Chewing and spitting (CS) has been a noticeabally more prevalent issue in this past year or two, I've noticed. I've read a few forums regarding CS and noted the two issues of highest concerns for CSers:
1. Does it cause weight gain? and on a related note, how many calories does it add?
2. Are there any long-term harmful effects to health?
Plus a psychological concern:
3. Is it "wasteful", "disgusting", and "wrong" to CS?
CS is by no means a new method used anorexics to keep daily calories low. Why this method is only gaining popularity recently, I have no idea. I don't think anybody can claim to be an expert of CS, but I have used this method for over 4 years now, and almost daily for the past 2 years. This is what I have discovered so far...
1. Does CS cause weight gain? and how many calories are consumed by CS?
LOADS of people have noticed they gain weight in CS. I have not noticed a weight gain associated with CS. It depends which foods you CS on. I will get to this point later.
Not only have I not noticed weight gain associated with CS, I have actually observed weight gain when I don't CS. Usually I CS as a way of meal replacement, which is usually about 2 meals a day consuming only what calories are provided by food stuck in my teeth during CS (that I am unable to spit out entirely between bites). Even if I CS between two real meals, I am still better able to exercise self-control while eating, mainly because CS helps attenuate my food cravings.
If people are always CSing not as a meal replacement, but as an activity between meals and choosing all the wrong foods (see below), it is understandable that weight gain is possible. It depends a lot on the type of food.
I've read in various forums that people CS chips, cookies, and chocolate and noticed weight gain. It's hard not to see why: if you CS a bag of cookies (typically 1500-2000 calories per bag of around 350 grams), and let's estimate that you swallow the 5% that get stuck in your teeth, you're swallowing 75-100 calories. Is that a lot and would that cause weight gain? If you are overweight or obese, I'm sure this will result in weight loss compared to eating the whole bag of cookies. But if you are like me who are medically within or below normal weight and are still trying to lose weight for cosmetic reasons or otherwise (e.g. I lose my job if I get over 90 pounds, or so my employer constantly reminds me), then yes, an extra 75-100 calories extra will cause weight gain. My staple CS foods are breads, and my favourite are tortillas. Both of which are healthy foods in the first place, low fat, and has a texture that is easy to spit and leaves only minor traces inside your mouth.
So the short answer to whether CS causes weight gain: it's all in the way you do it.
2. Are there any long-term harmful effects to CS?
As far as I can tell, no. As mentioned before, I have CSed for 4 years, of which the past 2 years I have CSed almost daily. I remember at the beginning, I received frequent sore throats and hoarse voices. I soon realized I was CSing on all the wrong foods - chips, cereal, nuts. These foods are often too dry (and fatty!). I later switched to softer and more moist foods such as bread (not to mention usually less expensive than chips and cereals and nuts); combined with a noticeable increase in saliva production as my body readjusts to my new habits, I no longer noticed these ill effects. I am quite thirty at times though, which can be easily helped by drinking more water, broth, or diet pop.
As for teeth erosion, I usually brush my teeth and floss even after CS with non-sugary foods like bread. For those who CS using chocolate and other sweets and don't brush their teeth, the effects on your teeth are predictably poor. Take care of yourself!
3. Is it "wasteful", "disgusting", and "wrong" to CS?
I say no to all three. I am neutral towards pro-ana and pro-recovery, nor I'm not here to advocate either CS or eating disorders. I'm just trying to stay alive and stay as happy and "at peace" with myself as possible to avoid my boyfriend and family from worrying themselves silly over me.
Firstly, is CS wasteful? I say that CS is not wasteful. If it is, it's worth it anyways. I used to be a fully restrictor-type anorexic, and because I was so physically ill and mentally obsessed with food, I nearly had to quit school and work. I was no longer functional as a human being. Ever since I allowed myself to CS at will - well, as long as I have privacy, of course - I have been able to take some of my life back into control. I regained my ability to study for school, think for my loved ones and be considerate of them, maybe even allow me to rediscover the enjoyment of food. With CS, I end up consuming a few calories here and there, which probably improves my health a bit, and it is good for taking care of hunger pains.
For several dollars a day which I spend on CS food, I have regained some functionality in my life. For someone like me who is anorexic - hardly living in a way that most would call "living" - CS is almost the only thing that grants some small peace of mind regarding food. CS is not wasteful at all, in my opinion.
Secondly, is CS disgusting? I say that CS is not disgusting, at least not any more disgusting than any other means of food "endpoint". The endpoint of food is always disgusting, one way or the other - as feces (which smells bad), vomit (also smells bad but in a different way), or chewed mush (smells the least bad; in fact, it smells like the food in its original state). Feces is the "normal" endpoint of food (laxative or not), but it adds pounds and inches to your waist, so why do it if you can avoid it? Vomit is the result of bulimia, and any bulimic will tell you about the horrible damage to your stomach, esophagus, throat, and teeth, not to mention weight gain occurring anyways... so if you can avoid it, you should. Spitting out food doesn't damage your the aforementioned organs (discussed in #2), and weight gain can be avoided if you spit thoroughly.
Thirdly, is CS just somehow "wrong"? All I'm trying to do is stay sane while dealing with my eating disorder:a living nightmare that I can only hope to cope with but not heal from. If spending a few dollars a day to generate chewed food mush in my own privacy keeps me sane, what's wrong with that? With all that I've been through, I've at least managed enough self-esteem to say I deserve some means to give myself some small comfort.
Ultimately, I wish I didn't have to CS, but it's one of my best coping mechanisms so far in my life, and I'm going to use it. Stopping CS is currently not on my to-do list - for now I don't mind letting it continue. My mind and heart has been hijacked by depression, food obsession, and suicidal thoughts, and CS helps me cope. Damage control is key in a life when I simply know that I can never be at peace with food, or anything else for that matter.