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What Is Body Checking?

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What Is Body Checking

Body checking is when we measure or monitor a body part by use of mirrors, old images, social media, measuring tapes, and/or scales.

You are body checking if:

  • You check yourself in the mirror repeatedly
  • You’re changing outfits multiple times throughout the day
  • You’re wrapping your fingers around your forearm just “to check”
  • You’re comparing your body to people on social media

Body checking can lead to an unhealthy obsession with searching for the flaws of your body day in and day out.

Occasionally checking our outfit or hair in the mirror is normal, and that is not what we are referring to in this article.

Body checking happens when:  

  • It occurs repeatedly throughout the day
  • You try to soothe insecurity through a focus on certain body parts
  • You feel extreme stress, anger, sadness, fear or guilt after you look at your body
  • You’re trying to “fix the flaws” you come up with after a body check
  • It significantly interferes with your quality of life

Body checking leads to any insecurities and fears we have about our bodies getting BIGGER, not better. Body checking can lead to anxiety, grief, shame, anger, depression, and even disordered eating or even eating disorders.

Let’s dig into some of the main ways you might be body-checking and how to stop this harmful behavior for good.

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Why Do I Body Check?

You might use body checking as a physical placeholder for a painful emotion.

3 reasons you might be body-checking include:

  1. Body checking serves as a physical placeholder for a painful emotion. It gives us a problem to “correct” instead of sitting with an emotion.
  2. Body checking can soothe insecurities for short time periods
  3. It gives you a sense of control.

Body checking often steps in place of difficult emotions.

Our emotions cannot be measured, manipulated, or “solved.” Because of this, you might focus instead on finding and fixing all of the flaws you find through body checking.  

Our subconscious looks at the perceived flaw and says “if you just fix that problem everything will be okay!”

Momentarily, body checking can make us feel calm, relieved, or even powerful. This is especially true if we feel we’ve met our expectations in that particular body check.

The trouble with body checking is:

  • The more we do it, the more we need to do it to remain calm
  • At some point, our body check will not measure up to the standards of our inner critic
  • We begin to assess our value based on our physical appearance

Body Checking Examples

Most people are not aware of all the ways they could be body checking and how intrusive it is in their lives.

Here are a few body-checking examples: 

  • Constantly checking yourself in reflective surfaces (e.g. a mirror)
  • Tugging on clothes to make them fit you in a certain way
  • Comparing yourself to others in person or on social media
  •  Weighing yourself
  • Repeatedly checking how your clothes fit
  • Pinching your skin
  • Continually seeking reassurance about your weight/shape
  • Pinching other people’s bodies/assessing for body fatness or muscle
  • Measuring your body parts (for example measuring your waist or thighs with a tape measure)
  • Putting fingers/hands around your body parts to measure 
  • Using cameras to take photos or videos of yourself and observe them

What Is Mirror Checking

Mirror checking is a form of body checking in which we utilize reflective surfaces (mirrors, windows, stainless steel ovens and fridges, screens and car doors) to measure and monitor certain body parts.

If you’re mirror-checking you will notice

  • Your stress levels increase around mirrors
  • Intense shame, guilt, fear, and sadness after a mirror check
  • Being pulled from a high to a low mood if you accidentally encounter a reflective surface
  • Avoidance of reflective surfaces or mirrors
  • The need to “correct” flaws perceived in the mirror

It’s critical to recognize that our minds are responsible for what is seen in the mirror. If we’re seeking out flaws and experiencing negative body image, the mirror is likely to reflect that.

You may be experiencing body dysmorphia, in which case the mirror is not an accurate representation of what is happening in the world.

If you want to stop mirror checking try:

  • covering mirrors where possible
  • Writing body-positive affirmations on mirrors
  • Refer to your body as she/her, they/them, or he/him instead of “it” or that”
  • Post a picture of your child self on the mirror. If you feel inclined to speak negatively to yourself, imagine you are speaking to the child.

11 Ways To Stop Body Checking! 

Momentarily, body checking can make us feel calm, relieved, or even powerful. This is especially true if we feel we’ve met our expectations in that particular body check.

