Body checking is referred to an obsessive thought and/or behaviours about appearance in eating disorders. Body checking is part of the picture of eating disorders – especially anorexia and bulimia, but if you are not engaging in any of the following behaviours, I want you to know, that your eating disorder is still real and valid. Not everyone might experience it – since it can be also considered as a not-helpful coping mechanism.
What does body checking look like?
The kind of body checking can vary from person to person – since eating disorders come in all kinds, sizes, and shapes. As I mentioned before – it is a coping tool, which is why you might now always be aware of your disordered behaviour. There is more behind this term than just checking how you look in the mirror, or showing off the new clothes on a social media platform. It is a obsessive, repetitive behaviour – repeated many times throughout the day. Some of them especially in privacy, but others unconsciously in public as well. The reason why I decided to list the different kinds here is simply because you might not know, that it is not normal – or maybe you haven´t even realized, you are doing these.
– Tracing: running your hands over body parts
– Wrapping: measuring body parts with your hands
– Pinching: of body fat and/or skin
– checking your body shape/lifting your shirt every time you pass a mirror/window
– comparison pictures/comparing pictures of yourself (taken with little to no clothes on)
– taking videos of yourself in weird angles, trying to catch how others are seeing you/ see if they are seeing what you want them to see
– trying on clothes, that are too small or fit different now, keeping smaller clothes, just in case you´ll need them again
– weighing yourself daily/more than once a day
Why we body check
Body checking is not normal and still we are engaging in it. Often even when we start our recovery journey. I am convinced, that many health- and wellness Influencers/blogger go sideways here. Before and after recovery/weight gain pictures are – in my opinion – still a way of body checking. Especially because most of these posts include at least one picture taken, barely clothed (A real body-check-proof of the past). We don´t need to compare ourselves with our past self. The only thing that matters is, how we feel now and this can not be captured in a picture. Before and after pictures are not only disordered, but especially triggering. And here is why I think it is a disordered thing:
Body checking is a ritual of comfort. We check, if still everything is, as it is supposed to be. How we want it to be. We might want to make sure, that we are still in control, that we haven´t overdone it yet. Negative emotions naturally seek for releasing the pressure. Especially in restrictive eating disorders the look of the body is considered as something that can be controlled. So, increased negative emotions increases body checking behaviours. On short term it actually reduces anxiety, but it is not adaptive. It´s an avoidant behaviour and sooner or later tit will increase negative emotions.
stop body checking
First of all, it is important, that you understand, that it is a disordered behaviour. It is not normal to check your body shape/bones/weight loss and -gain multiple times a day. A great start can be keeping a record about all the times you catch yourself body checking. Try to stay judge free at this stage. Allow it to happen and just get aware of your behaviour. After you know, in what kind of body-checking behaviours you are interacting with, we can work on letting them go.
Tipps herefore are:
– hide your scale/ask someone to hide it for you. Resist the urge to weigh yourself. After some time you won´t even think about the possibility of weighing yourself.
– if outgrowing clothes or missing your “sick” body is something you are struggling with, I encourage you to get rid of clothes, that are getting tighter or even just fit different now. Clothes are meant to fit us and not the other way around. Also it is a great opportunity to find your style! Read this blog post for more tips, how to deal with weight gain
– cover your wardrobe/mirror with helpful mantras and quotes. Here is a Pinterest board about body neutrality and self compassion I am updating frequently, you can use for inspiration. You can either print them out, write them on sticky notes or hand letter them in your own design
– keep your hands busy in other ways to calm you down. (rubber band around the wrist, anti stress balls, therapy putty, hold something in your hand like a stone, tracing letters/words in your palm,…)
– delete old body checking photos, or at least get them off your phone. There is no need to ever come back to them since they will always make you feel worse.