Can’t Stop Chewing and Spitting Out Sweets

By October 30, 2012

I’m not sure if this is the right place to ask about this…but here goes: I’m 24 and for about 9 years I have been chewing food up and spitting it out. I’ll do this to a whole cake, a whole bag of Oreos, a whole bag of chocolates, anything, on a daily basis. I do eat a regular diet during the day. I just can’t stop chewing and spitting out sweets. I just baked a tray of cookies and did this to all of them. And I’m halfway through a bag of Oreos. My molars are all falling apart…could this be a side effect? Are there any health risks associated with doing this? This is the only thing that calms my nerves…I get really excited when my husband goes to bed and I can attack my candy/cake stashes. But I feel disgusting and sick. I have two young daughters and I don’t want them to get any ideas from me! I’m just addicted to doing this. I can’t afford to go to an eating disorder specialist. I’m also, strangely enough, studying to become a registered dietitian. Maybe you can tell me something that’ll scare me into stopping. Sorry this is so long, but I don’t know who to turn to. My husband (the only person I’ve ever told in my life) thinks it’s a brilliant idea and doesn’t see the problem. He said that if he could do that with alcohol he would drink more. Thank you for reading this! – Nicole

Dear Nicole,

According to the details of your submission you have been practicing chewing and spitting since the age of 15.  Most 15 year olds do not just chew and spit. What am I suggesting by this statement?  Well, Nicole, what you do with food when you chew and spit is a problem.  You describe eating “whole” bags, “whole” cakes, molars that are falling apart, and “attacking” food stashes when your husband goes to bed.   This frantic and secretive practice is a coping mechanism. You have found a way to distract yourself, calm yourself, and/or control something.

I don’t think that you had to have a specific and traumatic event at 15 for the behavior to begin.  But I do think that something was triggered in you and eventually you found a way to be alone, to enjoy something, to feel pleasure, to be in control of how you were satisfied, and now you cannot stop.  Your e-mail details facts around your habit but it also sounds somewhat lighthearted.  While I appreciate your husband not rejecting you when you shared what you do with food, his answer is not helpful.  You do not have to live this way.  You can have a piece of cake, chew it, swallow it, know its taste, experience it, and trust your insides to digest it and handle it. You do not have to rob yourself of the process of taste and digestion.

I am happy to read that you do not want to teach your daughters this approach to food; however, you also request to be “scared straight”.  I would hope their vulnerability to what you role model to them was enough of a scare tactic to get you to consider professional help.  Your letter states you can not afford a specialist and I dare write that you can not NOT afford one.  Make an appointment with a professional and begin today to work on how you can stop a practice that will cost you so much in the end. See “Finding Treatment” for guidance.

Good luck and please let us know how you are doing..