It refers to young people restricting their food intake so they can drink more without putting on weight, or drinking rather than eating as a way to slim, or saving money on food so they can afford to get drunk. It’s most common with young women and among students seeking a cheap way to relax from studying and exam pressures.
It was first identified in the US. Everyone agrees that the word is silly — it is said to have been coined a couple of years ago as a spiteful joke against those celebrities who lead hectic social lives and drink to excess but stay as thin as rakes. However, the experts are warning that when it refers to a slimming method, it represents a real and serious problem that can be akin to bulimia and anorexia (hence the name). The association between alcohol abuse and eating disorders has been known about for decades and is well understood by doctors. Perhaps it takes a catchy (or silly) new term to arouse the attention of newspapers and their readers.
It’s a rare example of a word that — so far as printed media are concerned — has seemingly come from nowhere within a heartbeat. The first example I can find in a newspaper is in the New York Times on 2 March. It has appeared widely since.
However stupid the word, drunkorexia sums up the various ways in which eating disorders and alcohol abuse are often bedfellows.
Sunday Times, 23 Mar. 2008
Drunkorexia — skipping meals to save the calories for booze — is the latest “food” fad to cross the Atlantic... Sondra Kronberg, an eating disorders specialist based in New York, estimates one in three women aged 18 to 23 restrict food calories so they can drink without gaining weight.
The Sun, 20 Mar. 2008