Chewing and Spitting: What is it?

Disordered eating behaviors are typically categorized three different ways: restricting or fasting, purging, and bingeing. However, some eating behaviors that don't fit into any of those boxes. Today, I'll be discussing the behavior of chewing and spitting.

1. What Is Chewing and Spitting?

Somebody who experiences chewing and spitting behaviors typically wants to taste food, but doesn't want to take in the calories of that food. This typically involves food that the person perceives as being "bad" or foods that they may feel guilty about eating. The person will chew the food, sometimes for several minutes, before ultimately spitting the chewed food out. 

2. Is Chewing and Spitting Dangerous?

Spitting out food, instead of swallowing it, disrupts the digestive process. If a person continuously chews and spits, the behavior has the potential to cause nutritional deficiencies. Believe it or not, when we begin to chew food, it signals to the rest of our body that we are getting ready to eat something and that it needs to be ready to digest our food. When somebody chews but spits out their food, their body gears up to digest the food and is unable to. This can cause disruptions and an inability for the digestive system to regulate feelings of hunger and fullness.

3. Help is available

The emotional and mental triggers for engaging in chewing and spitting vary. Perhaps a person has a low perceived body image and spits food to avoid taking in calories. For others, it may be a way to exert control over their environment. Often, the behavior of chewing and spitting accompanies other disordered eating behaviors, such as purging, food restricting, and bingeing. A counselor can help identify these triggers and develop alternative coping strategies. I typically utilize Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) when working with individuals who struggle with disordered eating. We work together to break down the cycle of their disordered eating patterns and look for ways to disrupt that cycle. 

If you are struggling with chewing and spitting, there is help available to you. Additionally, consultation from a medical doctor or a registered dietitian can aid you in receiving well-rounded care in recovery from disordered eating behaviors. 



Emily Teegarden