How often do you feel fat? For some of us, it’s a regular occurrence. For most of us, it’s probably happened at least once in the last month. And feeling fat can sometimes feel like the worst of all emotions, the heaviest on our hearts. It’s a feeling that makes us squirm in our own skin, wishing we could just take a break from our bodies so we can breathe freely or borrow someone else’s seemingly beautiful silhouette. When fat feelings strike, that’s all we can think about. We forget about our good qualities, our good mood and all we can feel is pillows of fat surrounding our bodies.
Some days in college, my fat feelings were so palpable, I would’ve loved to crawl out of my skin. I could feel the thickness of my thighs, the heaps of fat encasing my stomach. I could feel my belly bulging out and spilling over my jeans. I could feel my arms, my love handles.
Health professionals say that fat is not a feeling. That it’s usually a disguise. That it’s a mask for sadness, anxiety, anger, loneliness, fear, guilt. Looking back on it, when I was feeling fat, I’d also feel tense, uncomfortable, sometimes frazzled. Yes, there were days that I just felt bloated but more often than not I was anxious or upset.
Feeling fat can make you feel worse than being it. It can make staying in a deceptively gratifying choice, making you miss out on important moments and memories. It may make you nit-pick at every morsel you consumed, trying to figure out with all your might why it is today of all the days that you feel enormous and unworthy. Maybe you try to starve your fat feelings or exercise them away.
Now, I still have days when I’m feeling fat but the feeling is no longer as heavy as it was, and I know how to handle it. I try my best not to bash or hurl insults. I try to take it easy and keep the below in mind.
What You Can Do
- Investigate. When Sunny of the Healthy Girl feels fat, she takes “a few quiet minutes to journal or meditate and see if I can identify what’s really going on.” So if you’re feeling fat, it’s likely masking something deeper. You may be anxious, exhausted, angry, frustrated, ashamed. Try to name your feelings and go beyond the feeling of fat. Sure, maybe you’re just feeling bloated after having a larger meal or because it’s that time of the month. But take a few minutes to explore, anyway. Maybe there’s something you’ve been hesitant to feel. Also, consider what other emotions and thoughts feeling fat arouses.
- Shift the focus. Jennifer Ginsberg at MomLogic suggests the following:
Most women tend to “feel fat” before or during their periods. We curse our bodies for being female and doing what they are biologically programmed to do. What if we were able to accept and nurture our bodies during this time, rather than fight them? How about using our “feeling fat” days as a reminder that we are so much more than the size of our bodies? On the days that we feel like a failure because our bodies are not meeting up to some bullshit criterion, we have the opportunity to dig deeper by focusing on our true qualities. We can even try to accept ourselves, no matter what our physical size is, by shifting our focus off of our physicality and onto the essence of our beings.
- But what if you do feel bigger? For some of us, our self-image has yet to catch up to our weight loss. Carrie of ED Bites blogged about research that found women who’ve lost weight still feel like they’re in a larger body. Similarly, what if you recently gained a few pounds? In theory, you would “feel” bigger. So what do you do? Work out harder? Eat less? Tell yourself you’re a failure? First, try to accept, and then explore. Accept that your self-image may be inaccurate, that it’s something you can work on. Explore why you feel the way you do. Why do you still feel fat? What feelings do you associate with fatness? If you’ve gained weight, accept it, and ask why. Is it because you’re stressed? Is it because it’s the holidays and you’ve been eating more than usual? Is it because you’re finally leading a healthier, diet-free lifestyle?
Do your fat feelings hide deeper emotions? What do you do when you’re feeling fat?
One more thing…Help a grad student:
Jennifer Frank, MA, a graduate student at the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University, contacted me to let me know that she’s looking for participants for her dissertation study. Below is her recruitment info. She mentioned that individuals living in the lower half of California can email her as well. Thanks!
A research study is being conducted with individuals who fit the following criteria: at least 25 years of age, American-born, have lost a lot of weight (gone from an obese BMI of 30 or more to a normal BMI: between 18.5-24.9) without surgery or diet medications, have prior experience of repeatedly losing and gaining weight (weight cycling), and have kept themselves within normal ranges of weight for at least five years. If this sounds like you or someone you know who lives anywhere between San Diego and Santa Rosa, and you would be willing to participate in my study, or refer other potential participants, please contact Jennifer at [email protected] . In-person interviews will be conducted with all participants, and may take between one and three hours, depending on how much detail people are able to recall about their experience, so potential participants should feel comfortable talking about their self-perceptions. In general, interviews having been taking approximately 1 1/2-2 hours.
Participants will receive either a pair of movie tickets or a chance to win a gift certificate for $100 to their choice of Target, Nordstroms, Borders, or Bed, Bath & Beyond. People are encouraged to refer appropriate candidates; if you refer someone who completes the study, you will receive either one movie ticket or one chance to win a gift certificate for $25 to Target, Nordstroms, Borders, or Bed, Bath & Beyond for each referred participant.
If you fit my criteria, please include your height, current weight and previous top weight in your response. If you are not sure if you qualify, feel free to contact me for clarification.