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!
I 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.
- Rotting 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.
It 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.
Alis Volat Propriis