What Is Chewing and Spitting?
Quite often we hear from individuals who report that they struggle with chewing
and spitting, that is, they chew their food and then spit it out before swallowing. The following information is meant
to clarify what can be involved with this disorder (herein referred to as CHSP):
- Food is placed in the mouth where
it is tasted, chewed, and then spit out.
- The person avoids consuming
the food item, and thus any "perceived" guilt for having enjoyed an item they may have labeled as a "bad"
- It is important to realize that CHSP is not a separate eating disorder. It
is a behavior that can be manifested by persons with anorexia, bulimia, EDNOS, binge eating disorder and/or any other type
of disordered eating.
- CHSP may serve different purposes for each individual.
- Some persons report they practice CHSP throughout the day and lose awareness of their own
true hunger and need for food. Most report the practice of CHSP becomes "addictive" and difficult to cease.
- Because the individual avoids consuming the food through normal means of digestion he/she
risks suffering from improper nutrition. CHSP behavior can be as physically, emotionally and physiologically negative as
severe food restriction and/or binge eating.
What Do I Do Now?
with all types of disordered eating, we strongly recommend that you seek out counsel from a therapist, doctor, or nutritionist.
As noted above, even though CHSP doesn't seem as extreme as some other types of disordered eating, it can have very harmful
effects on your physical, intellectual, emotional, relational and even spiritual health. For more information on how to
find the help you need, check out videos on this site by typing in keyword "chewing and spitting", and read our
article on Finding Treatment.
So those of you following my blog know that
chewing-and-spitting has been one of my two main disordered eating issues (along with midnight eating).
I know how gross it is, how sick it sounds, and how wrong it is. But many of us disordered
eaters do it, I’m learning. And I’m not proud of it. It’s a waste of food, and a waste of the pleasure
food can bring.
Fortunately, I’m working on it and making some progress.
I am proud to say that I’ve been “sober” for six full days now, and it’s been hard at times, but
I am coping.
As a good friend says, “I’m taking it one day
at a time … “
In comments on a previous post, Lila shared
this link that I think does an excellent job of explaining what chewing-and-spitting entails and why it’s so dangerous.
Here’s some highlights (direct quotes from Trisha Gura,
PhD.’s blog - ABOVE AND BELOW)
What is it?
“Chewing and spitting out food is an old eating-disordered behavior only now
coming to light. It’s the latest trend in eating disorders, not because the behavior is new, rather because the online
community is rapidly passing around the secret. The mechanism is simple: a person who chews and spits puts food in his or
her mouth, tastes it, chews it and then spits it out without swallowing in the hopes of getting some enjoyment out of food,
while not having to suffer the weight-gain consequences.”
Is it an eating disorder?
“Some experts say,
yes. Others say, no. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) the proverbial Bible
of psychiatric illness, does not list “spitting and chewing” as a separate, diagnosable eating disorder.
Yet, chewing and spitting is nonetheless part of the eating disorder landscape. That
is because chewing and spitting is a misguided calorie-control technique, a “food issue.” Individuals with true
eating disorders — anorexia, bulimia and eating-disorder-not-otherwise-specified – use the technique in a creative
attempt to have one’s cake and eat it too. Sort of. “
“Absolutely. Here are four good reasons:
1. A person who chews and spits is not allowing essential nutrients into the body.
Therefore, the behavior is akin to starvation dieting and/or purging by vomiting.
2. Ulcers (because food in the mouth triggers acid release in the stomach) and jaw pain are possibly in store for
regular chewers and spitters.
3. Weight gain, not weight loss is the most
likely consequence. The body reacts in unforeseen ways to continual chewing and spitting. Seeing, smelling, hearing about
and even the hint of food can trigger the release of insulin. This hormone regulates blood sugar and is a major player in
diabetes. Tasting food releases salivary enzymes and also triggers the release of insulin. Excess insulin is a dieter’s
worst nightmare, because the hormone stirs appetite, making a person feel hungrier, wanting to chew and spit more. Here
lies the addiction to chewing and spitting, which like bingeing and purging can be daunting to try and quit. Heightened
appetite also triggers eventual weight gain, something easily evidenced by simply reading the bloggers’ laments. If
a person chews and spits long enough, they can fall into a state of hyper-insulinemia, producing too much insulin, which
sets him or her up for insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and eventually diabetes.
4. Finally, a person who chews and spits is probably harboring deeper fears about his or her weight and body image.
These fears– and all preoccupations with thinness and dieting– are the foundation of all eating disorders. If
you chew and spit, you are setting yourself up for a serious disorder later in life.
Don’t wait for Chewing and Spitting to become an “official” eating disorder. If you’re chewing
and spitting, get help now.”
