Starting college often represents a significant life change for many young adults. It might be the first time away from home, independent of your parents’ supervision, and you may think that you are ready to handle all the new challenges. This rush of independence may lead you to overindulge in new experiences, which often include drinking alcohol. Many freshmen see an increase in weight and a decrease in healthy habits during their first year of school, but is there a link between weight gain and binge drinking?
What Is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking refers to the number of drinks consumed at one time, and it is on the rise in the United States. The CDC defines binge drinking as five or more drinks for men and four or more for women during the span of two hours (1). One in six adults in the United States binge drinks four times during a month on average. Binge drinking also accounts for over half of the alcohol consumed in this country.
Binge drinking is common on college campuses. Around 90 percent of all underage alcohol consumption involves binge drinking (2), but what encourages binge drinking in the college setting? Peer pressure is a common instigator at campus parties, fraternities, and sororities. The desire to fit into a social group can lead rapidly to overindulgence.
Stress and anxiety can also foster the urge to binge drink. College is undoubtedly a stressful time, full of new ideas and experiences, and some students overindulge in alcohol to dull those feelings. Meeting new people and developing relationships can also be part of college stress, and students may view alcohol as a means to relax and loosen up.
Does Binge Drinking Affect Your Health?
Binge drinking can have an impact on your health, both short and long term. In the short term, binge drinking can promote weight gain. Studies have shown that students aren’t often aware of the calories in the drinks they consume (3). When you consume anywhere from four to eight drinks during a binge, that’s a considerable number of calories being absorbed by your body.
Not only do the calories in the drinks contribute to weight gain, but binge drinking can also impact your food choices. Students who binge drink often find their appetite increased, typically leading to consumption of unhealthy food. Researchers found that students experienced late night cravings in conjunction with their drinking.
Binge drinking can be dangerous to your health for more reasons than weight gain. The more alcohol you consume in a short period, the closer your body gets to alcohol poisoning, which can be extremely dangerous. You can damage your organs with prolonged bouts of binge drinking, and these issues can turn into liver disease and cardiovascular disease later in life.
What Can You Do to Be Healthier in College?
Binge drinking may seem like a required part of college life, but the damaging effects to your health are much more important to recognize than any party. Reducing your alcohol intake and avoiding late-night snacking can help reduce weight gain. Drinking more water and eating nutritious foods can promote better health. College is a time for new experiences, but it also can set the trend for your life. Forming healthy habits during your college years can help you lead a healthier lifestyle for many years to come.