Shape Checking and Body Image

Contributor: Tresa Clemmensen M.Sc. C.C.C, Westwind Counselling & Eating Disorder Recovery Center

pretty-woman-635258_640Spending time looking at your body in the mirror and checking it can become very problematic and most often leads to a higher dissatisfaction in how you feel about your body and appearance.

There are different ways you can check your body and this can include looking in the mirror, using your hands or a tape measure, assessing the tightness of your clothing, using the scale, and comparing yourself with others.

These checks may happen at standard times throughout the day or happen sporadically and most often they happen automatically without much thought.

How Much Do We Actually Shape Check?

You might be aware that you shape check your body, but you may not be aware of how much you are actually engaging in it. It is important to spend some time practicing being aware of when, and the types of shape checks you engage in. Becoming more conscious of this will help you be able to work on reducing and eliminating this behavior that fuels body dissatisfaction.

One of the biggest reasons it is important to eliminate this behavior is that it keeps preoccupation with your body high and dissatisfaction even higher. Most likely you are not looking in the mirror and making positive remarks, but making highly critical and degrading remarks.

When you look in the mirror and think negative comments, it also has an effect on your mood state. Most leave the shape check thinking that there is something wrong with their body or something needs fixing or improved upon.

Reducing the Frequency of Shape Checking

reflection-101005_640Beginning to question your shape checking is a helpful strategy in reducing the activity. If you can see the negative effects this behavior is having, you will be more ready and willing to reduce. Below are some helpful points to help you question your own forms of shape checking:

Disliked Body Parts

You most likely spend time looking at aspects of your body that you already dislike, which is a guaranteed way to maintain body dissatisfaction and keeps concerns about your appearance at the front of your mind.

A Reflection of Your Mind

What you see in the mirror is strongly influenced by how you are thinking about your body. If you experience negative thoughts about your body, this is going to affect how you see your body.

Additionally, if you are looking for a flaw, you will find it and once this is seen it will be hard to ignore. Repeatedly checking your body will only work to magnify the perceived flaw.

A Mirror Isn’t Accurate Anyway

Although you may think the checking is giving you accurate information about how your body looks or has changed, it cannot do this in a reliable way.

For instance, looking in the mirror in the morning and comparing how you look in the evening will not provide accurate information, unless you have a photographic memory, which most of us do not.

Change Does Not Happen Quickly

girl-517559_640You may be checking your body to see if your shape has changed but the rate at which you are checking your bodies does not justify the frequency. The shape of your body will fluctuate throughout the day, which does not reflect actual change.

The only way of determining whether your body is likely to be changing in size is to examine how your weight is changing over time, through the use of a weigh scale.

Preoccupation Doesn’t Work

You may feel that checking your body provides you with reassurance that their shape or size has not changed. However, this is extremely unhelpful because it keeps you preoccupied with your shape and increases body dissatisfaction.

Reducing the Practice Gets Better with Time

Shape checking is a behavior that can be reduced and eventually eliminated. Although at first you may find it distressing to not look at your body in these ways, it will get better in time and it will have a positive effect on your overall body image.

Body acceptance and body satisfaction cannot be achieved by critically examining yourself in a mirror. Work towards appreciating your body for all the wonderful things it allows you to do.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What is your experience with shape checking, and what tools have you in your recovery to help you overcome a poor body image?

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 13th, 2015
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