In the past year or so, the news media started talking about “drunkorexia.” That’s a catch-all term for a variety of unhealthy eating habits that are related to binge drinking. For example:
- Skipping meals or slashing your energy intake during the day so that you can drink more when you go out;
- Feeling compelled to exercise more to burn off the calories you drank last night;
- Forcing yourself to throw up after drinking or eating too much.
It’s hard to say whether this is a problem at UNC. Most students at UNC drink moderately, if they drink at all, so it’s not an issue for the majority of students. But lately I’ve been hearing some concerns from a few students about the calorie content of alcohol, so it seemed like a great time to blog about eating, drinking, and staying in balance.
When it comes to drinking responsibly, one of my favorite tips is to eat a well-balanced meal before you drink alcohol. No need to eat a BIG meal, but if you’re hungry or dehydrated, the negative effects of alcohol hit you hard. Drinking on an empty stomach is likely to get you far more intoxicated than you planned and leave you with a nasty hangover in the morning. Plus, if you routinely cut healthy foods out of your diet so that you can drink more alcohol, you’ll be missing out on essential vitamins and nutrients.
If you do go overboard with the adult beverages on Saturday, start over with a healthy-eating day on Sunday. Our in-house dietitian recommends the plate method as an easy way to build balanced meals. Remember that hangovers are caused by toxins from the alcohol and dehydration. You’ll probably feel worse if you starve yourself or punish yourself with a long run. Your body will be craving water, fruit juice, or sports drinks, plus some simple breakfast food, like toast, fruit, and eggs. After you eat and rehydrate, if you feel up for some exercise, go for it.
If you’re concerned about gaining weight from drinking alcohol, you can follow the same guidelines that apply to sensible eating. Drink slowly. Think quality over quantity – have one drink with a high quality alcohol you enjoy, instead of several drinks that you have to choke down. Have a glass of water between alcoholic drinks. After a drink, wait fifteen minutes and decide if you really want another drink. Listen to your body.
As time goes by, if it seems like your clothes are getting a little too tight, take an overall look at your energy balance. Are you eating more lately? Maybe going for that fourth meal after a night of beers? Are you being physically active or has your exercised decreased? Not sure? Set up an appointment with our CWS nutrition educator for an assessment!
To get an idea of how much energy from alcohol you’re consuming, try the Alcohol Calorie Calculator.
If you have concerns about your drinking or a friend’s drinking, contact firstname.lastname@example.org to have a confidential conversation with an Alcohol & Other Drug Educator.
If you’re concerned about an eating disorder, contact Campus Health Services at 919-966-2281.