I Compulsively Chew Up and Spit Out Food

By September 27, 2012

My name is Fran and I’ll be a senior in college in the fall. Over about 2 1/2 years, I lost 70 pounds the healthy way, taking my 5′ 2″ frame from 185 lbs to 115 lbs. But since late last year, I’ve begun chewing up and spitting out food. At first, it happened just once or twice a month when I had been really stressed late at night, wanting the taste of food without the weight gain. But over the past few months, I’ve begun hoarding all kinds of junk food, breads, etc. to chew up and spit out alone in my dorm room, staying up late most nights of the week after coming home from class. I had a circuit of trips I made to different grocery and convenience stores to get food that I would not even allow myself to consume. Recently I got myself into a lot of trouble after running up a $275 grocery bill which is usually just over $100. My jaw aches, I have all kinds of scrapes and bites on my gums and mouth, and still I compulsively chew up and spit out food. I’m tired of sneaking around and doing this to myself. How can I stop, without having to tell my family? Thank you so much just for listening. – Fran

Dear Fran,

You deserve to be heard. Thank you for your brave honesty. You may not realize this, but you are not alone in the compulsion of chewing and spitting out food. More and more professionals are dealing with clients who struggle with this dilemma. The same principles that help anyone with disordered eating can help you tremendously. Let me urge you to find a professional who is very familiar in working with eating disorder issues. By learning how to value yourself, recognize your feelings and use alternate ways of dealing with them, there is a new life waiting around the corner for you.

 Your story reminds us how easily even sensible weight reduction can slip into obsessive behavior. Part of this is probably and unfortunately due to the obsessive emphasis our culture puts on weight loss. Compliments on weight loss can encourage us to go further and further.

I hear encouraging aspects in your words. One, you are ready to change.

Two, you are tired of the cycle of isolating, hoarding and overspending. Third, you are concerned about your health. Because you are a college student, you probably have access to a student health center and counseling center. Let me encourage you to make an appointment at both centers for assessments. Then don’t forget to pay attention to your spiritual well being, as well as your physical and emotional healing. These three go hand in hand. Your family does not have to know what you and your counselor discuss unless you are in danger. You and your counselor can discuss when, if ever, it may be helpful to tell your family and how. Please be good to yourself.