Everyone checks their body to some extent, but many people with eating disorders repeatedly check their body and often in a way that’s unusual.
Sometimes body and weight checking becomes second nature and many individuals with eating disorders don’t even realize they’re doing it,” said Dena Cabrera, PsyD, psychologist at Remuda Programs for Eating and Anxiety Disorders. “Commonly, they check to feel for fatness, bones and any physical change in their body to subconsciously or consciously motivate their eating disorder behavior.”
Many individuals with eating disorders weigh themselves at frequent intervals, sometimes many times a day. As a result they become obsessed with the daily weight fluctuations that are a normal part of the body and would otherwise pass unnoticed. The movements on the scale then determine their mood and eating patterns.
Body checking is influential in maintaining dissatisfaction with shape and appearance. Other common behaviors associated with body checking include: looking in the mirror (or at reflective surfaces); measuring body parts with tape measures or hands; pinching or touching body parts; assessing the tightness of particular items of clothing or accessories; looking down at one’s body and touching collar bones to check for boniness.
“Body checking perpetuates the eating disorder cycle and increases self loathing and low self esteem,” adds Cabrera. “Patients look in the mirror and they see fatness, then they restrict or binge, then they check themselves again, which has the same result.”
Remuda Ranch tries to progressively address the following questions with patients:
— What are you trying to find out when you check your body?
— Why are you checking yourself so frequently?
— Do you ever look at parts of your body that you like?
— Do you feel better after checking your body?
— Do you think your body checking has any adverse effects?
— Do you trust the mirror?
— How do we know what we look like?
— Do we believe what we see?
Remuda Ranch believes there’s a need to assess the time spent on body/weight checking behavior as well as the consequences to determine if there needs to be a change in behavior. Most of the time body/weight checking needs to be stopped in an effort to uncover other influential factors that may trigger eating disorder behaviors, such as emotional regulation issues, trauma and maturity fears.
“If we address body and weight checking behaviors and the thought processes behind them, much of the eating disorder behavior will be reduced,” said Cabrera.
About Remuda Ranch Programs for Eating and Anxiety Disorders
Remuda Ranch offers Christian inpatient and residential programs for individuals of all faiths suffering from eating or anxiety disorders. Each patient is treated by a multi-disciplinary team including a Psychiatric and a Primary Care Provider, Registered Dietitian, Masters Level therapist, Psychologist and Registered Nurse. The professional staff equips each patient with the right tools to live a healthy, productive life.
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