Monday, March 10, 2008

Surf Watch: Drunkorexia and the Diseases of Excess

From the Stuff I Found Randomly Surfing the Internets File:
Drunkorexia is, as the video states, a new non-medical buzzword for the combination of alcoholism and anorexia. Specifically the practice of skipping meals, or reducing calorie intake to compensate for the calories in alcoholic drinks. Or it can mean a diet that completely substitutes liquid calories for the solid non-alcoholic variety. I like the term because it uses the word drunk, which I prefer to alcoholic ("alcoholics go to meetings"). It's described in this NY Times article along with several other medical and non-medical terms for various, no doubt, uniquely American diseases, or at the very least diseases of industrialized nations. They are:
Manorexia is the male version of anorexia. Orthorexia is an obsession with what is perceived as healthy food — eliminating fats and preservatives, for example. But people with this condition can dangerously deprive themselves of needed nutrients.

Diabulimia refers to diabetics who avoid taking insulin, which can cause weight gain, in order to control their weight. Despite the name, the disorder does not typically involve purging.

Binge Eating Disorder refers to obsessive overeating, especially of foods high in salt and sugar, that does not involve excessive exercise or purging to compensate for the high caloric intake.
The thing that I find curious about each of these diseases is that they are conditions that are only possible in a climate of excess. You don't find people in third world populations suffering from anorexia, bulimia or the like. They suffer from actual starvation in many cases. Maybe it could be characterized as the involuntary form of the disease. You certainly don't find many of them, I gotta guess, there are probably no stats on it, barfing up a good meal.

Maybe it demonstrates a need in people for strife. In a land of plenty, in those places in the country where no one has to want for a meal, or for shelter, or for clothing, people find something to have a food crisis over. I wonder just how you would explain the phenomenon in a place where people are starving because they live in an area affected by drought, or are refugees from war, just plain poor? It would surely sound baffling, if not completely insane.

Now I don't at all mean to minimize the suffering of those affected by these modern afflictions. Though I think at times we do go overboard in the characterizing of modern problems as diseases. Something that feeds in to the disease industry in this country. Of creating something that needs to be treated and cured and that makes a healthy profit for someone else. Ancient Romans binged and purged and they called it a party.

I also realize that these problems in many cases are deep-seated and emotional, a result of childhood trauma and abuse. I'm not saying they are not real. Just somewhat ironic and really hard to explain to people in the world who have problems that are more basic by just a skosh. I'm sure those people are suffering emotional trauma as well. But it wouldn't stop them from enjoying a good meal if they had one.

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