The Low-Down on Chewing-and-Spitting

September 23, 2008

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)

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. “

Is it harmful?

“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.”

Wow … in a nutshell, that sums up my experience with chewing-and-spitting.

How about you? If you were a former chewer-and-spitter, how did you stop?

Entry Filed under: Anxiety, Binge Eating, Emotional Eating, chewing and spitting. Tags: , , , , .

18 Comments Add your own

  • 2. sarah andrews  |  October 19, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    I have suffered with eating disorders for 15 years. Recently I lost 40 lbs by working out and following an eat clean diet. I found this very hard as it required me to not eat any sugar or simple carbs. My eating disorder soon changed on me, and I became a chew and spitter. Now that we are trying to consume, I recently became diagnosed with PCOS. Im not sure if there is any connection, but prior to losing the weight, I was getting regular periods regardless of suffering from bulimia. Now that I am chewing and spitting, if I swallow any food, it triggers me to have a bulimic episode. This becomes a deadly cycle. I have been on the internet for 3 weeks now, trying to find help. I have found so many articles that tell me why chewing and spitting is bad, what it does to my body, what causes PCOS, and they all end with ” Get Help”. I would love to ” get help” but I dont know where to turn. I have a family doctor who is about 2 hrs away, so if she were to refer me to someone they would be too far away for me to regularly see them. I don’t know what to do. Im tired of hearing/ reading “Get Help”. I want help, and i dont know where else to turn and Im starting to feel hopeless and very depressed. Any and all information would be greatly appreciated.- please note I live in Ontario Canada. thanks.

  • 3. sarah andrews  |  October 19, 2008 at 8:34 pm

    haha, clearly i cant spell right when im emotional and writing, what I meant by consume was consumate- have a child.

  • 4. sarah andrews  |  October 19, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    and to clarify, I eat the food on my plan, but if i eat anything off it, thats what triggers me to chew- spit- then purge. Typically if I eat off my plan its high glycemic foods, simple carbs, and seriously highly sugary foods in large quantities.

  • 5. lissa10279  |  October 19, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    Hi Sarah and thanks for writing. Congrats on losing weight the healthy way, and lord knows we all can relate to the troubles that follow! Perhaps you’re being too strict with yourslef… I’ve never experienced anorexia or bulimia, and I’m not qualified to give advice in any sense … but I will say that it does sound like you could benefit from counseling as well as maybe nutritional counseling — especially if you’re looking to start a family. Can you find a new doctor closer to you? It sounds like you’d benefit greatly from having someone to talk to … I hate to repeat what everyone else has told you, but “Get Help” seems to be the best solution … good luck!!!


  • 6. jasmine  |  November 21, 2008 at 9:48 am

    wow, i’m actually surprised to see chewing and spitting getting spread around online, since it’s still more or less stuffed into anorexia nervosa in the DMSIV…
    I’m a chewer&spitter, have been for almost a year now. i can totally understand how difficult it can be to quit, although i have outstanding self-control in most occasions, and although i am a med student. I know exactly what i’m doing to myself, and i understand the dangers scientifically and elaborately. the problem with this disorder is that it’s like a breakup: reason does not bring action, just like when you reasonably admit breaking up is helpful but can’t stop feeling hurt. i haven’t sought out help yet because i can’t let this disorder ruin my studies…and i’m still hoping i’ll eventually get rid of it, haha.

  • 7. lissa10279  |  November 21, 2008 at 10:09 am

    Hi Jasmine, yea, I didn’t know anyone but me did it (and in the past three months, I’ve done it maybe three times?!) Anyway, I wish you well in med school as well as overcoming this nasty habit we want to break. For me, I learned it’s tied to anxiety - and when I can pinpoint the WHY it helps. Sometimes!

  • 8. rc  |  January 3, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    I have been struggling with chewing and spitting for 26 years. I have been up and down the scale, and in and out of eating disorder treatment facilities. I have false teeth now, a direct result of disordered eating. I hope anyone reading this, who hasn’t gotten help…will get some help soon.

  • 9. lissa10279  |  January 4, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Thank you for your brutal honesty, RC. I hope others will read this, too.

  • 10. lissa10279  |  January 4, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Best of luck to you.

  • 11. rc  |  January 11, 2009 at 12:01 am

    Thanks for the encouragement.

  • 12. lissa10279  |  January 11, 2009 at 9:54 am

    Anytime, RC

  • 13. Spring break may be appro&hellip  |  February 11, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    [...] it worth it? Fletcherizing is identical to chewing and spitting, a popular weight loss technique in the eating disorder community. Digestion begins in the mouth. [...]

  • 14. dave  |  February 23, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    excellent description of a very dangerous habit.

  • 15. lissa10279  |  February 23, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    Thanks, Dave. This is something I still struggle with … me, and many others. I thought I was alone; that I was the only one who did this grotesque thing. Nope … sadly, nope.

  • 16. Amy !!!  |  March 1, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    Hi, I deffinatly suffer with C/S.. We’re in this battle together! … I have some Advise, as boaring as it sounds, whenever i get the cravings to C/S I drink a bottle of water.. by the time i finish the bottle of water Im not thinking of C/S anything. I also feel that C/S causes weight gain.. The mouth has a lot of open receptors in it, which sugar can be absorbed into the body. Just remember every women at some point in their life will have disorderd eating, be happy with youself at whatever weight, enjoy Life, and together Lets fight this Gross habit!!!

  • 17. lissa10279  |  March 2, 2009 at 8:26 am

    Hi Amy and thank you … I am going to try to remember that about the water. It is a gross habit and I know for me it’s anxiety-driven. Sigh …

  • 18. Saliva  |  April 1, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    Very good article, thanks for the encouragement.


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