Are You Body Checking to Cope with Appearance Related Anxiety?

When I was preoccupied with my weight, I had an addiction to 'checking' my body throughout the day. Often I had no idea I was even doing it… I’d look at myself in the mirror, touch my stomach, poke my quads, etc. etc. The body checking behaviours went on and on and became more severe as my eating disorder worsened.

As I mentioned, I wasn’t even consciously aware of how often I was checking my body - until I was in recovery.

My question for you is, how often do you body check?

Body Checking to Cope with Appearance Related Anxiety

Body checking consists of:

  • Pinching, grabbing, or poking your body, (especially your abdomen)

  • Frequently weighing yourself or worrying about your body fat percentage

  • Checking to see if you have abs, cellulite, etc.

  • Trying on old clothes that used to fit and no longer feel comfortable

  • Looking at specific body parts in the mirror and fixating (or wishing) they would be different

  • Asking friends or family members’ opinions about your body

  • An extreme urge to look in the mirror

You might be consciously aware that you check your body and shape periodically, but you may not be aware of how much or how often you're actually engaging in the behaviour.

Research shows people who body check have poorer body image and are more likely to feel dissatisfied with their body or weight and may use dieting to control their appearance. Body checkers often use eating disordered symptoms like skipping meals, restricting, or excessively exercising to burn more calories. *

Now that you’re aware of body checking - next time you notice this behaviour - focus on where it is coming from.

Is it because you're anxious? Do you feel stressed for an upcoming event? Does going to the gym give you anxiety? Etc, etc. In our weight-obsessed culture, body checking helps us cope with anxiety, and for some people, it serves as a preventative measure to gaining weight, but it can actually make you more anxious in the long run. As it turns out, appearance-anxiety and body checking strengthen and reinforce each other in a vicious cycle that continues until you break the habit and replace it with a healthier coping mechanism.

If you're curious about healthier ways to cope with your appearance-related anxiety - don't hesitate to reach out.

* Emily K. White - Clinical Psychologist