Over recent years, there has been talk of a new form of eating disorder sweeping college campuses. Last week CBS New York reported that, according to NEDA, “drunkorexia” is a common and dangerous issue amongst college students. Due to the many pressures to lose weight and stay thin, as well as the common fear of gaining the “freshman fifteen,” students are going to extremes in restricting their food intake in order to consume calories from alcohol without gaining weight. College students do not want to give up the parts of their social lives that revolve around drinking, but they dread gaining weight and are bombarded with messages instilling fear of the terrifying freshman year weight gain. This limiting of food in order to drink without weight gain is a slippery slope that can quickly lead to other deadly eating disorders.
The “drunkorexia” epidemic brings up a major issue facing college students. The truth is, there is a constant societal pressure to look a certain way and have a certain body shape and size. This is no secret. But as students begin college, there is a great deal of talk about that horrifying “freshman fifteen.” Young people are made to believe that, as they start this new chapter of their lives and their education, their focus should be on their body sizes. Beyond that, they are told that, when it comes to their bodies, and if their bodies do change, weight gain is always a negative thing.
In reality, weight gain, or weight loss, or no weight change at all, can be healthy. There is no right or wrong way to have a body or to have a body change. As a person’s schedule and lifestyle changes, as it absolutely does when they begin college, their body may change, they may gain weight, and that is not necessarily a sign of negative health changes. It could even be a positive thing. And on the flip side, weight loss can be unhealthy just as easily as it can be healthy.
Another thing to consider with regard to “drunkorexia” is what it says about where students feel their focus needs to be. College is a new chapter. For most, it is the first time they live on their own, away from their families. Many are living in new cities, or even new countries. Their class schedules and course material are brand new and different from past schooling. They are making new friends and getting involved in new hobbies and activities. Most importantly, they are on a journey to discover who they are and where their dreams may lead them. In many senses, college is the beginning of a person’s adult life. At such an exciting and crucial time in life, while it is important to be mindful of health, the size or shape of a person’s body should not be their focus. Being concerned with physical appearance or weight will only distract and hinder students in reaching their full potential as students, in relationships with others, and in their future careers.
The talk of college weight gain or the “freshman fifteen” must be majorly toned down in order to help to prevent “drunkorexia” and the potentially fatal consequences of this dangerous disease.