Warning: This article discusses topics of mental health and eating disorders that some may find distressing.
Throughout the course of a day, you probably find yourself seeking feedback about your appearance more than once, whether that’s checking your weight, looking in the mirror, trying on different clothes, or snapping a selfie.
This habit of seeking out information about your body is called “body checking,” and when done in moderation, it’s a totally normal behaviour — an intermittent chance to reassure yourself that everything is in order. We all have our own habits and routines when it comes to body checking habits — but if taken to an extreme, body checking can become an obsession, worsening your mood and lowering your self-image.
When body checking gets out of hand
The problem arises when body checking becomes something akin to a compulsion. Perhaps you weigh yourself multiple times a day, with your mood fluctuating according to the number on the scale. Other behaviours may include excessive measuring of body parts, such as the circumference of your waist or hips; or taking a large number of selfies in order to monitor a specific aspect of your looks.
In a 2018 meta-analysis, compulsive body checking was found to be correlated with negative body image and disordered eating. Another 2019 study showed that for women, body checking resulted in personal dissatisfaction, no matter what body part they were monitoring.
Signs a body checking habit is out of control
Some of the signs a body checking habit is becoming a problem: if it impairs your ability to focus, if it causes disruption in your work or home life; if it leads you to avoid meals; or if it causes feelings of guilt, shame or worry. If you find yourself avoiding social gatherings due to fears about eating; if you spend an excessive amount of time worrying about your weight or looks; or if your preoccupation with your body image is getting in the way of living your life — these are all signs body checking is becoming a problem.
What to do if you have a body checking problem
First and foremost, if your boy checking habit has contributed to the development of an eating disorder, it’s important to seek professional support. The Butterfly Foundation has a helpline you can call on 1800 334 673. They also have an online chat or email you can talk to.
If you are in need of immediate help, call 000.
When it comes to checking your body checking behaviours, Healthline suggests taking regular breaks from social media, as apps like Instagram can only fuel a preoccupation with body image. Also, monitor yourself and try to pinpoint the situations that trigger your impulse to body check — tracking your behaviours for a day to see if there are any patterns, and then attempt to developing alternative coping strategies that can replace body checking behaviours (for example, instead of looking at yourself critically in the mirror, perform verbal affirmations to boost your mood and self-confidence). An if the habit has risen to the level of a compulsion, seek the assistance of a trained therapist.
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