Body Image, holistic self-care, self love

Body Checking: Understanding and Overcoming

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

This topic has been weighing heavily on my mind for weeks, but it’s taken a moment to articulate my thoughts and emotions, mostly because the topic really resonates with me so deeply and I only recently discovered it to be so.

It is safe to assume we all have mirrors in our homes and that we all go to the bathroom multiple times a day, where it is just us and that mirror together, behind a closed door. Maybe we move to stand in front of it to pull up our pants, adjust our shirts, smooth our dress, and maybe some of us pinch our arms or mindlessly pull up our shirts to confirm that what is underneath meets our standards.   

I didn’t know at the time, but I was engaging in something called body checking, which is an obsessive thought pattern and behavior about appearance and a common symptom of eating disorders, body dysmorphia and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

It wasn’t until I was watching a YouTube video by Stephanie Buttermore and she called out the behavior that I was even aware that it was a “thing”, before that day it was a habitual action, one that I did maybe hundreds of times a day, and one that I didn’t realize I had any control over, or how it was negatively impacting me.

I thought that within my journey of food freedom, holistic self-care and self-love, I had overcome much of these thought patterns. I had ditched the scale, I gave up fitness watches, and fitness apps, yet somehow, the demon that is the disordered eating, was still rooting itself in areas I was unaware of. Now what?  

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

First, let’s address types of Body Checking

  • Frequent weighing
  • Checking appearance in the mirror
  • Pinching skin
  • Wrapping hands around areas of the body such as stomach, waist, thighs, arms
  • Seeking validation about appearance
  • Comparing oneself to others
  • Obsessing over those fitness tracker goals

Why I was Body Checking

  • A habitual action that I thought I had no control over
  • Self-soothing
  • Confirming fitness progress
  • To equate the feelings that came with what I saw to the value of my self-worth
  • To reassure myself that nothing had changed since my last big meal

Going deeper into the why

  • This is a coping mechanism used to alleviate distress
  • Body checking behaviors tend to increase during stressful times
  • People often don’t understand their unpleasant feelings and emotions and automatically connect these feelings to body image
  • Emotional intelligence is key in understanding the unpleasant feelings and emotions that are being felt and are often unrelated to body image, but are associated with it none the less

The consequences

  • Short term relief of distress if what is seen meets viewers standards for that day
  • Prevents body checking from dealing with and understanding the unpleasant feeling and emotions that lead to body checking
  • Accidental avoidance of the real problem

Tips

  • Wear clothes we feel comfortable in
  • Ignore size tags, we all know that every clothing lines sizing is a little different and our bodies are all a lot different
  • Instead of getting mad when you catch yourself body checking, approach the situation with curiosity, why did I do that? How am I feeling right now? Instead of asking, “is my body okay” ask, “am I okay?”
  • Feed our self-care tanks, be that emotional, physical, spiritual, social, or intellectual. Read more about this on a previous blog post.

My plan of action

  • Becoming aware that I am doing it and approaching the situation with love and compassion and not frustration that I cannot just quit cold turkey
  • Take note of how I feel after body checking and how long the feeling lasts
  • Challenge my behaviors – “what am I looking for?”, “is this helpful?”, “am I needing validation in some area of my life right now?”
  • Understanding that I will not always feel comfortable in my body, but to embrace the discomfort and no that it will pass

Further Reading

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