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A girl looks at herself in the mirror | Body Checking Meaning | Body Checking Eating Disorder
February 3, 2022

Body Checking and Body Avoidance

Call 855-875-5812 to get help with an eating disorder.

Many eating disorders involve a preoccupation with body shape and weight. This preoccupation often results in distorted thoughts and beliefs, as well as disordered behaviors around food and eating. Some common and well-known behaviors that may indicate the presence of an eating disorder include: rigid food rules, denying hunger, hiding or stockpiling food, and eating in secret. 

In the context of an eating disorder, body checking and body avoidance are some less-discussed behavioral signs. In this article, we describe how body checking and body avoidance relate to eating disorders and ways to overcome these behaviors. 

Recognizing Body Checking

It is important to note that anyone can exhibit body checking and body avoidance behaviors whether they have an eating disorder or not, and not everyone with an eating disorder exhibits those behaviors. Additionally, it is not always the case that a person will only experience either body checking or body avoidance: It is not uncommon to experience both at the same time or go back and forth between the two. However, due to a fairly strong correlation with eating disorders, body checking is a behavioral pattern that you should be aware of, both in yourself and your loves ones.

What is Body Checking?

To put it simply, body checking is the habit of seeking information about your body’s weight, shape, size, or appearance. This is not a casual habit, but instead a compulsive one that feels all-consuming. Similar to other behaviors, body checking exists on a continuum: It can range from casually checking yourself before going out for the day to compulsive and constant checking. Some examples of body checking include:

  • Frequent weighing
  • Fixating on body parts in the mirror
  • Measuring body parts
  • Feeling for fat, muscle, or bone
  • Pinching or squeezing flesh
  • Wrapping hands around the stomach, waist, thighs, arms, etc.
  • Repeatedly assessing the fit of clothing to judge shape or weight
  • Comparing body to past pictures of self or to other bodies
  • Seeking reassurance about weight or shape (e.g., “Do I look like I’ve gained weight to you?”)

What is Body Avoidance?

Body avoidance is the opposite of body checking. Instead of constantly evaluating your body size or shape, you completely avoid seeing your weight or shape. It is not that thoughts of weight and appearance aren’t present, however; it is just a different way of coping with these intense feelings. Some examples of ways to avoid body checking include:

  • Covering all mirrors in the house
  • Averting eyes when passing reflective surfaces such as windows
  • Avoiding form-fitting clothing or wearing baggy clothes to disguise shape or size
  • Avoiding weather-appropriate clothing (e.g., short sleeves, shorts) or activities that may bring attention to weight or body (e.g., swimming, clothes shopping)
  • Avoiding close physical contact with others
  • Avoiding photographs of oneself

A common recovery goal is to eventually reach body neutrality or body acceptance, but it is essential to note that some of these body avoidance behaviors may be necessary and even helpful in certain stages of healing, especially if the person in question has had troubles with body checking in the past. 

How to Overcome Body Checking and Avoidance

Addressing these body-checking and avoidance behaviors head-on is the way to resolve them, but understandably, this can be very challenging. Here are some tips to get you started:

Body Checking Tip 1. Observe your body checking and avoidance behaviors.

A possible first step is to take one day a week, for example, and observe any body checking or avoidance behaviors. Ask yourself, in what ways are you checking or avoiding your body and weight? Which body parts? How often? How do you feel before and after doing so? Write down the answer to these questions. You have then completed the first step of simply noticing how you’re acting. As is the case in many psychological conditions, acceptance of the situation is valuable in terms of progress.

Body Checking Tip 2. Pinpoint which checking and avoidance behaviors you’d like to work on.

Next, consider taking a look at the list of behaviors you’ve noticed, then identify two or three that you are going to try to challenge. Whether the behavior in question is body checking or body avoidance, you’ll need to note the specific behaviors in question and figure out a reasonable way to actively work against that behavior. 

Body Checking Tip 3. Set goals for how you are going to challenge this behavior.

This last step is all about action. What are you going to do now to combat these harmful behaviors? What feels like a manageable change to you? Start small and then keep upping your goals. If you need some ideas, start here: 

Goal Ideas for Challenging Body Checking

  • Try looking at yourself 25% less in the mirror, then up it to 50%, and so on.
  • Assign yourself a small window of time during the day to check your body.

Goal Ideas for Challenging Body Avoidance

  • Let yourself be photographed a certain number of times a month.
  • Limit the use of baggy clothing to cover up your body to only a certain number of times a week.

The purpose of reducing body-checking behaviors and facing avoidance behaviors is to challenge your obsession with weight and shape, an obsession that is often encouraged by our appearance-focused culture

Body checking and body avoidance behaviors can amplify the importance of perceived body flaws and may also fuel and maintain anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorders (OSFED) in those susceptible. Everyone deserves to experience a life that is not weighed down by their appearance.

Recognizing and addressing body checking and body avoidance behaviors is crucial for one’s mental and emotional well-being. These behaviors, while not always indicative of an eating disorder, can significantly impact one’s quality of life and self-perception. At Veritas Collaborative, we understand the complexities of these behaviors and the underlying issues that may contribute to them. If you or someone you know is struggling with body image concerns or any behaviors mentioned in this article, don’t wait. Your well-being is paramount. Contact Veritas Collaborative today. Let our team of experts guide you towards a healthier relationship with your body.

If you or a loved one seems stuck in a loop of fixation on body shape and size, reach out to Veritas Collaborative for help. Call us at 1-855-875-5812 or fill out our online form if you’d like us to contact you.