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Trigger Warning: This article’s purpose is to raise awareness for a rarely discussed eating disorder behaviour called “chewing and spitting.” In order to raise awareness for this rare condition, it was necessary for the author to describe the behaviours. Please be aware that the description of the behaviours discussed in this article may be triggering. If you are in need of support, please call a helpline, a member of your recovery team, or access other resources.
I stumbled upon chewing and spitting as one would just happen to find new clearance items on sale while surveying and browsing aisles at a supermarket or fashion boutique. It started off as a simple plan to lose a few pounds after getting laid off at my hallmark job of three years at one of the largest corporations in the technology industry at the peak of my career.
Without my place in the world, I began to feel as if I were a shadow of my former self in search of that something to reignite my confidence and reinvigorate my self-esteem.
I had my bouts with disordered eating in the past but convinced myself I wouldn’t fall back into old habits. This time I told myself things would be different and different they were.
I created a plan which consisted of exercise and counting calories but all the while in the back of my mind, I was aware I was walking a tight rope between the borders of healthy and disordered eating but like many others, I deceived myself into believing everything would be well kept under my control.
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I began to chronicle my meals of the day with incredible detail. After a few weeks of sticking to my regime with the strictest of disciplines, I began eliminating more and more what I called “off limit” foods and the pounds began to quickly drop as did additional food items which proved to show any hindrance to reaching my goal weight.
Now in retrospect, I can clearly see where I was headed.
At the time, when one sees immediate results they ignore the signs that things are apparently headed in the wrong direction. You’re happy with the invincible feeling of power —at first and you can simply dilute yourself into thinking you can step on the breaks at any time when you’ve gone too far or reached your goal weight. Weighing upon first opening your eyes becomes as routine as brushing your teeth. A lower number on the scale can have a greater effect on your mood than any man created chemical.
I disappeared into my protruding spine and collar bones and the gap between my thighs. I began to feel weightless, dizzy and stars glazed over my eyes but not the specs of light that illuminate the night sky but the phosphenes that covered my bathroom walls after purging. Hunger slowly starts to take hold as a tornado sweeping you in its path and your mind begins to run on auto-pilot and you find yourself overly preoccupied with food.
Then one day, it happens you find yourself alone in the kitchen as if you’ve been sleepwalking and you reach your breaking point, you slip and give in to the sensations of appetite and lose all the control you think you had but never really had in the first place.
Eating disorders are the monsters in the dark that begin to control you like a puppet on strings.
You open the fridge and before you are aware of what you’re doing, you find yourself with open jars of peanut butter and packages of chips, sandwich meats and anything and everything you can get your hands on. You eat and eat as if you’re in a competitive eating contest and mid-way through as if awoken from a trance you stop feeling sickened and ashamed of yourself worrying about all of the calories you’ve just consumed and panicking on how to immediately get rid of them. Dreading the inevitable number spike on the scale the next day, you ponder on the damage done and now realizing all your hard work could be gone in a flash. This is when you think to yourself, if you can get it in, you can get it out and bulimia walks into your life seductively selling you on the idea of an easy escape route.
Just one time, you think to yourself and never again.
I’ll work harder and get rid of all of the tempting foods in the fridge that tingle tastebuds upon sight but resisting even a morsel becomes more difficult than one can imagine after restricting. You tell yourself this will never happen again-only it does and the pattern continues as if you’re stuck on a roller coaster, one that puts you in both a state of exhilarating bliss only to end in utter anxiety.
You purge and in the moment find a temporary fleeting moment of peace with the lingering feeling of failure in the foreground of your mind.
You promise yourself, you’ll be more disciplined and will not allow yourself to fall victim again, so you limit yourself to even fewer calories than before and this works for a few days or weeks even before you find yourself possessed by your hunger demons once again. This time you are much more aware of the damage you’ve done in weeks prior and think to yourself, what if I just taste a bit of this or that and not swallow? I can simply chew and spit and avoid consuming altogether and a strange sort of euphoric pleasure takes over your senses as if you’ve stumbled upon a secret to save yourself from the savage side of the hunger you’re trying to escape.
Caskets for the remnants of my consumed meals were placed in forger’s coffee cans, plastic bags, and paper cups—anywhere but in my stomach. The rush and exhilaration of defeating what appears to be the devastating side effects of weight gain produced a euphoric high that left me in a manic, aloof state for days on end. But—it doesn’t stop there.
The episodes of chewing and spitting become more and more frequent.
You start with tasting just a few snack foods here and there to ordering full-on meals, entire pizzas and other high-calorie foods. It is at this point, you realize some of the meals you’ve just tasted had to have been swallowed and you decide to add purging into the mix as you have to make certain none of the calories were digested to qualm the uneasiness that plagues you. You’ll find you’d have definitely consumed some.
I initially created a name for this cycle of behaviour -“CSP” –Chew, Spit, Purge as I jotted down my episodes in my paper journals that spanned on for several years.
At first, I thought it was something I’d created all of my own until I joined online forums with legions of others engaging in the same behaviour.
It was as if I was part of a secret society. Women and men of all ages, races, shapes and sizes succumbing to the many pleasures of taste. In a matter of a few months, I was weak, scrawny and a skeletal shell of my former self and even more lost to the true identity of the self I’d begun to search for at the start.
Once you’ve opened the Pandora’s box of an eating disorder with such behaviours as chewing and spitting, it is hard to close; it becomes an everyday battle.
Please know, however, that you are not alone.
There are others, like myself, who are recovering from chewing and spitting, too, and there is help out there.
With the right support and therapy, you can find your way out of the darkness back into the light.
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