Chewing and Spitting Out Food

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
July/August 2003 Volume 13, Number 4
©2002 Gürze Books

Purging and restricting behaviors are commonly reported among patients with eating disorders. However, one type of behavior—chewing food and spitting it out without swallowing—hasn’t really received very much attention. According to Dr. Leslie Heinberg and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, and the University of California, San Francisco, chewing and spitting out food without swallowing may indicate a more severe eating disorder. The researchers, who reported the results of their study at the recent Academy for Eating Disorders annual meeting in Boston in April, evaluated the frequency of this behavior among 197 consecutively admitted inpatients; 95% were female, and the average age was 25. Nearly 20% of patients in the study reported chewing and spitting out food at least several times a week. This subgroup had greater drive for thinness, more body dissatisfaction, and reported greater ineffectiveness and poorer physical functioning. Restrictive eating behaviors, purging by vomiting, and excessive exercise were also more common among those who spat out food.

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