There are people who get through a day without looking in a mirror. However, there are people who spend so much time in front of the mirror, assessing the fit of their clothes and making sure they look presentable. But, there are times that it has become a habit of seeking information about your body’s weight, shape, size, or appearance. It’s called body checking and It has become a compulsive behavior. It ranges from completely avoiding looking at my body to casual checking as part of preparations for the day to compulsive and anxiously check-and-check-again behavior loops.
My personal experience with body checking
How did I start body checking
Instead of spending my time on self-care rituals, making Dalgona coffee, and baking sourdough bread, I suddenly found myself working eighteen hours a day and dealing with a tide of anxiety. Although I wasn’t living in complete isolation, I felt completely out of control. I started gaining weight and wasn’t working out as much as I used to. I would either limit my eating or I would eat too much.
Throughout the beginning of the pandemic, I started changing my views on my body image. I’ve grown more concerned about how they view themselves. When I was quarantined with a few friends, we faced unprecedented isolation and a drastic disruption of our daily routines. Suddenly, there wasn’t any sense of normalcy. The lack of control put my mental well-being in a fragile state.
Despite being with friends, I felt so alone that I turned my attention to my body more than usual. And, I started body checking. I started pinching loose skin and measuring body parts. Then, I would look at my waist and realize how it was wider than it used to be. Suddenly, I started hating how huge my arms looked and how huge my thighs looked.
But, it got worse.
I found myself sitting on either the bed or the couch, staring at my screen, and scrolling through Instagram feeds. Although I would see videos of my interests on the For You Page on TikTok, there were perfectly-filtered figures of other people that somehow triggered me. It made me feel even worse about myself and it damaged my own body image. These unrealistic images fueled the unrealistic standards I set for myself.
Instead of thinking positively about my own body, my self-esteem made me see myself in the mirror and hated the way that I looked. Diets were tried out. But, the whole culture of it became unrealistic, especially with unfounded claims. Then, there were on-camera meetings where I would find myself body checking myself on-screen. I would stare at myself and cringe.
How did it get better?
After months of being stuck in quarantine with my friends, I was able to go home around June 2020. And, slowly I started getting back the confidence I used to have. I was starting to like what I see in the mirror. I stopped body checking. Although I would look at myself in the mirror from time to time, I no longer thought of pinching my skin or judging myself by the way I looked.
I’ve started to go on a diet that is actually healthy for me. I also focused on removing stress from my life. Although I’m still heavier weight than I used to, I’ve learned to embrace it. I’m doing my best and realized that I need to cut myself some slack. We are our own harshest critics. So, I try to remember that whenever I feel bad about my body image, I should be a little more gentle with how I talk to myself.
So, how can people reduce body checking behaviors?
If body checking adds to your worries or interferes with your day-to-day life, you may want to consider these strategies to reduce your dependence on this coping mechanism. It should be noted that just because these steps worked on me, it doesn’t mean they would work on everybody.
- Take a break from social media.
- Figure out what situations provoke the impulse of body checking and avoid triggers to reduce impact.
- Look for alternative coping strategies to manage anxiety.
- Consider talking to a professional therapist.
- Show your body some gratitude. It has done so much for us — especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Body checking has been shown to be detrimental to eating disorder recovery, attempting to work through it on your own may not always be the best approach. Reframe the way you see your reflection, trust yourself, and feel proud of your non-physical qualities. Improve your relationship with yourself. You deserve it.
Angela Grace P. Baltan has been writing professionally since 2017. She doesn’t hesitate to be opinionated in analyzing movies and television series. Aside from that, she has an affinity for writing anything under the sun. As a writer, she uses her articles to advocate for feminism, gender equality, the LGBTQIA+ community, and mental health among others.