What you really mean when you say “I feel fat”
“I feel fat”. We’ve all said it, more times than we’d probably like to admit. It’s a universal, commonly used phrase and yet… “fat” isn’t an emotion. So what do we really mean when we say it?
“Feeling fat” is usually used as a way of expressing dissatisfaction with your body, or feelings of negativity and inadequacy. The way we use the word “fat” to communicate such negative connotations says a lot – it highlights the overemphasis we place on body shape and size, and the immense pressure we feel to look a certain way. It’s a way of saying we need to “fix” ourselves, or change our body in order to be worthy.
Evidently, saying “I feel fat” means a whole lot more than it seems at first. So what are we really saying to ourselves, and to others, when we use this phrase?
I am unworthy of love.
Often saying “I feel fat” means you feel you’re unworthy of love and acceptance in this moment, as you are. It’s the idea that, in order to be valued and deserving, you need to change things about yourself – in particular your appearance, and your body.
This goes to show just how much pressure we feel to adhere to society’s standards of what an “ideal” body looks like – to the point where, unless we fit these standards perfectly, we’re convinced we’re unlovable. This is not true! If this is what you mean when you say “I feel fat,” it’s a strong signal it’s time to start unlearning the endless lessons you’ve accumulated about the idea that, to be worthy of love and respect, you have to look a certain way and be a certain shape and size.
In reality, you’re worthy and deserving of love and acceptance just as you are right now – because you’re you!
I dislike and reject my body.
Body avoidance, dissatisfaction and rejection are all tied up in the phrase “I feel fat”. This simple sentence communicates so much about feelings of shame and discomfort you may be experiencing in your own body.
It also suggests you’re placing so much emphasis and importance on your body’s shape and size, it’s skewing your idea of your value and worth.
But what if you considered your body as more than its size… What if you considered all it does for you, and allows you to do each day? What if you remembered the fact it lets you breathe, function, move around, feel the sunshine on your skin, taste your favourite food? Your body is more than the space it takes up! It’s your home, the vehicle that lets you move around this planet. Why would you ever reject or dislike it, when it allows you to do all these things?
Practise less self-hatred and scrutiny, and more gratitude towards your body.
I am not enough.
The notion of “feeling fat” suggests that you’re not enough unless you look a specific way. Unless you occupy as little space as possible. Unless you resist any weight gain or body changes or fluctuations.
But guess what? Your worth isn’t determined by your body! Just as we’ve mentioned, you are enough. You’re perfect just as you are. It’s time to take your body off the pedestal you keep it on, and regain some perspective. Your body is simply the container for YOU. It allows you to exist. Nothing more, nothing less. It doesn’t define you, or make you enough.
I am my body.
This phrase also reduces you to merely a body. It says that you have nothing to offer, no value whatsoever, other than your body and physical appearance.
If you “feel fat”, how can you find self-acceptance in other ways? Shine the light on the endless other aspects of you: your personality, sense of humour, compassion, kindness, generosity. Even your interests and hobbies, the people you love, your work, all of these things contribute to who you are! You’re so much more than your body, so don’t belittle yourself or overlook the many things you have to offer – all the things that make you YOU!
I am uncomfortable.
A lot of the time, people say “I feel fat” to communicate discomfort. Whether it’s discomfort towards your body, or towards yourself as an entirety, it’s a way of saying you don’t accept yourself. It’s another way of saying you’re ashamed.
Learning to feel comfortable not just in your skin, but also in yourself, is so important in recovery. Only when you believe you deserve to recover can you truly commit to the process, and take the necessary steps and actions to get there. So learn to find comfort in discomfort, and embrace yourself just as you are – quirks and flaws and all!
I am unable to express how I truly feel.
It all comes down to this: saying “I feel fat” is essentially telling yourself and the people around you that you can’t articulate (or even identify) what’s really going on for you. Just as eating disorders are so much more than a fear of weight gain, so too is “feeling fat” more than just being dissatisfied with your body, or experiencing a bad body image day.
“Feeling fat” hints at more complex, deeper internal issues going on within you. It’s important to develop the ability to really be aware of this, and to be conscious of your thoughts and emotions in order to help you notice and identify whatever arises. It’s only when you’re able to be aware of what you’re experiencing that you can begin to unpack it, and address the root of whatever problem you’re navigating.
Sometimes, “feeling fat” can be a symptom of feeling stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, lonely, isolated, hurt, angry. It can be a manifestation of inner turmoil and even anger directed at yourself or others.
Sometimes, “feeling fat” just means “feeling bad”. We use the phrase as a way of communicating this, because everyone around us recognises “fat” to be a negative or undesirable state to experience. And that, right there, is the problem.
When we say “I feel fat,” each time we reinforce the idea that being thinner or smaller will make us happier. We equate fat as being bad or unloveable, and in doing so we deny ourselves the chance to truly experience whatever emotions we’re avoiding or reducing to this phrase. We’re mislabelling and misrepresenting what’s actually going on for us, and in doing so we’re depriving ourselves of the chance to understand ourselves, and to receive empathy and support from the people around us.
So next time you go to say “I feel fat,” ask yourself: what do you truly feel in this moment? What do you need? Why are you placing so much importance on your body and your shame around your appearance, in order to run away from or deny what you’re actually feeling or experiencing? Choose instead to tune into your thoughts and emotions, and sit with whatever comes up. This is a far healthier and more effective coping strategy than denying your feelings, or dealing with them by scrutinising and punishing your body.
We all have moments where we dislike or reject our bodies, or we feel undesirable and uncomfortable. It’s normal. But rather than allowing that experience to take over, ask yourself the hard questions, so you can truly accept yourself, and develop a deeper connection and understanding of your own experience of the world around you.
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Sarah King is an Exercise Physiologist and Health Coach specialising in helping women reconnect with their bodies and improve their relationship with food and exercise.
Through her 1:1 Health Coaching Sessions clients learn to nourish their bodies without guilt, move for joy, improve body image and self worth, plus recover from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea and get their period pack if it’s gone missing.
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Hi future friends, I’m Sarah King, an Accredited Exercise Physiologist and health coach.
Science, not trends is the foundation of my approach. By nourishing the body and mind with scientific facts we can build foundations for a life of realness, not just wellness.