For a lot of people in recovery, body checking is one of the hardest things to let go of. People are often in recovery for YEARS, and still find themselves drawn to mirrors, windows, and pretty much any reflective surface to examine how they look.
It can be a super hard behavior to let go of. So hard, in fact, that sometimes we don’t even realize that it’s a behavior.
People often think of body checking as a safe thing to do to make sure their body looks “okay,” no matter what that means to you. Did you gain weight? Did you lose weight? Do your thighs look okay in these pants?
The reality of it, however, is that body checking in just another way for your ED to control your life, your thoughts, and your feelings.
Have you ever noticed that after body checking you often feel shitty? It’s like things were going fine but then you have to go look in the mirror and see how your stomach looks and no matter how it actually looks, you’ll feel bad about it?
Eating disorders are sneaky, tricky beasts. They find ways to hijack our thoughts and feelings and ruin EVERYTHING.
I’ve noticed in my own recovery that body checking was pretty much that last regular behavior I’d used. I’ve been weight restored, I’ve been able to eat freely and enjoy eating, but I can’t help but check out my reflection in store front windows as I pass by.
When I started seeing a dietitian again quite recently, she challenged me to catch myself when I want to body-check and see how it would feel to ignore those desires. How would it feel to walk away from the mirror? How would it feel to not look at my reflection in a window?
When we commit to not body-checking, it can feel scary at first. Our eating disorders will ask how on earth we’re supposed to know that our bodies haven’t changed?!
But when we walk away from the mirror, we stop thinking about our bodies so much. Sure, at first you might still be tempted and you might wonder what your body looks like, but if we really try to move away from these actions, the thoughts quiet as well.
If you think about it, body checking is LITERALLY pouring gasoline on the ED fire. And when you don’t pour gasoline on a fire, it doesn’t keep burning.
I noticed over the span of a few days that I didn’t spend so much time thinking about my body and how it looked, but I was able to focus more so on how my body felt. Was I hungry? Are these pants comfortable? Do I want to exercise?
This freed up so much space in my head that I actually started to like my body more. I was able to recognize that my body was (get this!) just a body. It moves, it folds, it bounces.
Letting go of our obsessive behaviors is scary and we often find ourselves worrying about what will happen when we don’t do them. But the truth is that your body won’t change if you don’t look at it in the mirror 10 times a day.
You won’t gain weight if you don’t look at your thighs. Your body won’t do strange things if you don’t obsess over it.
In fact, when we stop obsessing over our bodies, they have the freedom to work as they are supposed to. They’ll ask for food. They’ll ask for exercise. They will keep working even if we aren’t paying attention. That’s the magic of it.