How to Break Yourself of a Compulsive Body-Checking Habit

August 5, 2020 Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

If you have a history of eating disorder behaviors or mindsets, then you have most likely body checked yourself, or in other words, stood in front of a mirror and scrutinized your reflection with a severe and merciless eye. Chances are, you understand how it feels to wither beneath your own cruel gaze which repeatedly dissects the size, weight, shape, and curvature of a frame that will never be adequate to you. This ritual of compulsive body checking can worsen your eating disorder tendencies. But if that toxic pattern sounds familiar, rest assured, it is possible to break yourself of a compulsive body-checking habit.               

Effect of Compulsive Body Checking on Eating Disorder Behaviors

You are not alone if you wrestle with compulsive body checking—I too combat this urge all the time in my own eating disorder recovery. When I see a mirror, it feels innate and automatic to examine my so-called "problem areas." Are my stomach muscles toned enough? Do my arms and thighs have too much cellulite? Have I gained a few pounds from the meal I just ate? The insecurities, questions, criticisms, and anxieties cloud my vision until all I can focus on are the perceived flaws in my appearance. This body-checking habit is torturous, but it's a compulsion I face almost daily.      

I share this with you to affirm that I can empathize with how dejected and overwhelmed you must feel trapped in this cycle. The urge to scan each body part for even the smallest imperfection is not only exhausting, but also demoralizing. That ruthless voice in your head convinces you to tweak those imperfections with less food and more exercise—and so continue the eating disorder behaviors. While it can lull you into a brief sense of control and discipline, the more often you succumb to this compulsive body checking habit, the more physical defects you will find to obsess about.     

Starting Points to Break Yourself of Compulsive Body Checking

Do you remember how I mentioned earlier that it is possible, in fact, to overcome a habit of compulsive body checking? True to my word, here are two basic coping mechanisms that help me in this area of eating disorder recovery, so now I will pass them on to you.   

  1. When you catch yourself standing in front of a mirror and scrutinizing various body parts, consider these questions: "What exactly am I focused on or looking for?" "Is this constructive or beneficial to my healing process?" "Has any facet of my appearance changed since the last time I inspected it?" Be honest with these answers and challenge the irrational beliefs that might still creep in. In order to break this habit, you first need to conquer the thoughts which drive it.      
  2. If you have mirrors at home that contribute to an unhealthy pattern of behavior, stick empowering quotes or mantras all over them. So whenever you feel the urge to perform a body check, you will be inundated with these positive reminders to show yourself compassion, kindness, acceptance, harmony, and love. This will redirect your mindset from criticism to affirmation over time.  

Has compulsive body checking interfered with your own eating disorder recovery? What strategies do you find useful to help break yourself of this habit? Please share your thoughts, experiences, or feedback in the comment section below. 

APA Reference
Schurrer, M. (2020, August 5). How to Break Yourself of a Compulsive Body-Checking Habit, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 17 from

Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

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