The Weal – SAIT student newspaper
The impact of drunkorexia on SAIT campus

By Séamus Smyth

The term “drunkorexia” ripped through the SAIT student body last week when both the
Calgary Herald and Calgary Metro featured stories on a study conducted on the latest unhealthy fad.

The American report concluded that as many as one- in-five college students, the majority being female, save their calories for alcohol, neglecting meals to become intoxicated quicker.

SAIT business administration students Kaelee Jenkins and Amberly Tapp were both intrigued and relieved to read that they weren’t the only ones who sometimes indulged in a few rum and cokes instead of ordering a meal. However, the two students argued the habit isn’t about getting drunk quicker but more of a financial and health dilemma.

“The bottom line is, would I rather be full on crappy food with all these calories, gross fries and terrible meat or would I rather have a couple drinks with my girlfriend, giggle, be entertained and have a nice buzz on for the rest of the night?” said Tapp.

Jenkins added that $10 could either buy her a meal out on the town or two drinks, and she will often choose the latter. SAIT psychologist Terri D. Scoville said a small number of women engage in the activity for financial purposes, but more often than not, it is a body issue.

“I have no doubt that some women have a limited income, but that’s not the primary reason, based on my experience with talking with young women,” explained Scoville. “Those who want to stay slim may already have an eating disorder. They are twice as likely to slip into something like substituting calories for alcohol.

“It is a comorbid issue – dealing with two or more issues at the same time. Self-esteem could be an issue as well. These don’t come in onesies,” she continued.

Despite the research only being conducted in the US, Scoville is confident the issue of drunkorexia is just as prevalent in Canada.

“We are always a little bit behind the US in these studies,” she said.

Scoville argued the disorder is likely to be more common at institutes such as The University of Alberta or the University of Calgary, where a younger student population is present. The average age of a SAIT student is late 20s to early 30s.

Although women are most likely to engage in this beverage-heavy diet, she said issues such as the pressure to portray a certain body image are becoming noticeable in the habits of males as well.

“The ratio is about three- to-one (in favour of women), yet there are still some men being hit by this phenomenon,” said Scoville.

Both Jenkins and Tapp admitted that the pressure to be thin also played a role in opting out of calorie-filled restaurant menus.

They were initially surprised that “drunkorexia” was more common with women than men, but quickly pointed to society’s expectations of how men and women should look as a potential reason.

“Girls are supposed to be skinny and little so why would they eat? They want to lose that weight; men are supposed to big and strong,” said Jenkins.

The two acknowledged that drinking on an empty stomach is probably not a bright idea, but the habit will likely be eliminated in a few years.

“I would justify it by saying I am young so I might as well do it while I can. I guess I am lucky because I don’t have to think about my metabolism too often,” said Jenkins.