Not long ago, I read Dolly Parton’s autobiography, Dolly: My Life and Other Unifinished Business. The book, which was published in 1994, is Dolly Parton’s life story in her own words. I found it a fascinating and engrossing tale for many reasons. However, the one element of Dolly Parton’s story that stood out to me the most was her diet tips. In her autobiography, Dolly Parton as much as admits to engaging in a practice known as Oral Expulsion Syndrome (OES).
Those of us who have been around awhile know that Dolly Parton used to be significantly heavier than she is today. Indeed, in the 1980 film 9 to 5, she was downright plump. But several years after she made that film, she lost a dramatic amount of weight and now sports a thin body to go with her famously large bosom. Parton doesn’t share too much specific information about how she lost the weight, other than a passage she writes on page 255 of her autobiography:
One other hint I’d like to pass on has to do with chewing. Our taste buds are only in our mouths, after all, and we don’t really taste the food when we swallow it. You can get a lot of the satisfaction from the taste of things you love by just chew, chew, chew, chew, Chattanooga chew-chewing and then not swallowing. “Wait a minute,” you’re thinking. “If I don’t swallow, won’t I have to spit the food out?” You’re right. “That’s disgusting,” you say. That may be, but what’s more disgusting? Spitting out food or being a lardass?
As Dolly Parton puts it, “If you’re going to lose weight, you’re going to have to eat less food” (254). According to her book, Parton believes that heavy people are heavy because they eat a lot and, while she agrees that exercise is important, Parton seems to think that the real trick to weight loss is to not eat much. But even as she encourages eating sparingly, she admits that eating is pleasurable.
After she passes along her tip about chewing up food and spitting it out, she adds:
I’m not suggesting for a moment that you spit up food. That’s very dangerous, but it doesn’t hurt to spit it out. I know for a fact that many stars and models chew and spit. The first time somebody told me that, I was so shocked I dropped a whole Styrofoam cup of chewed doughnuts.
According to www.metaglossary.com, Oral Expulsion Syndrome is defined as “the chewing but avoidance of swallowing food.” For some people, it is a diet technique, allowing them to enjoy the taste and texture of food without suffering the physical consequences of overindulging. But for other people, it can be a sign of an emotional problem or a symptom of a serious eating disorder. Those who start this practice as an innocent way to enjoy food without gaining weight may soon find themselves enslaved by a destructive habit.
Chewing up food and spitting it out may not be as physically harmful as forcing oneself to vomit, but it can turn into a destructive habit. Moreover, chewing up and spitting out food is not the kind of habit one indulges in public. For that reason, OES may lead some people to be more secretive about their eating habits, which is another sign of an eating disorder. As Parton points out in her book, the types of food that usually get chewed up and spat out tend to be high calorie items that someone who is dieting would otherwise avoid. Therefore, someone who engages in chewing up food and spitting it out is not learning better eating habits or effecting lifestyle changes that would make dieting less necessary.
According to www.disordered-eating.co.uk, chewing food and spitting it out can turn into a serious problem. Besides the fact that the food ends up being wasted, the sugar from high calorie treats can still damage the teeth by causing cavities. And, even though the food doesn’t get swallowed, the action of chewing the food causes the salivary glands to function. Too much chewing and spitting can lead to swollen glands, mouth sores, and throat problems.
While Dolly Parton may endorse Oral Expulsion Syndrome as an effective diet aid, most reputable health care providers wouldn’t advise it. If you have a problem with chewing food and spitting it out, you may want to seek help from qualified mental health professional or health care professional.
Parton, Dolly. (1994). Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business. New York: Harper Collins.