Challenging body image beliefs is tough to do. We live in a society where we see different messages everywhere about bodies and how they “should” look. This might keep you stuck in a cycle of body checking and comparing yourself to others. If you struggle with body image you might find yourself body checking often and feeling negatively about your body. Body checking is different than looking in the mirror while getting ready for the day or checking an outfit, it can become obsessive and anxiety provoking. Keep reading to learn about body checking and how it can impair your eating disorder recovery.
What is Body Checking?
Before we go into reasons why body checking is harmful to your eating disorder recovery, let’s define what body checking is. Body checking is a compulsive behavior in which a person repeatedly seeks information about their body’s weight, shape, size, or appearance. This can include constantly looking in mirrors, weighing in, even measuring body parts. Like most behaviors, body checking exists on a continuum. It can range from glancing in the bathroom mirror once a day to jumping on the scale several times a day. It’s when these behaviors begin to cause anxiety and impede daily activities that body checking becomes harmful.
Reinforcing Negative Thought Patterns
Body checking might make you feel “safe” in the moment, but it’s important to check in with your emotions and thoughts after engaging in this behavior. It often leads to negative feelings and can leave you feeling low. It can also keep you stuck in the belief that your body shouldn’t be changing, and that’s not true! Whether you are in eating disorder recovery or not, it is normal for our bodies to change throughout our life span – it means we’re living!
Increasing Focus on the Physical
The more you engage in this behavior the harder it can be to accept body changes. It also continues to place emphasis on your body in general, when the goal is to decrease these thoughts. If you’re in recovery some positive things you could pay attention to are your energy levels, mood, and even experiences with food. If you are constantly body checking along the way, it might be hard to appreciate these wins!
How You Can Decrease Body Checking
Again, decreasing body checking helps you take an emphasis off of your body. Think about when you hangout with friends, they are probably not excited to see you for the body you are in, but rather because they enjoy spending time with you – and vice versa. Think about how your experiences might be different if body image thoughts were not at the forefront.
All of that said, body image work is hard. Here are some tips to decrease body checking behaviors:
- Cover full length mirrors for the time being until you notice negative body image thoughts decreasing
- If you start to recognize you are engaging in this behavior call a friend or family member to distract yourself
- Purchase clothes that fit your current body and you feel comfortable in
- Donate clothes that no longer serve you
- Talk with your individual therapist or dietitian about these behaviors
- Take some time for self care and show your body respect by nourishing it and taking care of it
Final Thoughts on How Body Checking Can Impair Your Eating Disorder Recovery
Thank you for reading this resource on body checking. If you are struggling with body image, know that it can be a journey and have compassion for yourself along the way. You might have years of thoughts to reframe and this can take time. If you’re looking to improve your body image and have an overall more peaceful relationship with your body, reach out for support, and download the Courage to Nourish Body Image Workbook to continue exploring body image.
Courage to Nourish is a group of eating disorder specialized dietitians. We have in person locations in Alexandria, Virginia, Columbia, Maryland. and College Park, Maryland. We offer virtual services across the state of Virginia, Washington DC, Pennsylvania, and Colorado. We offer individual nutrition therapy. As well as support groups. We would love to guide you in building a better relationship with food.
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Leslie is a weight-inclusive, anti-diet eating disorder dietitian who specializes adolescents, families, and college students who struggle with all eating disorder diagnoses. Additionally, she enjoys working with those who are curious about intuitive eating and looking to have an
overall better relationship with food. Learn more about Leslie here.