FROM A Q&A
Some of you will read this in shock having never heard of it! There is
an ugly, unsociable, secretive eating disorder called Chew & Spit. The media likes to say
its the latest ‘new’ eating disorders, but in fact to anyone who has had and eating disorder knows this form of
disordered eating is nothing new.
I am ashamed to admit but for a long time I participated in this crazy, disturbing,
hellish ritual. I had been starving for so long battling anorexia , emaciated and very sick, I began having bulimic
episodes. These were never planned, a few extra grapes and that would set off a binge, I would purge, hit the gym for
hrs. I was never a good bulimic, purging was always traumatic emotionally, mentally and the obvious physically!
found a way that I could still enjoy the taste of food – food that I was not allowed to eat… cookies,
muffins, chocolate, bread, cereal. I could still technically ‘binge’ still maintain my anorexic lifestyle
without the craziness of purging —> chew and spit was born.
When it first started,
it was so innocent, small amounts of food, couple pieces of bread, a chocolate bar, one or two cookies. It was a secret,
I was ashamed, I felt like a failure, I was anorexic I should be able to have self control, I should be able to abstain. Soon
my parents noticed that a lot of their food was missing. My Mum would buy a package of 6 muffins that should last a
week and by morning they’d be gone. It got to the point where my Mum never bought junk food, and even simple stuff
like bread she would put in the freezer to stop me from demolishing it. When they did get chocolates, cookies etc, they
would hide it. I’d take their bread, crackers you name it I’d chew it. It grew out of control, the
chew and spit became an addiction, an obsession.
Chewing and spitting wasn’t just being able to taste food it became comforting
a form of coping, a way to numb myself, my emotions, a way to remove myself further from society and life, another way to
keep anorexia closer and death close to my doorstep. I’d do it for hours, my mouth would be raw and sore, my glands
would be swollen. It was mind numbing! A compulsion. I’d be tired, my mouth raw, the food I could
barely taste anymore, but I had to continue the ‘binge’ till all the food I bought was gone. I was soothing,
like a blankey as a child, a pacifier as a baby, a favourite teddy. I had my own warped secret that no one knew about.
I spent hours self soothing.
If I had a bad day, I’d chew and spit. If I had a good day I’d
chew and spit. At times it was almost euphoric, like a drug, I was chasing that first time, the feeling of pleasure
and excitement, the feeling of being alive, normal. Like drugs I just wanted that temporary feeling of being happy!
The whole ritual at first was ‘exciting’ what food was I going to buy, going through isle after isle, getting
home and binging, getting that high. But like anything the obsession grew out of control, it no longer was fun or exciting,
I was ashamed and disgusted, I couldn’t stop.
I can’t even calculate how much money I spent on food
that I would chew, spit out and then throw away. I feel ashamed to this day. All that wasted food, wasted money,
people starving and I just spat it out and threw it away. I have to remind myself that it was part of the disease, a
very ugly, gross, repugnant part.
Chewing and spitting may seem harmless and to many who suffer from eating disorders,
and even a smart idea, but there are some serious consequences.
- Mouth Ulcer’s –
while your chewing your body is producing acid this in turn produces mouth ulcers & trust me they hurt.
- Swollen Glands – from the spiting,
looking like a chipmunk is not a sexy.
teeth – Depending on what you eat your not only giving your teeth a acid wash but if you chew sugary
foods you are giving your teeth a sugar mouth wash as well. This equates to cavities, cracks and tooth rot.
- Ulcerated stomach – You may not
be ingesting the food but all your sensory’s (see, hear, smell etc) think you are. You are seeing the food, smelling
the food, tasting the food, your body produces stomach acid in preparation for the food.
- I saved the worst for last INSULIN increase –
When you see, smell, taste food it triggers the release of insulin, which is not a good thing. Insulin raises appetite
(more chew and spit), makes weight gain easier,makes losing weight harder and in worst cases cause diabetes.
took me a long time to have the courage to write about this topic, because of the shame I feel surrounding it. I worry
that people who read it will look at me differently. It’s one thing to starve yourself or make yourself throw
up, but to chew food up and spit it out – its just so bizarre.
But what I do know is that this form
of eating disorder Chew and Spit isn’t uncommon, and there are many people who are struggling with it right now. If I can
touch one person out there then having the courage to write about my experience with it will not be in vain. At the
time I felt crazy, I felt more then abnormal, I felt like a disgusting crazed human being. I want people out there who
suffer to know that your not alone, that I understand and that they’re are many more out there who battle this as well.
Don’t be ashamed to talk about it or reach out for help. YOU ARE NEVER ALONE.