Today I wanted to talk about body checking, and in particular how and why I am working to reduce this behaviour. Body checking can take many different forms such as measuring your body, comparing it to others, pinching, and checking it in the mirror. Personally my struggle has primarily been with the last two, and at certain points in my illness my need to carry out these actions has been obsessive.
Throughout my illness I have body checked in order to seek permission to eat, only granting it when my ED was satisfied (to the extent that that’s possible) with what it saw. I would also engage in the behaviour in order to assess my need to exercise, as well as in a bid to reduce food related guilt. The latter was only effective - although obviously disordered, when I appeared less bloated in the mirror than I had envisgioned in my head, however it had the opposite effect when I was unhappy with what I saw. This demonstrates why the behvaiour was unhealthy for me as it only served to appease my ED or to anger it, thus making it more likely I would engage in restriction or excessive exercise. Consequently, it has been critical to my recovery that I have stopped body checking as this is allowing me to move past body image related hurdles that have previously resulted in relapse.
In order to stop engaging in the behaviour I have had to initially go cold turkey and stop any form of body checking all together. This has taken the form of avoiding mirrors, wearing more baggy clothing and not allowing myself to pinch my body. At first this seemed impossible as the behaviour has become almost instinctive, but after a week or so it has definitely gotten easier. This has been helped by my girlfriend calling me out when she catches me looking towards the mirror, as well as by distracting myself when I feel the urge to body check. For example I will redirect my attention to aother task or use grounding techniques such as naming the first 5 items I see. I know others have also benefitted from covering up mirrors entirely or taking them down in order to remove temptation.
After a week of not body checking me and my therapist assessed how it had helped my recovery and decided to continue with it, although discussed the possibility of some exposure. This meant that whilst I would still have to refrain from body checking, I would be able to look at myself in the mirror but only for a second, and not to exaine any body parts but simply to catch a glimpse of my reflection. This was put in place in order to reduce the risk of me developing body avoidance as I eventually want to reach a point where I can for example check my outfit out without passing judgement on my body. It also hopefully ensures that I will not become phobic of having photos taken so that I will be able to engage in life fully and not be controlled by disordered rules.
I started writing this post a few weeks ago but never got around to finishing it so I thought I would conclude it now, slightly further along the line and with more experience.
I think it is important for me to say that I have on occasions relapsed with this behaviour and have fallen back into the habit of body checking. I have however learnt from these times and the negative impacts they've had on my self worth, and this has reinforced for me why I must stop. Furthermore, this awareness of how it derails my recovery has helped motivate me to fully commit to eradicating body checking behaviours. It has also reminded me that our recovery journeys do not have to be perfect, and the expectation that they could be is unreasonable. This is an idea I want to explore further as I have been inspired by Talyn Grace's recent Instagram post on the unrealistic hopes we have for what recovery will look like.
I hope this was helpful to some of you!
More form me soon,
Mais// The Recovery Bean <3