The trouble with body checking is:

  • The more we do it, the more we need to do it to remain calm
  • At some point, our body check will not measure up to the standards of our inner critic causing anxiety
  • We begin to asses our value based on physical appearance.

Therefore it’s important to create a strategy to stop body checking.

Steps to stop body checking:

  1. Cover your mirrors
  2. Write down all the ways you body check
  3. Tally up how many times you try to body-check each day.  Make a goal to decrease that number from one week to the next. 
  4. Take a social media break. Or unfollow all of the accounts that trigger body checking.
  5. Follow people on social media that are in the same size body as you or larger. What are their lives like?  Focus on how they are impacting the world. 
  6. Ditch the diet, dieting will skyrocket body checking 
  7. Resist the urge to dig through old photos or memories on social media.  If you want to check out old photos- try reflecting on the experience instead of how your body looked. 
  8. Practice taking and sharing imperfect photos
  9. Keep a journal and use body positive journal prompts to examine your relationship and build trust with your body
  10. Pick one or two things every day to intentionally respect your body
  11. Practice joyful movement instead of exercise focused on changing your body

How To Stop Body Checking On Social Media

Social media is flooded with filtered images, snapshots of staged events, and photos only taken at the best angles. This is a particularly problematic space for comparison as people only showcase their most perfect moments.

  • Unfollow anyone that makes you feel worse about your body
  • Make a practice of following individuals in bodies of your size or larger. Focus on their great attributes.
  • Unfollow anyone talking about diets, weight loss, or “lifestyle programs”
  • Unfollow those that post before/after photos in weight loss
  • Taking a break from social media is the best option. However, this might not always be possible.

What if I Have A Bad Body Image Day?  

A bad body image day look slike:

  • Increased body-checking behavior
  • Negative self-talk or a very loud eating disorder voice
  • Body thoughts keeping us from doing social activities
  • Restricting our eating because of negative body thoughts
  • Excessive exercise because of intrusive body thoughts

It’s important to remind yourself that your body is NOT the problem.

In fact trying to “correct” the body part that you consider to be a problem can actually increase body checking and emotional distress!

To stop body checking, pause and ask yourself: 

  • Do I feel uncomfortable? 
  • Do I feel sad/angry
  • Am I feeling shameful
  • What is the role of pinching myself or getting on the scale? 
  • What am I looking for?
  • Is this helpful?

You might ask yourself what life would be like if you did not pinch yourself. 

Could you imagine the rest of your life not pinching yourself/getting on. a scale etc? What would it be like?

In What Ways Is Body Checking Impacting Your Life?

In what ways has body checking robbed you of your time, energy, and happiness? 

For many people, body checking has led to:

A culture obsessed with thinness is one of the primary contributers to body checking and fears around food. Body checking does not serve you, and can contribute to the oppression of those living in larger bodies.

If you’re looking for additional resources to make peace with your body, check out these eating disorder recovery books. If you have strategies that have helped you stop body checking, drop them in the comments below.

Body Checking FAQ

What Is Body Checking?

Body checking is when we measure or monitor a body part by use of mirrors, old images, social media, measuring tapes, and/or scales.

What Are Some Examples Of Body Checking?

Constantly checking self in reflective surfaces (e.g. a mirror), Tugging on clothes to make them fit a certain way
Comparing ourselves to others in person or on social media,Weighing, Repeatedly checking how clothing fits, Pinching skin
Continually seeking reassurance about weight/shape

How Do I Stop Body Checking?

Cover your mirrors, Write down all the ways you body check, Tally up how many times you try to body check each day.  Make a goal to decrease that number from one week to the next, Take a social media break. Or unfollow all of the accounts that trigger body checking.

Is Body Checking Harmful?

YES! It gives you a false sense of control and increases feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, stress, fear, and guilt.

What is Mirror Checking?

Mirror checking is a form of body checking in which we utilize reflective surfaces (mirrors, windows, stainless steel ovens and fridges, and car doors) to measure and monitor certain body parts.

Shena Jaramillo. Registered Dietitian

Hi I'm Shena. I'm an eating disorders dietitian in Washington state. I hold bachelors degrees nutrition & dietetics, cultural anthropology & psychology. I believe in honoring your hunger, having your cake whenever you want it, and that critically analyzing diet culture can change the world!

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