If I’d been given a pound every time I had said the words “I feel so fat” I swear I’d be a millionaire by now!
I’m sure you can relate?
So how do we stop “feeling fat”?
Some may say you could diet (which is basically the word die with a “t”… I see the t standing for trauma!) but we all know that dieting doesn’t actually work for 95% of the population long term. Yes, you could diet and temporarily – but not guaranteed – lose weight. Then you may stop “feeling fat”.
But what happens when your weight rebounds again when you’ve stopped dieting? (Because it will if you’re not in your set point weight range.)
What happens if you fit into your smaller clothes yet you still “feel fat”?
This, my love, is what this episode is for so let’s dive in!
Fat isnt a feeling
Let’s start with a #truthbomb…
Fat isn’t actually a feeling!
The word fat can be used as a noun, verb or adjective but it is not a feeling.
The question I like to ask people when they say “I feel fat” is:
“What are you really feeling?”
And then I show them the emotional wheel and wait for their answer.
Usually what they’re really feeling are emotions such as:
It’s not fat on our bodies in a vacuum that causes us to feel ashamed, embarrassed, not good enough etc. It’s what we’ve been conditioned to make fat mean. Fat cells don’t grow with shame cells. Society adds those for us.
If you were born and raised on a desert island with no media or concept of the patriarchal society that we currently live in, you wouldn’t even be aware of the words “body image”. This is because you’d see your body for what it truly is, a place to live in and to experience life through. You wouldn’t objectify it, you would simply embody it and live in it.
Children don’t have any issues or concerns about race or different body types until they learn to be concerned, through parents and the world around them who are modelling it for them.
This is all well and good I know but I’m also a realist… and we DO live in a fatphobic society and we HAVE been conditioned to believe that thin is good and fat is bad. Knowledge can help us to understand why we are scared of fatness and why we spend most of our lives in fear of what others may think of us. But even when we know why we’re constantly seeking diet after diet for the answer to the ultimate happiness in life – like chasing the pot of gold that is promised at the end of the rainbow – THINNESS, doesn’t magically change anything…
Or does it?
You tell me.
Understanding why we are all so fearful of fatness can help start to shift our perception of what we make fat mean.
When we understand that society makes thinness the ultimate goal because it’s unattainable for most and so they get a shit load of money from people chasing thinness, it certainly helps to shift from a feeling of helplessness and self-blame to anger. And anger is higher up the vibrational scale than helplessness. Meaning that anger is a more empowering feeling. Put another way; you’re less of a victim of diet culture.
A great question to ask yourself is:
“Who is profiting off my insecurity?”
I guarantee that if fatness was hard to attain, then that would be celebrated and people would do everything they could to be fatter.
In fact, fatness WAS considered beautiful for at least 400 years between 1500 and 1900. Any visual bones in women were totally banished from the idealized female nude.
And in a Jamaican study in 1993, Jamaica found that plump bodies are considered the healthiest and most attractive among rural Jamaicans. Fat is associated with fertility, kindness, happiness, vitality and social harmony. Some Jamaican girls even buy pills designed to increase their appetite and help them gain weight.
I could share so much about why we are all so scared of fatness and how our fears are created purposefully in order for us to keep spending money trying to lose weight but this episode is about how to stop feeling fat, not why we fear fatness… so I’ll continue.
Now we know that fat isn’t a feeling, we can start to look at what we really mean when we say the words “I feel fat.”
“Feeling fat” is emotionally painful. As I mentioned earlier, what we really feel is ashamed, embarrassment, frustration and not-enoughness (or similar). Those feelings are uncomfortable to feel.
I invite my clients to say out loud what they’re really feeling when they notice that they “feel fat.”
When the feeling is expressed out loud, you’re automatically acknowledging how you feel. Then you can make space for that feeling and feel it (I know, I know…). Instead of shoving it down and planning your next diet in an attempt to feel better.
Practice noticing how you really feel and then speak to yourself as you would speak to an innocent child. Be kind and loving. Be there for yourself through this difficult feeling. Ask yourself what you need in this moment to feel comforted.
You may want to turn to your usual thought spiral of:
“I feel fat.”
“Urgh, I’m so disgusting.”
“Why did I let myself get like this?”
“I’m such a failure.”
Instead, notice when you start spiralling and then stop yourself. Reassure yourself that’s normal and ok to feel this way and that it’s not your fault.
Even though doing that won’t make you suddenly love your fat and feel fantastic, it is a much more beneficial way to go about it. You won’t get carried away with your usual self-hate self-talk and it will give you the opportunity to reframe your unkind thoughts into more kind and helpful ones. Then you will feel better.
A self-dialogue example of how to feel and then reframe:
“I feel fat.”
“Oh wait, fat isn’t a feeling, what am I really feeling?”
“A heaviness in my physical body and shame about the way I look.”
“That’s ok sweetheart, it’s ok to feel this way.”
“Why do I feel this way?”
“Because of what being fat represents in society.”
“Who is profiting off me feeling this way?”
“I’m going to sit with myself and feel the shameful feeling. I can feel it in my tummy like a kick in the stomach and then in my throat like a burning sensation. It hurts.”
“It’s ok, I’ve got you.”
“I feel sad.”
“What can you say to yourself that will help?”
“My body doesn’t need to look a certain way. My body looks like this and this is ok. I’m grateful for having a healthy and able body. I’m looking forward to meeting my friend at the cinema shortly. It’s more important and fun to be present and have a good time instead of worrying about what my body looks like. My friend doesn’t care what size I am. What if I didn’t care either?”
