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Drinking Alcohol and Binge Eating

By September 21, 2012

About 3 years ago I lost about 75 pounds. Now I am always thinking about food, and have even begun seeing a nutritionist to seek help. Last August I went to school away from home and began drinking to fit in with friends. By the time summer was here I had gained back about 13 pounds. I would starve myself all day, just so I could drink at night, and then binge when I got home from the parties. Now that I’m away from school I have slowly lost the weight. I know I have an eating disorder, hence the nutritionist, but I don’t know what else to do. All I care about is eating and exercising. I don’t think anyone knows what I’m going through inside… sometimes I feel as if I could binge all night. Do you have any advice for me? – Nervous Fox

Dear N.F.,

I am so glad you reached out to ask your questions. I think you’re speaking for thousands of college students. I talk to so many students who have walked in your shoes. Alcohol can become a very large partner in a disordered eating pattern, especially when we feel like we want to drink to fit in. You probably know that this is a vicious cycle – when we don’t eat all day, we are more sensitive to alcohol, especially as women. We then lose our good judgment more quickly. This can expose us to making all kinds of dangerous decisions – sexual choices, driving when drunk, etc. Even if we don’t make these mistakes, I hear lots of students reporting major fights and problems with friends when they drink alcohol on an empty stomach…words and actions we really regret the next day.

Then all of this is a set up for a binge. Your body is HUNGRY and needs food. Your impulse control is impaired, and you don’t make the best decisions under the influence. Then we really don’t like ourselves the next day and we vow to avoid food in order to lose the calories we think we gained the night before. This pattern also messes up our sleep cycle which exaggerates depression, poor impulse control, confidence and our ability to study. This restricting/drinking behavior is a HUGE problem. Thanks for having the courage to bring it up!

You are PRECIOUS! Your body is PRECIOUS! It deserves TLC, especially when you’re dealing with the academic and social stress of college. Please find a professional to talk to. Read the article “Finding Treatment” for more information. Keep in mind that you probably know people who are struggling with the same dilemma, but very few people talk about it. We should all be talking about it more. Lots of people find that they can reverse this cycle with help from a counselor and others. YOU CAN DO IT, TOO, N.F. Please give yourself this chance.

Carla