Breaking Up With Your Mirror
**Disclaimer: tips I provide are a gentle suggestion. I am also NOT. an. expert. I still struggle today with body image and its crucial to understand that to heal, you must be gentle with yourself. Please listen to your body. xoxo
Standing in my fitted exercise clothes, my favorite warm up routine included a mirror. I’d lock eyes with the person staring back at me, twist and turn my body in every which way, just to catch a glimpse of what that one wish I had scribbled down on a piece of paper in my wish jar would look like.
I’d pull the inner skin around my quads to create air between my legs, and imprint this image in my mind to see how much farther I had to go. This creative warm-up was a way of motivation to continue my journey to no longer feel the skin between my thighs touching. The mirror standing in front of me provided daily affirmation that I was able to make that wish come true.
That wish? A thigh gap.
I was in middle school.
From there, my wish fluctuated between thigh gaps, visible collar bones, and defined hip bones. And in the midst of all of this, I thought my mirror would stick by my side as I was desperately seeking its affirmation.
Instead, it lied to me.
It lied to me by providing confidence one morning with a starving stomach, to only tear me apart at the sight of any fat on my body by the end of the day. My mirror may have been useful in reminding me to brush my hair, but it also assisted in developing a treacherous path down the realm of eating disorders.
Back then, I had no idea this compulsion had a name. I just thought bodychecking was a normal human habit. That everyone did it.
The problem is body checking is too common and its taking away from everyone’s chance to find fulfillment in their life.
What Is Body Checking?
For those who may not be completely aware of what body checking is, it
refers to “an obsessive thought and behavior about appearance.” Body checking can present itself in all sorts of outlets. It can be obsessively checking your body through that full-length mirror, touching/measuring body parts such as your wrist, arms, thighs, torso, or constantly seeking answers from others on whether or not “they can see a difference in your body”. (**links attached will lead you to more useful info)
What Body Checking Looked Like For Me:
For me, body checking was using the mirror to dictate whether or not I had gained weight from my food after every meal. When I would lay in bed, my fingers loved to rest on my hip bones, as it assured me that the thinness I so desperately coveted was in reach. Moments of feeling uncomfortable in conversations led my hands to my rib cage, as if prominent bones were the only characteristic that captured my identity. Having the chance to trace those bones with my fingertips comforted me, in that at least something in my life was in control. These habits became a daily routine, consuming me until I became utterly blinded.
I was focusing on everything that I didn’t have/look like rather than focusing on everything that I already had.
And maybe you know already or maybe you don’t. But we only realize what we have once its gone. And when I reflect, I think of all the moments I missed because I was obsessed with keeping my body in check. Now? I am working on letting go of feeling that urge to be in control, because that’s the funny thing about all of this:
Eating disorders come from a desperate desire for control, yet we are actually never in control.
When the epiphany hits you that time spent staring at yourself in a mirror took away chances of hugging your mom or getting outside to watch nature’s sunset show, I hope something inside you wakes up. It did for me.
I am embracing the truth that a mirror doesn’t have to dictate my happiness, and it shouldn’t for you either.
I am still working to break up with my mirror. Change is hard, but the first step in deciding to change is just that… deciding.
Here are tips that have helped me:
What helped me:
Downloading an app.
Road to Recovery (RR) was the first app I used to take notes of how I felt before/after I ate and whether or not I body checked. A reminder to check in on my habit helped me identify when I was doing it and a resource such as this may help you start recognizing your habit too.
Reflect on your actions
What was going on when you reach to check your physique? How were you feeling? Were you in an uncomfortable situation? Were you feeling anxious? Who were you with? These questions can help you gain more insight to the underlying emotion behind the physical action, that may be causing the body checking to occur.
Use positive self-affirmation
To sway your thoughts to something other than how your body may look, repeat to yourself phrases like: “I am strong” or “I am capable”. I tried the whole “compliment a body part”, but frankly I felt ridiculous and even more insecure. This all may feel silly and over emphasized, but using words of positive affirmation guided me to envision what I valued more: independence and capability. Your values are so much more important than a flat stomach.