Can’t Control Chewing and Spitting

By January 23, 2013

I’m 18 years old and have way better things I should be worrying about than food. I’ve had somewhat of a traumatic childhood: my parents got divorced when I was 13 and my mother got remarried and moved my sister and I across the country. We’ve adapted well, and I’m grateful I live where I do and glad I made the friends that I have. I know I should be proud of how I’ve handled myself over the years, and I should be glowing with pride after all my high school accomplishments as I near my graduation date. But I can’t. Instead, I obsess over food every second of every day. And I chew and spit. I’ve never been REALLY overweight, maybe a few extra pounds in the tummy area. But I’ve ALWAYS obsessed over my weight. I’ve always obsessed over how everyone else looked, and obsessed over why I didn’t look like that or how I could change that. I had a boyfriend for almost three years and believe my real eating problems began when he told me that he might not want to be with me when he went to college, which wasn’t for another eight months. I think I began to chew and spit around this time, subconsciously thinking that maybe if I was thinner, and, therefore, prettier and more desirable, he wouldn’t leave me when he left for school. I’m about 5’5” and ended up weighing *** at my lightest, which was about a year ago. My face looked too thin, my eyes were always tired, but I still thought I was too fat. Throughout the summer, the chewing and spitting continued and I exercised far too excessively. I only ordered salads everywhere I went, and I still thought I was the size of a whale. When the inevitable occured and my boyfriend broke up with me, I stopped chewing and spitting and just started chewing. I ate probably three times the recommended daily amount of food and didn’t care. (I realize now it was because I felt worthless.) After about 4 months, I found myself at *** pounds. If I hated myself at *** pounds, imagine how disgusted I was when I looked in the mirror at ***. Over the past year, I’ve tried every diet. I know everything there is to know about all foods and how they work in your body. I finally stopped dieting recently, and I just tried to like myself and define myself by what I do, not what I eat. I had been doing extremely well for about a month, and even lost a few pounds just by respecting myself. However, I hit one of my extreme stress levels, relapsed and starting chewing and spitting again. I cannot control it anymore. I can sit and binge and chew then spit for hours, telling myself, “You’re doing this because you feel worthless, but that’s not true! Stop it!” Yet I still can’t stop. PLEASE help me. I’m tired of hating my body and I’m tired of hating myself and my actions. – Katie

Dear Katie,

I am struck by your talent at the written word. I read the question and felt as if I could feel your energy, your vitality, your desire to just be at peace with your soul and food.  Despite the facts of the case (which seem to support you have an eating disorder), you are real and honest and open about exactly where you are – and where you want to be.

Chewing and spitting is not how you were created to eat. You were created to grow, enjoy life, and be fed! You deserve good tasting food that is swallowed and processed.  But I hear that there are emotions that “trigger” behaviors. You identified being under great stress when the weight gain occurred and being able to restrict when you desired to keep a boyfriend. Your behaviors looked like chewing, spitting, binging, exercising, avoidance of exercise.

Restricting food by utilizing chewing and spitting to lose weight will have negative health ramifications.  Losing weight, regaining the weight, and then putting the body back through the rigors of losing will have negative health ramifications.  Conversations with your Soul that start off, “I should be…” or “You are not worth it…” or “You are worthless…” will have negative ramifications.  You deserve freedom physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

Locate a treatment program. I realize that sounds strong, but time is of the essence and you must reclaim who you are.  You could also consider seeing a therapist. I would recommend you consider a therapist who practices a technique known as EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques).  I have found it to be extremely helpful and to work well with some clients. A licensed, well-rounded therapist in your area can incorporate aspects of the EFT approach with traditional material to provide a whole response. (For persons of faith, this method is utilized by some Christian therapist who incorporate Scripture and/or other spiritual truths and it should not be considered just a “worldly” approach). See “Finding Treatment.”

There is no response in a panel question I can offer that will heal the chewing and spitting. But you know that. And I want you to know that we at Finding Balance have heard you today and we strongly encourage you to move forward on the road to recovery!

Leanne Spencer, LPC, MAMFC, CGE