From skwigg's journal:
If I catch myself body-checking at all, I stop. I used to have all these little disordered quirks for checking my size or analyzing my reflection. I no longer do that. I operate under the assumption that I'm fine regardless. I don't really notice my clothes anymore because I only own ones that fit and the fit doesn't change very much. I used to find obsessive body-checking far more stressful than weighing myself, which is why I continued weighing myself for so long. The scale is actually less invasive to me than using tight clothes as a guide, which some suggest but I find horrible.
If clothes are feeling tighter, it's only ever a matter of looking at my habits to see if I'm enjoying them and being consistent, or if I'm eating when not hungry, snacking more, skipping meals, or eating past satisfaction. If things are getting weird, a few days of eating more normally un-weirds them very effectively. Nothing to worry about.
For me, body checking was compulsive and almost subconscious. I did it frequently without being fully aware that I was doing it. It was almost like nail biting or something like that. If I found myself stressed, nervous, anxious, excited, or bored, you can bet I’d be doing it. The “Am I ok? Let’s check.” program would just run without me ever making a conscious decision. So half the battle was just noticing that I was doing it.
Once I had the ability to question painful thoughts, the idea that staring my bellybutton was going to determine *anything* seemed like total lunacy. Yet, I had built this whole reality around “If I weigh this, then ____ (dreams come true). If my belly looks like this, then ____ (nightmare scenario). If my arms do this one thing then ____ (elation or despair).” I could look at it objectively and see that none of this was true, that I felt awful and behaved like a lunatic when I believed it, that I would be much happier and more confident if I didn’t, and that, absolutely, the opposite was just as true or more true.
But then what? None of that logic keeps you from stepping on the scale, putting your hands around your waist, or staring into the mirror when you don’t mean to. So, then it was exactly like giving up calorie counting. The thoughts and behaviors kept coming automatically. I would notice I was doing it and literally just think “no” or “stop.” This probably happened thousands of times, which I believe rewired my brain. For years, I would body check and then get very emotionally involved. Then I would body check (or think about it) and just stop as soon as I noticed I was doing it. I’d deliberately think about or do something else, breaking the old pattern over and over again. Eventually, that whole painful reality I’d built around my appearance fell apart from disuse.
The important questions are: How do I feel? How do I treat myself? Am I honoring my values? Am I staying in my own business? If a thought hurts, am I questioning it?
The mirror and the scale have none of the answers, and in fact cause me to veer wildly into bad behavior, painful storytelling, and other people’s business.
From skwigg's journal:
What you said about the scale and no longer needing it though made me realize something - I've never been a big scale weigher (I've done some really great mental gymnastics in order to determine that the number is BS), but I realized that I still do the body checking. For example, I still check out my thighs every day to see how my fat distribution looks, if my cellulite is really noticeable, that kind of thing. And obviously, my perception of my body changes with my hormones. I've seen you talk about body checking before - can you talk about that? Did you let that go a long time ago? For me the feeling of how my clothes fit and how I look has always been really important, and now I'm realizing, a subtly important measure of my own self worth. I'd like to let that go. Any advice? Thank you!
Ooh, interesting topic. I was a major body-checker. Not just mirrors, but "progress" photos, tape measurements, and a million little checks like my hands around my waist, belly button depth and shape, the way my rings fit, hip bones, arm dents, various veins and tendons, flexed leg definition, whether thighs touched, face shape, what my belly did when I'd lie down, what my legs would do when I'd sit, how waistbands and bras fit, on and on and ON.
The quick and honest answer is that it doesn't even occur to me anymore. I quit doing it when it quit seeming important, which was quite a few years ago. I guess it quit seeming important when I realized that it doesn't actually tell me how I look or feel. It's more like how you feel determines what you'll see. When I felt good about myself and my eating, everything I saw was good. When I felt miserable, anxious, and insecure, it was a horror show of "flaws," regardless of my weight or body comp. I'd keep checking and checking, trying to convince myself I was either ok, or not ok and in need of some kind of new restriction. That only ever made my emotional state and subsequent eating worse.
At first I had to step away from the body checking in the same deliberate way I (eventually) stepped away from the scale. I knew it wasn't helping matters. Not doing it created more freedom and confidence than doing it. That's when I was done.
It also helped me to remember that nothing is permanent. No body check or scale weight seals your fate. If my weight is up or my belly is sticking out today, it just is. It doesn't mean anything. So, not assigning meaning is pretty important, and probably related to not believing my thoughts. Is that true? I guarantee that none of my crazy, emotional stories about what it all means would have stood up to even casual inquiry.
I only own clothes that fit comfortably, so nothing I put on is going to be so tight or tent-like that it messes with my perception. I don't have those sudden weight swings anymore between restriction and overindulgence. Eating moderately, I stay pretty much the same from day to day, so there's nothing to see. That helps.