"I''m still battling it. It's a lot more under control than it was, but I think it's really messed up my insulin levels, general body rhythms, etc.,” says Regina, a 25-year-old Huntington Valley, Pa., resident. “Although I still eat restrictively, I have suddenly gained weight — 40 lbs since May — and am so scared it's not going to stop. I used to constantly chew and spit. My teeth are all rotted around the gum line. Two back ones have fallen out completely. It's ridiculously horrible yet little known to the public I think. It's harder than anything. People think it's silly but it's definitely not!”
Chewing and spitting is an eating disorder in which a person tastes her food, chews it and then spits it out. The goal is to be able to savor the food without gaining weight. People who chew and spit become addicted to the behavior, and may graduate to other eating disorders. Chewing and spitting is also common in people with anorexia.
Although on the surface chewing and spitting may not seem to be harmful, there are many potentially harmful consequences to the behavior. Like Regina, people with this disorder can experience physical problems, such as swollen glands, mouth sores, cavities, cracked teeth, sore throats, and irritated or ulcerated stomachs. When a person begins to eat the salivary glands cause stomach acids to flow. Because the person has spit out their food, these acids instead work on the mouth and stomach, resulting in the problems described above.
Seeing, smelling, and tasting food also triggers the release of insulin. When a person is constantly chewing and spitting there is excess insulin. Insulin increases appetite, which makes the person feel hungrier. This intensifies the urge to chew and spit. Therein lies the addiction to chewing and spitting, which can be very difficult to stop.
The result: weight gain.
Chewing and spitting causes more problems than solutions. It is not a diet technique. If you are chewing and spitting, please seek help. There are many therapists in the Philadelphia area that can help.