In working with our clients on healing their relationships with food and body, body checking comes up frequently. So many want to be able to feel more neutral about their body shape and size - which is a reasonable and valid goal!
What many do not realize is that even though it may seem harmless (and potentially automatic), participating in body checking behaviors can keep individuals stuck in a negative, cyclical relationship with food and their bodies.
First, let’s dive into what this is more specifically.
What is Body Checking?
Body checking is a disordered behavior where an individual is compulsively checking specific areas of their body. It involves frequently seeking information about your body’s weight, size, shape or appearance. This could include:
- Frequently checking body in the mirror
- Pinching or rubbing parts of your body
- Frequently weighing yourself
- Comparing your body shape or size to others
- Tugging or pulling at clothes
It is normally done in an attempt to feel better about one's body. And can stem from the belief that checking your body will provide some relief and help in decreasing the anxiety or worry we are feeling, making us feel better and/or feel more in control.
However, in working with our clients (and examining the research), body checking does a lot more harm than good.
How Does Body Checking Keep Me Stuck?
Body checking is a disordered behavior because it can contribute to more challenging emotions about your body shape and size. It can interfere with your ability to concentrate, absorbs your time, can lead to restrictive eating patterns, and cause an increase in isolation.
It contributes to these because food or weight may trigger a threat response. As a result, checking the body repeatedly may become an attempt to cope with the physical and emotional symptoms that go along with confronting a perceived threat. However, in reality it is only furthering body dissatisfaction and food restriction.
According to a 2013 study body checking often leads to eating restrictions on the day that the body checking was done — and the next day, too.
With these facts in mind, it becomes very helpful to work on body checking. However, they can be really challenging behavior to disrupt due to the automatic nature of the checking. That's why we’ve compiled four ways to start to work to reduce body checking in your life to help you move towards a more peaceful relationship with food and body.
4 Ways to Reduce Body Checking
Awareness is the first step to behavior change. Start to keep a tally of when the checking is happening and bringing awareness to the situation. This could be a mental note of when you are noticing the body checking behaviors.
Some clients find it helpful to even say the words out loud (or in your head) “I’m body checking right now”. Some even document the number of times they recognized the behavior in their phone notes or when they were journaling.
Remember, this is our mind’s way of working to seek control over uncomfortable emotions or a situation. When you notice yourself body checking, take a minute to step back from the behavior and ask yourself “What am I looking for?” Reflect on the emotions or thoughts that are coming up for you at the moment.
Have an affirmation at the ready! Starting to utilize a compassionate voice can be helpful when noticing more challenging intrusive thoughts.
Notice what tends to trigger body checking behavior for you. Anything that leads to comparison (like social media) might be worth setting some boundaries around.
Make a list of alternative coping tools that can help you feel safe and grounded. Work with your treatment team to help you strategize around your triggers.
Recognizing body checking as a disordered behavior is a challenging step. Reducing this behavior is going to take time. Ensure that you are working closely with your treatment team to identify the “why’s” behind the behavior and understanding how to move forward.
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Other Nutrition Services Offered at NourishRx
At NourishRx, we offer a variety of nutrition counseling services tailored to fit your individual needs. Our team of registered dietitians knows that no two individuals have the same nutritional needs and that each person's journey to recovery is unique. This is why we offer Nutrition Counseling, Intuitive Eating Support, Support for Parents and Caregivers, and Meal Planning. If you are wanting more information we also offer a Questions and Clarity Call to answer any questions you may have before taking the next step in your journey. No matter what your nutritional needs are, our team is here to help.
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