What is body checking?

Posted on 05/21/20 02:45:pm


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Have you ever stopped to look in the mirror one last time before you went out or smoothed your stomach after putting on your favorite top? Many people do this on occasion, but what does it mean when these body checking behaviors become compulsive? And when might they be a sign of an eating disorder?

What is body checking?

Nicholas Farrell, PhD, Oconomowoc campus clinical director and clinical supervisor of Eating Disorder Recovery for Rogers, describes body checking as "repetitive, often compulsive, scrutiny of one's appearance from a size and shape standpoint."

Warning signs may include:

  • Frequent, compulsive checking of appearance in the mirror.
  • Checking the circumference of a wrist, stomach, or other body parts.
    • For example, wrapping your fingers around your wrist to measure it.
  • Feeling different areas of the body to check if anything has changed in size due to weight loss or gain.
  • Repeatedly making negative comments about shape or size, or seeking reassurance from others.

According to Dr. Farrell, while body checking sometimes eases anxiety in the short term, it actually increases anxiety surrounding body image long term, and is present in many different eating disorder diagnoses.

"Body checking is obviously not as dangerous as some of the other more severe eating disorder behaviors like self-induced vomiting or extreme dietary restraint," explains Dr. Farrell. "But research shows us that body checking may be one of the most central features of eating disorders that needs to be addressed in treatment."

Addressing body checking in treatment

Because body checking is an important feature of many eating disorders, it's important to work toward eliminating these actions. Dr. Farrell discusses the process in the video below.

Eating disorder treatment at Rogers

Rogers provides inpatientresidential, and outpatient care for children, adolescents, and adults with an eating disorder at a growing number of locations nationwide. If you or a loved one are struggling, call 800-767-4411 to schedule a free, confidential screening or request one online.

If you do not feel you or your loved one needs treatment right away, but may be concerned, we offer online quizzes to possibly provide some relief. While these quizzes do not provide a diagnosis, it could be the first step in finding the treatment you may need. Take our online Eating Disorder Quiz today.

Call 800-767-4411 or go to rogersbh.org to request a free screening.