- Body checking is common and can affect people at any age.
- Compulsive body checking can negatively affect self-esteem and body-image satisfaction.
- Talking to a professional to decrease compulsive body checking behaviors is recommended.
Body checking is common and normal for most people. Checking how your outfit looks before you head to work, periodically stepping on the scale, or checking your hair in the reflection outside of a building are common examples of body checking.
For some, body checking can be more complicated. It involves compulsively assessing your own body or body parts. This may mean checking yourself in the mirror several times a day, weighing yourself at least daily, or assessing for fat or muscle in various body regions. When body checking becomes compulsive it can lead to disordered eating or an eating disorder.
This article explains body checking and provides tips that can help reduce body checking.
What Is Body Checking?
Body checking is engaging in behaviors to evaluate your own body size, shape and overall appearance. Everyone does some level of body checking but it can become compulsive leading to disordered eating.
It may be as simple as looking in the mirror or stepping on the scale. Other forms of body checking may be pinching skin to assess for fat or muscle or to check if they can feel for bone. With social media, comparing your body to others is another form of body checking. For males, checking for muscle strength and frequent flexing in the mirror can be a form of body checking.
Signs You’re Body Checking
Compulsive body checking can become problematic and may require professional help. Behaviors of compulsive body checking include:
- Weighing yourself frequently.
- Measuring size of certain parts of the body with measuring tape.
- Pinching parts of your body like your abdomen.
- Trying to feel your own bones.
- Checking specific body parts in the mirror.
- Comparing your body to others (e.g. - comparing to others on social media.)
- Mirror checking.
- Flexing muscles in front of the mirror.
Body Checking and Disordered Eating
Compulsive body checking can lead to restrictive and disordered eating. Frequent body checking may cause:
- Negative thoughts about your body.
- Negative mood, anxiety, and depression.
- Restricted and disordered eating.
- Further eating disorder symptoms.
- Stress and an inability to focus on other important tasks (e.g. - school or work).
- Greater feelings of loss of control.
Body checking is more common in people with eating disorders. If the body checking contributes to greater negative thoughts about one's body, further diet restrictions can ensue contributing to a vicious cycle.
What’s the Impact of Body Checking
Body checking can lead to overvaluation and body image dissatisfaction. Some become preoccupied with their body image dissatisfaction and their plan for correcting it.
Research has shown a strong relationship between body checking and body image dissatisfaction or eating disorders. Body checking can also negatively affect one's mood and mental health.
Body checking becomes problematic when it results in:
- Restricted eating.
- Interferes with your ability to concentrate.
- Interferes with your full participation in daily activities such as school or work.
- Consumes so much of your time each day.
These can be signs that your body checking and attempts at dieting are becoming more of an eating disorder.
Reducing Body Checking
It is possible to reduce and even eliminate a preoccupation with body checking. Working with health professionals, like a registered dietitian, can help. Below are a few ideas to help you get started.
Be mindful of when you are doing it
To reduce body checking, it is helpful to be mindful of how often you are body checking and how it affects your mood.
Try keeping a journal of the times that you body check throughout the day and your thoughts that occur with body checking. Doing so for just 24 hours will help your awareness of body checking.
Some may body check over 100 times daily and not be able to journal all of the events but that it is ok. Keeping a journal for just a day helps to give you some awareness of your level of preoccupation with your image.
When monitoring your body checking, try challenging these behaviors by asking:
- How will this help me?
- Has anything changed since my last body check?
Bringing awareness (without judgment) is a first step to challenging the body checking narrative. Asking yourself the questions above, may help you realize how frequently you engage in these behaviors. Gradually you can work towards decreasing the number of times you body-check, and try to neutralize any negative thoughts about body image or self-esteem you may have.
Develop coping skills
Coping skills to work through the emotional stress that can accompany body checking can help as you work towards healing your relationship with your body.
When you feel the urge to body check, try distracting yourself with a hobby, crafts, or a new TV series. Calling friends that are supportive can also be a good distraction.
Developing a list of positive affirmations can help too. Have a mantra that you can repeatedly use when you are feeling an urge to body check. For example, “I am more than just my body” or “I am strong”. You can also write out your positive affirmations to post in an area of your home that you will frequently see.
It is important to notice what can trigger you to body check. Keeping a journal may also help you realize your triggers that lead to body checking.
Social media can play a big role in promoting body checking and leading you to compare your body to others. It can be beneficial to structure your social media feeds to avoid feeds that may be a trigger for you and promote feeds that have more positive images. Taking a social media break altogether could also help.
If checking your weight is a trigger for disordered eating, you can do “blind weights”. A blind weight is when your weight is checked by the doctor but you stand facing away from the scale and don’t know the result.
Talk to a professional
Talking with a health professional can help you develop a plan to reduce and eventually eliminate body checking. This is typically done over time with smaller goals to work toward between sessions.
Body checking is a way of assessing your own overall appearance. Compulsive body checking can lead to overvaluation, disordered eating and eating disorders. If body checking has become compulsive, seeking professional help with a registered dietitian or mental health professional can help.
See an RD Online With Nourish
If body checking has led to disordered eating or an eating disorder, working with a registered dietitian (RD) is recommended. A RD can help you develop an individualized diet for you while keeping in mind that you are working on your relationship with your body.
Nourish can connect you with a registered dietitian for further help with body checking or other nutrition related health conditions. If you’re ready to take the next step in your health, consider booking a virtual appointment.
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