I saw something being discussed on my social media a little while ago and I’ve been thinking about it a lot. It’s called body checking. And I’m not talking about the type of body-check where you throw a shoulder into someone you don’t like while you’re walking past or athletes pummeling into each other.
I’m talking about us checking ourselves in the mirror constantly and picking things out about our bodies that we don’t like. I’m talking about the habit we have of pinching our stomach fat to see just how much extra there is or straining our necks to stare at our backsides to compare them to the fitness models we see on Instagram.
According to this glossary by F.E.A.S.T., a non-profit for helping people recover from eating disorders, “body checking” is “an obsessive thought and behavior about appearance” that comes along with "frequent weighing, looking in the mirror, and pinching or wrapping hand around stomach, waist, thighs, arms.”
Body checking is detrimental to those with eating disorders. It’s something individuals with eating disorders have to actively work against at all times. But I think all of us do it to some extent—some more than others—and it’s something we can all work on.
For example, I have a mirror hanging on the outside of my closet near my bed, so my immediate instinct in the morning is to get up and look at myself in the mirror. I look at my skin, lift my shirt up to test the flatness of my stomach, and so on. I didn’t notice how utterly unhealthy this habit of mine was until I saw people talking about body checking on my Instagram.
Here’s a great example of a post that popped up on my explore page about body checking. I saved it because it stuck with me so much.
I think most people have a habit of staring at their bodies in a negative light every time they walk past a mirror. Even the reflective natures of store-front windows make us turn our heads. Every chance we get, we take a glance at ourselves to make sure we look good. When we have more time, we’re constantly assessing our flaws in front of a mirror. I hate this habit.
I think it’s something we do all the time but it’s hard to notice. And I think it’s a hard habit to break.
But it’s time to break the habit.
Something I’ll definitely be working on this new year—a small but significant goal I think I can get a handle on—is being kinder to my self-image. Trying to spend less time looking at myself in the mirror sounds silly, but I think it will definitely have a positive effect on my self esteem, and I think it’s something everyone can try.
I think the best way to go about breaking this habit is to be mindful of our actions. If we take note of every time we stand in front of a mirror and say to ourselves, “okay, it’s time to look away, you look great,” it will improve our relationship with ourselves in the mirror and have a positive impact on the way we feel about our bodies.
So take a step back from the mirror. Stop lifting up your shirt to see if your stomach got any smaller. Stop wrapping your hands around the back of your thighs to see if they’re any slimmer. It’s time we stop relying on the mirror to assure ourselves of our beauty and let it come from within.
Focus on the real you, not the reflection of you.