Adam Kay the famous writer and broadcaster admits to a “serious eating disorder” where he chews large amounts of food (usually junk food) and spits it out.
He became painfully aware of his size after a sexual encounter where his partner said that he had done well despite being “a big guy”.
He took the comment to heart and he decided to lose weight the quick way, by starving. Unsurprisingly he developed extreme hunger and began to crave food. Having failed to throw up, he decided to spit food out as a way to lose weight. He began to spit out more and more, to the extent that he kept a bin bag full of spat out food in his room until one day he was “found out”.
For a while, this strategy to lose weight worked. He lost a lot of weight and people began to be concerned about his appearance.
We have an article about chewing and spitting on our information pages. Some people have written in; they are annoyed about the things I have written. They are annoyed about me writing that we can take in a lot of calories when we spit out food, because a lot of energy is inadvertently swallowed.
The psychology of spitting
Spitting can become a major addictive behaviour because of the dopamine hits it gives. But the psychology of spitting is complicated.
For a short time, chewing food and spitting it out will calm the hunger drives. But this doesn’t work well in the long term. When the mouth receives food that the stomach doesn’t get, the brain is not fooled. Chewing palatable tasty and forbidden food will give us a dopamine “hit” that feels gratifying, but there are other physiological processes going on that could make it more likely that we will gain weight in the long term – one month, one year down the line. That is personal. The quick fix of spitting has a cost.
One reader wrote to me that the psychology of spitting food out is simple. He says it is simply about getting the taste without the calories. I do NOT agree.
Why people might chew and spit
What is the person REALLY spitting out? Who is the person REALLY spitting out?
I have found out that most people who chew and spit are very anxious, and this is a way of calming themselves down.
What is the underlying deep sense low self-worth that causes someone to believe that they do not deserve to eat real food. It is not just fear of getting fat.
What is the source of the pain that is being expressed by a behaviour that would be generally seen as shameful?
Does this person really believe that this is the only method of weight control available to them?
What is the cost of doing this, and what is stopping them from getting help?
How to get help
I wish that I had worked with Dr Kay, to find out what led him to take the comment about his size so much to heart, and to be the victim of someone else’s unguarded opinions about him. Maybe it is this fragility that lay behind so many of his other problems with life, work and relationships.
If you need help with chewing and spitting, we understand. Contact 0845 838 2040 and explore your options