“That’s a good question sweetheart, what if your body wasn’t a project or a work in progress. What if your body is just how she is and what if that was ok?”
“I love you.”
Physically “feeling fat”
As you can see from the above self-dialogue, “feeling fat” can indeed be a physical sensation.
It’s common to feel full, bloated, heavy, lethargic, inflexible, stiff and just uncomfortable in your physical body alongside the difficult emotional feelings. My legs rub together in the summer and that used to really trigger me into despair and the constant inner dialogue of “I’m so fat!”
If you notice yourself saying “I feel fat” when what you really mean is “I feel bloated or full” for example, then call yourself out on it (with love of course). Language is so powerful. Words are spells and so if you’re constantly telling yourself that you “feel fat” then your unconscious mind will find evidence in your everyday life to prove to you that you are fat.
We attract what we believe about ourselves.
When you feel physically “fat” there are numerous things you can do to alleviate the sensation such as:
- Spray deodorant in between your legs to stop the chaffing (no shit… that works way better than anti-chafe cream, in fact, the cream makes my legs stick and rub together even more!)
- Wear loose-fitting clothes that you feel comfortable in. If you only have your “fat clothes” that are loose and comfortable then go buy yourself some fashionable clothes that look good on you (take a friend otherwise you’ll berate yourself and end up coming home with nothing)
- Buy bigger kickers! Seriously, ain’t nobody gonna feel great when their undies are cutting into them. I still buy a size bigger than I actually am now. Plus I don’t know about you but my bum seems to eat everything… it’s thongs all the way for me otherwise whatever knickers I’m wearing end up as thongs anyway…!
- Cool down. When you’re hot, sticky, your body is swollen AND you “feel fat”, that’s a shit place to be. Go cool down whether that’s a cool shower or a change of clothes or whatever it is. Do it.
- Drink some herbal tea (NOT the shitty detox tea) such as peppermint or ginger as that can help to alleviate bloating and fullness.
- When you next eat, choose something that you know won’t bloat you. For example, if you know that ice cream or avocado bloats you, have those another time and choose something that doesn’t feel heavy and doesn’t irritate your tummy. So that you feel good, not because it’s bad or wrong.
- Do some gentle exercise such as walking, a slow jog or a bit of weight lifting. Whatever helps you to get your endorphins going without it being too strenuous. There’s nothing worse than “feeling fat” and shitty in your body and then forcing yourself to do a HIIT workout. Every jiggle of your body is going to piss you off even more. Task care of yourself and choose something that will help, not something that will make you feel worse.
- Take a nap. I’m not kidding. Taking a 20-minute nap can work wonders and you’ll often hear your stomach making funny growling noises when you’re not hungry when you lie down for a nap. This is because you’ve finally taken yourself out of your (possibly chronic) stress response and into rest and digest. And so your body can actually focus on digestion and relaxation. Naps are awesome!
Feeling full and bloated – even from a healthy nourishing meal – can be mentally and emotionally linked to binge eating, diet failures, fatness and therefore shame.
I’ve experienced this myself and so have several of my clients. Think about it. When we’re dieting we’re usually hungry most of the time or at the very least we’re only just satisfied. Our tummies feel flatter and emptier. This is celebrated.
When we binge eat, we usually get really full. We then beat ourselves up and feel frustrated, guilty and shamefully.
Think about how many times that cycle has happened in your life. It makes sense that you’d unconsciously link fullness to failure and shame even though you’re not consciously aware of it.
This plus the whole flat stomach thing. When we eat, our tummies get full and stick out. This is normal! We’ve just eaten food, it’s supposed to happen! It’s like when you put a pillow in a pillowcase, you don’t get annoyed when the pillowcase is full… (well that was a random example that came to me wasn’t it…?!)
Yet the exact opposite has been modelled for us. Flat tummy = a life of happiness. Bloated tummy = must do something about it. Either a diet, detox or an elimination diet.
I remember when I was anorexic, I wouldn’t even drink water because I was petrified of my stomach sticking out even slightly.
Getting over this anxiety with feeling full and/or bloated, just takes time. Reassure yourself every time you’ve eaten and say things to yourself such as:
“It’s ok that you feel uncomfortable or triggered right now. Be proud that you’ve just nourished yourself and your body with food so that you will have energy and feel good physically, mentally and emotionally. My tummy is supposed to be full because there is food inside it. It’s ok and safe that my tummy is full. I love you.”
And nourishment doesn’t only mean vegetables and “healthy” foods. We need nourishment and satisfaction mentally and emotionally too. That’s why we have taste buds.
Other helpful things you can do to stop “feeling fat”
- Hang around people who are free in their bodies and who aren’t constantly talking about diets and how fat they are the whole time.
- Spend time doing mirror work. Get used to seeing your body daily. Practice deep breathing in front of the mirror so you can see your tummy blow up with air. Notice any judgments or uncomfortable feelings when doing this and just be there for yourself with love.
- Touch your body. If you hate your stomach, spend time gently stroking it and being kind to it as you would be kind and loving to your partner and their body. Get used to massaging and holding the parts of you that you find triggering.
- When in doubt, focus out. If you’re too in your head to do any of this work then go and do something for someone else. Bake some cookies for your friend. Walk your mum’s dog. Do something that will help someone else. This will help to take your focus away from how fat you think you are to something much more enjoyable and important.
What if “feeling fat” didn’t matter?
Now that’s something to leave you with my loves…
Do you wish you could get to a place within yourself where “feeling fat” doesn’t even matter? Then reach out to me and I can share with you how YOU can live in food freedom and body love.