How bad is your eating disorder? Check for compulsive “bone feeling,” weight checking and mirror lookingWednesday, December 10th, 2008
We promised some more words of wisdom from last month’s Renfrew Conference. No one is wiser than Oxford University’s Christopher G. Fairburn, MD, one of the world’s foremost authorities on eating disorders. Dr. Fairburn talked about how to decrease what he called “bone-feeling, weight-checking, and mirror-looking”—all compulsive behaviors that seem to strengthen eating disorders.
Many in the Renfrew audience of professionals had not heard of “bone feeling” (continually touching the body to check that hipbones, collarbones etc. are protruding). Dr. Fairburn encouraged us to help patients become aware of this behavior by self-monitoring. Once they are made aware that they are doing these things, most patients are able to stop.
If you, your child or loved one is engaging in this behavior, it’s helpful to remember or remind them, as Dr. Fairburn says, that “checking weight doesn’t change weight” and that constant weight checking is going to feed your weight obsession, not help you overcome it.
Marcia has had a number of patients that became so obsessed with mirror looking that they couldn’t get their homework done due to the hours they spent scrutinizing themselves in the mirror. “If you look for fatness you will find it,” said Dr. Fairburn, adding that constantly assessing a body part in the mirror magnifies its size. He recommended getting rid of most home mirrors, saying, “Do we really need anything more than a bathroom mirror?”
Other tips: Do NOT change in front of mirrors and do NOT look at yourself in store windows. Use a belt without holes, wear turtle necks and long sleeves, and give away clothes that don’t fit. In closing, Dr. Fairburn warned that an increase in bone feeling, weight checking, and mirror looking is a bellwether for relapse.
Marcia and Nancy