Checking Myself to Wreck Myself

Without the scale, I have latched on to a couple of bad habits to “keep track” of changes in my body. One is psycho-analyzing how my pants fit. The other is body checking.

I’ve been wanting to write a post addressing body checking ever since Sam discussed the topic (almost a year ago!) on her amazing blog (a must-read for anyone interested in eating disorders and recovery). The truth is, though I have gotten better about it, I still body check. My stomach is the area of my body I am most self conscious about, and it is hard to resist the urge to lift up my shirt and look in the mirror during the day just to see what it looks like. I often examine my body from many different angles in the morning when I am getting dressed, and/or in the evening before/after I shower. This sounds like an extremely vain practice and it’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but I do it.

Without use of the scale, I wonder constantly how my body is changing and has changed in recovery. Every time I put on a pair of pants and sense they fit a tiny bit differently, I have the urge to look at my stomach and figure out where the differences are. Does my stomach still look okay to me? If so then hopefully I have gained muscle. But  then I’ll find an angle that I dislike and bam – I’m beating myself up because I’ve gained fat. I know these thoughts aren’t rational but word for word, they are the thoughts running through my mind.

The truth it, giving up body checking is as scary to me as giving up the scale once was. An eating disorder searches for any way it can make its victim feel bad about his or herself. No scale number to use? Then ED takes how I see my own body, and tries to use that. The scale was a way I could use a number to “keep myself in check” and “behave”. I often feel tempted to look at my body in the mirror not because I truly think it has changed since the last time I checked, but because if I do, I almost ALWAYS will find a flaw. And that flaw will stick in my mind and make me more apt to feel bad about myself and do more cardio…skip a dessert…not eat breakfast…the list goes on.

I body check to ensure that I feel bad about myself, because I’m afraid to love myself. A part of my mind still equates an ED with being skinny and I use body checking to make sure I still am. If I don’t see skinny, ED tells me to do what I can to make sure I do see it next time I look. But guess what? At my (dangerously) lowest weight, I didn’t like what I saw. So I know that giving into ED is not the answer and will not lead to happiness. But man, it sure does get tiring sometimes repeating that to myself.

"Eating Disorder Illustration" - this is a scarily accurate portrayal. Source

“Eating Disorder Illustration” – this is a scarily accurate portrayal. Source

I definitely have gotten better about body checking, but have a long way to go. I even used to go to the bathroom at work during the day and lift up my shirt to examine my stomach; I almost never do this anymore. I pretty much only body check when I am at home now. But one day, I’d like to be able to wake up in the morning and not have the first thing I do be get out of bed, put on my glasses, and go see what my stomach looks like.

Lately whenever I’ve had the urge to body check, I ask myself why I want to. Usually it’s because at some point that day or the day before I ate something “bad” and my mind wants me to see a flaw so I can associate it with eating that bad food/drink, so that I’ll be less likely to do it again. Maybe I’m having a day when I just really don’t feel good in my pants, and sometimes my mind tells me to go look at my stomach so I can really just hate myself and feel motivated to work out extra or eat less. That sound so, so sad as I type it. But whenever I ask myself why I want to body check, and I get a sad reason like that, I have been telling myself to resist the urge. Body checking does not serve me, it serves my ED. I truly do check myself TO wreck myself mentally! And by the way, I can’t even recall a time when I came up with a GOOD reason for wanting to body check.

I hope that I can continue to improve and give up this crutch. I wrote this post not only to hold myself accountable, but in hopes that anyone else out there with this habit doesn’t feel alone and will be motivated to join me in stopping the body checking. Let’s not give the eating disorder any more ammo for its artillery. Next time you feel an urge to body check, ask yourself why you truly want to. If you want to look at yourself in the mirror and go, “Oh my gosh, look how great I look, I’m gorgeous!” then please, do so! But if you want to look at your body in a mirror because you know you won’t like what you see or are searching for that angle that points out the one flaw you have, then do yourself  a favor and try to resist the urge. Trust me, I’m sure your body does not look that (or ANY) different than the last time you looked.

Have you ever found yourself getting into the habit of body checking?

Have you found that you find yourself developing crutches to replace any you’ve previously given up? This doesn’t have to be ED-related!

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