If you’re wondering how to stop body checking, this post is for you.
Trigger warning: this post discusses eating disorder behaviors so please care for yourself and read at your own discretion.
Recently, I made a TikTok regarding the idea of body checking and posting “What I eat in a day” video content. I basically said, “If your ‘What I eat in a day’ TikTok starts with a body check, I don’t want to see it.” I meant for it to come off as cheeky, but I used humor to get viewers to recognize this harmful behavior!
On my video, one of my beautiful followers asked me what body checking was, and I realized this is an uncommon term for those who aren’t invested in strong eating disorder recovery and/or those who aren’t practicing body acceptance. I made a reply video about it and wanted to readdress the term here.
So let’s get into it.
Body checking refers to the habit of gathering information about one’s body weight, shape, size, and/or appearance. It’s a clinical feature of eating disorders (ED), but even those without an ED can engage in the behavior. It can materialize in a variety of ways. You may find yourself checking your belly every morning, constantly wrapping your fingers around your wrist to check its circumference, eyeing your arms every time you look in a mirror, etc.
Many do this as an attempt to feel better about parts of their body, in particular, the parts they’d like to change or shrink.
Studies show that engaging in body checking behaviors results in a decrease of body satisfaction and an increase in self-criticism. It’s one of the many behaviors addressed in eating disorder treatment.
If any of the above sounds like something you’ve done or are currently doing, don’t beat yourself up! It’s quite common and means you have an opportunity to develop a healthier relationship with yourself. While I don’t want you to have shame surrounding this behavior, I do want you to understand this is a harmful behavior to do, and it doesn’t support recovery, confidence, or body acceptance.
The great thing is you can start tackling this behavior today. Below I have some tips that have worked for me, as well as tips from experts in the mental health space. Check out 20 tips that will help you stop body checking below.
Are you comparing yourself today to pictures from years ago? Are you looking at your legs every time you look in a mirror? Do you pinch yourself in certain spots on your body? Identify the behaviors you notice, and write them down.
Got a scale in the back of your closet? A pair of jeans you try on every so often? A tape measure? It’s time to throw all that shit in the trash bin – because they’re doing nothing for you but keep you in your disordered behaviors!
So many body checking behaviors happen in front of a mirror, but you can’t always eliminate those from your entire household. Instead, stick empowering mantras or positive affirmations on every mirror in the home. Begin to create a habit of saying the affirmations out loud each time you look in the mirror. It’s a small touch that over time, makes a huge difference.
If you have a friend who is always talking about dieting, take a break from being around them. If you know you’re going to be in a swimsuit soon, and that stresses you out, take a break from activities that involve bikinis. It’s okay to take a step back from people and situations that will make things harder for you as you begin to change an unhealthy behavior.
You’ve developed the awareness you need to know when you’re engaging in body checking, so now what? When you become aware of your intent to body check, stay grounded with a thought stop statement. It can be any of the following:
I’m not going to body check because it’s likely to make me feel badly about myself.
I don’t want to be a prisoner of my rules anymore. It’s time to make new rules.
I’ve done this for a while, and it didn’t work for me. I’m going to try another route.
Body checking is usually a coping mechanism for reducing anxiety, and without it, you might find yourself in a highly anxious situation that could lead to distress. What do you have in your toolbox to handle anxiety in a healthy way? Commit to doing that thing every time your brain tells you it’s a good time to body check.
When you find yourself body checking, use it to get super curious. When we seek to understand the why, we can better help ourselves make change. If you get caught in a body check, ask yourself the following questions. Try not to attach yourself to any emotions that come up! Be kind to yourself.
What emotion am I feeling?
What do I think the body check will do for me?
Is this going to benefit my healing process?
Whenever you successfully swerve on a body check, celebrate! Tell a trusted loved one. Do a face mask. Take a hot bath. Take your pet on a walk. Do something kind for yourself that honors the progress you’ve made.
Change isn’t linear. The day you start working on yourself isn’t the day you change. Things take time! Before you start on this habit change, remind yourself that you will have setbacks. You won’t be perfect. Knowing that you will mess up and regress is key to long-term success. Release the idea that you’ll stop forever the moment you try. That’s simply impossible!
Just like you want to celebrate your wins, you also want to have a plan in place to care for yourself after a setback. Whether that’s calling a friend, reading your favorite new book, taking a yoga class, or writing in your journal. Write up a plan for those days when the urge is too great. You deserve gentle care.
These tips are by no means an exhaustive list. There are so many more ways to stop body checking – the key is to find the tips that work best for you. Got any you’d like to share, or have another question about body checking? Let me know in the comments. I would be so happy to continue the conversation!