In today's society, it is not uncommon for someone to struggle with their feelings towards how their body looks. We are constantly being compared to not only each other, but, this ideal that was made up by the fashion and beauty industries. Feelings around our bodies can be hard to manage, especially if someone is struggling with an eating disorder and the fear of their body changing.
A common behavior for someone who struggles with body-image distress is body-checking.
In this article, I will define body-checking and provide tips to reduce and ultimately extinguish these behaviors over time. This is a way to get one step closer to body acceptance and appreciation!
What is Body-Checking?
Body checking is the repeated checking of one's body for differences in weight or shape. This can look like many different things and typically has a compulsive nature to it.
Examples of Body Checking:
*not an exhaustive list
Weighing yourself frequently
Staring in the mirror analyzing your body
Measuring or squeezing different body parts
Comparing current body to old pictures of yourself
Using any and all reflective surfaces to look at your body
Seeking reassurance from friends, family, loved ones
If you are struggling with any of these behaviors, know that you are not alone. It can be difficult to stop this behaviors so check out the tips below.
6 Tips to Help Reduce Body Checking:
1. Cover your mirror with post-it notes
Cover your mirror with postive affirmations or motivational quotes in order to detract your attention from your body, for even a few seconds/minutes.
Some phrases to stick to your mirror... "I am beautiful just as I am," "My body deserves love,"
"My body is beautiful and strong," "My weight does not define me,"
Read them. Say them. Think them.
2. Use mirrors that are only from the neck up
If using a full length mirror is where you typically body check, change mirrors to a smaller one so you have less of a visual of your body. This can also help with spending less time in front of a mirror in general because there is less to criticize.
3. Postpone the action related to the urge
If you have an urge to squeeze a body part or measure in some kind of way, try to fight for the urge for 5 minutes. Find something else to occupy your mind and see if the urge decreases in those 5 minutes. If the urge decreases a bit or not at all, try again for another 5 minutes. Eventually, you'll be distracted enough and won't give into the urge.
If you do squeeze or measure - that's okay! It's something to talk about with your therapist. Knowledge is power in this process.
4. Set up a plan when asking for reassurance
If you tend to ask for reassurance around your body, for example, "do I look different than last week?", "do I look okay in this outfit?", etc., come up with a response so your loved ones know what to say back that it not triggering or enabling to your disordered eating voice.
Let your loved ones know to respond by saying, for example, "please go journal about how you feel" or "please try distracting yourself from these thoughts/urges". It will definitely not be satisfying in the moment, however, any response your loved one gives you, won't do the trick and won't make your disordered eating voice go away.
5. Keep your hands busy
If you notice that you body-check frequently throughout the day by what seems to be indiscrete ways, try keeping your hands busy. Use putty, a pop-it, a fidget toy or pick up a new hobby like knitting or crocheting; if your hands are busy, you can't use them to body-check.
6. If you wouldn't say it to your friend, don't say it to yourself
This is just a good rule of thumb in general for folks who find themselves to be extremely self-critical, but, if you find yourself making a body comment ask yourself "would I say this to my best friend?", if the answer is no - don't say it to yourself either.
This, by all means, is not as easy as I'm making it seem, however, it can be a start to fighting that voice in your head. Body-image distress is a difficult thing to defeat and will take time. If you or someone you love is struggling, please reach out for help. You deserve it!
Stephanie Polizzi is a licensed psychotherapist (LMHC), serving clients living in NY, NJ and FL.
Stephanie specializes in working with children, teens and adults struggling with anxiety,eating disorders, body image, behavioral challenges, life transitions and trauma.
Stephanie uses a combination of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Mindfulness and EMDR Therapy in her work with clients.