The Financial Confessions: “The Real Cost Of Being A Closet ‘Drunkorexic'”

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Do you know what “drunkorexia” is? I didn’t, and I had it. Basically, drunkorexia is when you eat very few food calories to make room for alcohol-based calories, because you want to be able to remain very thin, but you want to also drink, and booze makes you fat. Alcoholic drinks — especially the fruity cocktails I so loved after a long day at work — are loaded with empty calories and sugar, sugar, sugar. To maintain the weight I preferred to be at, given my lifestyle and caloric needs, meant that I needed to consume no more than 1800 calories per day. My after-work ritual of a few drinks was over half of that, and that ritual happened at least two days a week, followed by at least one weekend day where I would consume over my daily needs in booze alone. Before I knew it, my entire weekly eating habits were based around my drinking schedule. And depending on your definition — because there’s really no official one — I was a drunkorexic.

And it is an expensive thing to be, I can promise you. In the worst phases of my drinking, I was spending upwards of $300 on booze and the food I ate while boozing (which was always something along the lines of wings and cheesy fries I almost always regretted). I make a good amount of money, so I’m not going to lie and pretend that it fucked up my ability to live, financially, but it’s painful to think of all the things that I could have been doing with that money instead. And it also wasn’t a financial realization that made me stop everything: it was passing out at work one day because I had consumed nothing the entire day, because I was going out that night for a big dinner with lots of drinks with some colleagues. I was starving myself to make room for glass after glass of wine. I was eating abnormally — to the point that I passed out! — so that I could drink. And I knew that was a problem.

But since I’ve changed my lifestyle, it’s the financial aspect that’s been the most unexpected source of regret. I now drink relatively rarely, and I have a pretty regimented diet that forces me to get those 1800 calories in a healthy way. I know that some people would think that I should have gone to rehab, but the truth is that the lifestyle I lived was actually not that rare or different from the “average” skinny city bitch who likes her drink. You eat less, so you can drink more. You know that those martinis you love have about the caloric value of a huge chocolate chip cookie, so you make trade-offs. And I have been able to readjust my life for over 10 months now with relatively little struggle because my life was already “not that unusual.” Drunkorexia, in New York anyway, feels like more of the norm than the exception.

And that goes double for the money aspect. People go out because it’s considered the only socially-acceptable way to meet up with people, especially coworkers. You finish a long day, you want to team-build, so you grab some beers. Sometimes it’s on the company dime, but sometimes it’s not, and that doesn’t really change all that much, because what else are you going to do? Go sit in a park when it’s dark out and talk? There’s always someone who pushes the drinking, and everything follows. Same goes for dates, or meeting up with friends — with a few exceptions, drinking is just what you do, and the spending that goes with is so easy to spiral out of control. First it’s just a coupe hundred bucks a month, then it’s more than what you pay in rent.

My eating and drinking habits were expensive, and they were harmful. But the shocking thing to me is how easy it is to be closeted, how many of us are currently in the closet. How many of us go out to a bar when we can’t afford it because it’s a ‘special occasion,’ even though pretty much every other week seems to have one of those so-called events? How many of us go really light on a meal so they can go heavier on the drink? And how often do we do that? The culture of American drinking and eating, in my not-professional opinion, is what leads us to be sick. And it isn’t until you force yourself to confront something jarring, such as a destroyed checking account or googling a word like “drunkorexic” and seeing how much it fits, that you truly get how sick you might be. I don’t know how long I could have continued in my way of life if I hadn’t forced myself to put a label on it, but I shudder to think.

Our worst habits are almost always our most expensive ones, and maybe you need to take a look at your budget to see the things you don’t want to see. You might not be drunkorexic, you might not even have a “real” problem, but I can almost guarantee you’ll find something you want to change.

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  • Andrea

    As someone who had an eating disorder, I’m uncomfortable with the use of the term “drunkorexic.” This article sounds like it was written by someone who has both an eating disorder and drinking problem, and giving it a cutesy name seems to make light of serious issues among young women–pressure to be thin, and binge drinking. I’m glad the author is talking about this these issues, but I think masking them under a made-up term just makes eating disorders and alcohol dependency even more shameful to discuss.

    • Z

      Yes, this. Drunkorexia does have a definition, or at least an accepted use — it is a self-identifier for people who have issues with alcohol in addition to their diagnosed anorexia or other eating disorder (“drunkomia” being an alternative for bulimics). Drunkorexia is not eating a little less so that you can drink more. It is being both anorexic and alcoholic, or having two issues with consumption that relate to each other and perhaps one exacerbates the other.

      Drunkorexia and drunkomia are not cutesy words to describe your “‘average’ skinny city bitch who likes her drink” (seriously??). They are frequent forum terms so that people who have similar problems can relate and help each other. If you do not have an eating disorder, then you should not be using these terms.

      Also, while I understand the thematic relationship, it makes me uncomfortable to see articles about alcohol dependency and/or eating disorders accompanied by images of pretty cocktails and food porn.

      • Bee

        Hmm well they’re not the names of a medical condition though – yet.

    • Jessica

      How is this topic made shameful to discuss when the author is being very open about her problem? Maybe making light of the situation by identifying herself that way helped her be more open about her struggle. We live in a world where too many people think everything is about them and they take things way too personally. Lighten up. Not everything was made to offend you.

    • In a discussion of a person’s health problems you want to police their language, why?

      • Andrea

        Because these kind of discussions don’t exist in a vacuum. Normalizing disordered eating behavior and unhealthy alcohol habits further exacerbate the problem, particularly among young women, who are conditioned that eating small amounts is something to be proud of/happy about. Perhaps I shouldn’t be policing, and to the point of another commenter above, I certainly don’t want to make this about me. Rather, it’s part of a much bigger issue. I was able to hide my eating disorder for years because skipping dinner to get drunk faster/drink more was normal among my peers, and my experience is not at allll an uncommon one. I guess ultimately, I’m less criticizing the author, and more criticizing how our society as a whole treats women’s food and alcohol choices.

  • Smashley

    I empathize with this article so deeply. I have struggled with a lot of these issues (less to do with weight, and more to do with fitting in and going over-board because it’s “what everyone else is doing”). It’s so incredibly difficult to say “no” to the drinking aspect of an event, especially when it feels like the entire focus of the event is to be drinking (birthday parties, office Christmas parties, house warming parties etc etc).

    Solidarity for navigating these tricky waters. But I can say this, my decision to get in control of my binge-drinking was the best decision I’ve ever made. And sure, I’ve had a few relapses here and there, but they’re now the exception versus the norm.

  • NL

    As repugnant as this is, no matter what the author chooses to call her struggle, it is a very real thing. One of the only pieces of advice my older sister gave me when I went away to college was, “Don’t wear your lanyard around your neck,” and “If you eat less, you’ll save money and calories and get drunker faster, saving even more money and calories.”