regretted her unintended choice of alcohol on an empty stomach.

“It ended up being a bad night,” Kocsardy said. “I got more drunk than I wanted to and was the worst I’ve ever been. It was not fun.”

While Kocsardy did this accidentally, some people intentionally skip meals before a night of binge drinking.

This is a new trend known as drunkorexia, which combines the effects of anorexia nervosa, bulimia and alcohol abuse. Thirty percent of the patients at the Melrose Institute in Minneapolis, Minn. fit that description, said the institute’s Executive Director Joel Jahraus.

William Walters, the helpline supervisor at the National Eating Disorders Association, said like other eating disorders, drunkorexia could stem from body issues, family history or societal pressures to be thin.

“Eating disorders are complicated,” Walters said. “We often say, ‘genetics loads the gun, and environment pulls the trigger.'”

Drunkorexia is common among college students as they battle the desire to party and stay thin.

Jahraus said the majority of the drunkorexic people he sees are in their early 20s, which includes about 300 college students a year.

“I think it (college students becoming drunkorexic) is increasing, truthfully,” he said. “The stress and pressures of the economy added to the stress of an eating disorder causes them to revert to alcohol to calm themselves and escape.”

One symptom of drunkorexia is an issue with weight or body image.

Mary Morand, freshman fashion merchandising major, said her friend does not eat much before she drinks. After she gets drunk, she will start eating because she knows she can throw it up soon. This friend has even made herself vomit to ensure there is no food in her system.

“She started gaining some weight and does this to stop it,” Morand said. “I’ve seen her do it, and I’m kind of used to it now. It’s in her routine.”

Jodie Luidhardt, the coordinator of the Nutrition Outreach Program on campus and a registered dietician, said drinking alcohol on an empty stomach allows it to get absorbed faster and go directly to the brain.

“This is extremely dangerous for anyone, but alcohol affects women stronger,” Luidhardt said. “Women tend to weigh less and have a higher fat content in their bodies. They also do not have the same enzymes that men do that break down alcohol.”

Jahraus said 90 percent of people with eating disorders are women, but the amount of male patients he treats has recently doubled.

“I definitely believe guys would do it,” senior fashion merchandising major Alexa Manning said. “They think they need to have a six-pack and go party every weekend.”

Regardless of gender, eating disorders are hard to determine just by someone’s physical appearance.

“You can’t look at an individual and see if they have an eating disorder,” Walters said. “Even if someone starves themselves, they could have a weight within a normal range.”

Observing someone’s habits, however, can determine whether he or she has an eating disorder.

Jahraus said people with eating disorders might eat very little throughout the day and drink excessively afterward. Some may purge and then drink alcohol to deal with their guilt and shame. People with drunkorexia may also eat in secret or isolate themselves from others.

Walters said excessive vomiting could damage the sphincter, stomach lining and esophagus. It also causes an imbalance in the body’s electrolytes and erodes teeth. By starving themselves, drunkorexic people lose bone density, weakening their hearts and allowing their muscles to be consumed for energy.

Kocsardy said her unintended stint with drunkorexia opened her eyes to the potential dangers of drinking on an empty stomach.

“You’re having fun and you don’t think about it,” she said. “But people should really pay attention to that and be aware.”

Getting Help

If you or someone you know may be drunkorexic, contact Kent State’s Nutrition Outreach Program at 330-672-2063 or You may also contact the National Eating Disorder Association at 800-931-2237 or

Contact news correspondent Rachel Jones at [email protected].