Eating disorders and disordered eating habits are a nuanced, complex subject. Because they take so many different forms and affect each of us differently it can be hard to identify the line between disordered eating vs an eating disorder. While most people have engaged in disordered eating behaviors from time to time this does not necessarily indicate they have an eating disorder. Conversely, not everyone who is experiencing an eating disorder fits the stereotypical ‘image’ we so often associate with such conditions. Eating disorders thrive in secrecy, so the signs may be subtle and easy to overlook.
What is Body Checking?
One such potential sign of an eating disorder is a behavior known as ‘body checking.’ This is an obsession with the body’s shape, size, and weight as well as other people’s perception of your body. Body checking examples include:
- Obsession with the scale and weighing yourself
- Spending hours in the mirror scrutinizing your body and focusing on perceived ‘problem areas’
- Obsessively taking photos and videos of your body to ‘track progress’
- Continuously comparing yourself to others
- Checking the circumference of the wrist and waist
- Feeling for bones in wrists, ribcage, or hips
- Obsession over clothing tags and sizing labels
Body checking is especially prevalent on social media. Influencers and social media groups that support disordered eating and eating disorders may be filled with triggering images of others’ bodies that generate feelings of anxiety, depression, and lowered self-esteem. Avoiding these triggers in recovery can help mitigate your chances of relapse.
Other Subtle Signs of Disordered Eating
Body checking on its own is not necessarily cause for concern. However, combined with other disordered behaviors, body checking could be a subtle sign of an underlying problem. Eating disorders are covert conditions which makes them difficult to detect without the proper knowledge. In fact, oftentimes people who are exhibiting disordered eating habits or other unhealthy behaviors believe they are in fact leading healthy lives. This is largely because of social attitudes around body image and diet culture which promotes the idea that health is associated with being a specific size, in a specific body fat range, or having specific features. None of this is true. Here are just a few examples of common behaviors and habits that are potential signs of an eating disorder.
While regular exercise is a good habit to have as part of a healthy lifestyle, exercise addiction is a real and dangerous issue. Signs of exercise addiction may include fixation on burning a certain number of calories, exercising even when in pain or to the point of exhaustion, an inflexible gym regimen, or using exercise as punishment for ‘overconsumption.’
Strict Diet Adherence
Diet culture teaches us to view certain foods and food groups as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. We are taught that being healthy is to be constantly in a caloric deficit or to avoid eating after certain times or more that certain calorie counts. Not only does this put undue amounts of stress on your body, but it can actually cause serious harm to your health.
Following ‘Thinspiration’ Accounts or Boards
Comparison is the thief of joy. Following fitness influencers, models, or other accounts that make you feel bad about your body is harmful to your mental health. Even if you believe following these accounts is keeping you accountable the inherent negative comparison feeds low self-image and self-esteem.
If you are struggling with disordered eating habits or you think a loved one may have a problem, Eating Disorder Solutions is here to help. Reach out today for a simple conversation about your options.