Chewing and Spitting

Sarah McMahon
4 min readJun 23, 2019

There were the “bad” foods that I considered “off-limits.” Candies, cakes, donuts, cookies, ice cream, white bread, sugared cereals, crackers, juice, soda, smoothies, granola bars, pretzels, brownies, waffles, pancakes, anything rich or carby or satiating. Denying myself these foods was easy for a while; dieting provided intense feelings of power and elation. But I’m going to beat the proverbial dead horse and reiterate what so many of us have already heard: diets don’t work.

Soon, my cravings for carbs became overwhelming, especially since I’m extremely active. During my heaviest times of restriction, I was running upwards of 50 miles a week. I would bake sweets, but not eat them. I would look up recipes for elaborate pies and cakes and pastries, fantasizing about eating them. Soon, I discovered something called Chewing and Spitting, or CHSP, which I now know is a classic sign of disordered eating. I reasoned that I could let myself taste something good, but I couldn’t let myself swallow it. This isn’t a lovely behavior to write about, much less engage in, but it needs to be said. There were times in college when I would lock myself in my dorm room, slowly chewing and spitting a bag of cookies, or bagels, or cereal. This cost me a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of shame.

For some, chewing and spitting is a a symptom of an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. For others, it is an obsessive compulsive habit used to manage stress or anxiety. For most, it is a behavior rooted in fear of certain foods and what those foods will do. This study found that roughly 34% of patients with eating disorders admit to chewing and spitting, although an even greater number likely do not, or cannot, admit it.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is the handbook used by health care professionals in the United States and much of the world as the authoritative guide to diagnosis mental disorders. The most recent version used is the DSM-5, which doesn’t place chewing and spitting under any single disorder because it is occurs across all eating disorders. In other words, those with anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, or other specified feeding and eating disorders can suffer from chewing and spitting.

Aside from the monetary costs of chewing and spitting, negative physical consequences…

Sarah McMahon

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