How do you feel when you check your body? Emotional states during a body-checking episode in normal-weight females

  • Leonie WilhelmEmail author
  • Andrea S. Hartmann
  • Martin Cordes
  • Manuel Waldorf
  • Silja Vocks
Original Article



Cognitive-behavioral theories posit that body checking decreases negative emotions, but increases levels of arousal. However, few studies have investigated the effects of body checking on the course of emotional states. Therefore, the current study examined how normal-weight females with higher and lower eating, weight, and shape concerns feel during a checking episode of their most-liked and least-liked body parts.


In an online design, levels of negative emotions and arousal were retrospectively assessed before, during, immediately after, and 15 min after an individually remembered body-checking episode. Participants (N = 355) also rated their subjective satisfaction with specific body parts.


Levels of negative emotions were lower 15 min after the checking episode of most-liked and least-liked body parts than before the episode. However, negative emotions increased during the checking episode of least-liked body parts, but subsided thereafter. The levels of arousal increased during the checking episodes of most-liked and least-liked body parts and decreased afterwards, and females with higher concerns reported greater levels of arousal than females with lower concerns. Furthermore, females with higher concerns reported more body checking than those with lower concerns.


The results support the assumptions of the cognitive-behavioral theories, as body checking led to a decrease in negative emotions in the longer term, and levels of arousal increased during the checking episode. The greater levels of arousal in females with higher concerns, and their pronounced body-checking behavior, might enhance their existing concerns and increase the risk of disordered eating.

Level of evidence

Level V, descriptive study.


Body checking Eating Weight and shape concerns Emotional states Theory of eating disorders 



Leonie Wilhelm is funded by a predoctoral stipend by the Foundation of German Business (sdw).


Leonie Wilhelm is funded by a predoctoral stipend by the Foundation of German Business (sdw).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Statement of human rights

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Data availability

The local ethics committee of the University Osnabrück stipulated that data must not be passed on to third parties. Therefore, data sharing is not applicable to this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Clinical Psychology and PsychotherapyUniversität OsnabrückOsnabrückGermany

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