How to stop feeling fat (and ask yourself what's really up)
The other night, I caught myself ‘feeling fat’. Luckily, I’m pretty good at catching old thought patterns about my body so instead of allowing myself to step on the scales and play Russian roulette with my self esteem (i.e. if the scales are less than I thought then I must be wrong, the ‘feeling’ will be less and I’ll go back to being happy. But if the scales are up then the 'feeling' must be right, I must be fat and my thoughts will spiral into a full body attack), nuh uh, not anymore. Instead, I looked at the sensation with (my favourite) loving curiosity.
Fat is not a feeling it's a descriptor. I have fat, just like I have green eyes and bleached hair. I’m not fat. We all have fat. We would die without fat. Yet those three words are some of the most loaded we have in our back pocket.
I know just too well how the words ‘I feel fat’ can turn a nice time into a weeping nightmare.
I remember how as a teenager in particular and all through my twenties too, the task of getting ready to go out could easily end in exasperated tears. I’d cover my room with item after item of dismissed clothing and after each one feel a rising sense of despair and the sensation of ‘fatness’ getting ever more intense.
And what about a good ol’ fashioned changing room moment. There’s really nothing like taking a huge armful of clothes to the changing room and then not getting any of the 5 pairs of jeans you thought looked nice up over your thighs.
Yes, I know these moments too well. I wish I could go back and hug my teenage self hard because thankfully, I know a lot better now than I did then.
Here the crux. It’s much easier to put all the blame on your body instead of working out what’s really going on.
Thanks to our society’s glorification of ‘thinness’ and it’s awful fat phobic attitude, telling yourself you feel fat is the ultimate way to shame yourself. It’s emotional self harm. When you simplify a situation by telling yourself you feel fat, you’re not only allowing yourself to tell yourself you’re not good enough, you’re also neglecting to feel what’s actually going on.
I guarantee that every time I’ve ever said it in my life I could replace the word ‘fat’ with something else much more real to the situation. How about the words ‘sad’, ‘scared’, ‘vulnerable’, ‘angry’, ‘insecure’ or ‘unlovable’? Those would probably cover a lot of it.
And yet, sometimes I’d be having a bad day, about something totally unrelated to my body, and up would pop the thought ‘on top of everything I feel fat’, as if this was far worse than the argument that I’d had with my boyfriend or the lack of money I had.
I couldn’t differentiate the bad vibes without opening up all the conscious (and subconscious) negative feelings about my body.
So much of my self-worth was placed on how I felt about my body. Yes, I was praised for my pretty face and shiny personality but to be thin was my ultimate goal, and if I wasn’t succeeding in that then I was failing at everything. I didn’t know how to tap into my body and ask myself what was really going on.
But fast forward all these years and I really do for the most part (hey, we all have bad days) like my body. I have done a lot of work healing my relationship with my thighs and am 110% OK not having a gap between them.
So what the fuck happened the other night? Using the curiosity method, I asked myself that very question… I tapped in and listened.
Well, summer is coming. And this triggers a lot of old shit about clothing. I’m hanging onto an old story that my legs are too fat for shorts.
So, let’s examine what’s actually happening? Well, I’m feeling scared that people will look at my legs and feel grossed out. Therefore we can replace the word ‘fat’ with ‘scared’. That’s the emotion. I’m feeling kinda vulnerable too. Yikes
I’m cringing as I write this but outing an old thought pattern gives light to dusty corners where shame usually lives and I can begin to rationalise that this thought, like many others, is complete bollocks.
When we label the thoughts for what they are, we’re able to free them and replace negative ideas with truer positive statements i.e. no one gives a shit what your legs look like, and YOU don’t give a shit what other people think about your legs!
To get over these feelings try making a list of all the things you like about yourself that have nothing to do with your personal appearance. What would your best friend write about you? Think about someone who loves you unconditionally and think how they see you. I bet it has nothing to do with the size of your thighs/stomach/arms <insert appropriate>
By allowing myself to harbour these negative thoughts, I’m perpetuating the old cycle that puts happiness onto an imagined ‘perfect’ body that I ‘should’ have (and shaming myself in the meantime)
The word ‘should’ is your inner critic's favourite word. Ditch it bae!
And not only am I slamming myself for really no good reason, but I’m also doing my a massive disservice by suppressing what I actually desire too.
So back to the other night, and listening to my body I realised that another reason for my personal ‘feeling fat’, is that I’ve been super busy lately and haven’t been fueling myself as healthily as I normally do and I haven’t done any exercise, for ages... ah. And so, the feeling isn’t ‘fat’, it’s just my body craving movement and nourishment. Or more loving choices.
Check out how by drilling down into my emotions and not letting an old thought pattern spiral I can work out what I actually feel and what I actually need! My poor body, getting all the flack for all this other shit.
We have to stop putting all our emotional happiness on our bodies. Your body shape doesn’t have anything to do with how happy or how much love you can have in the world.
When we stop placing our emotions onto the body we can begin to feel the real cause for the discomfort.
So next time you’re feeling 'fat' take a moment to ask yourself what’s really going on.
And if you want to be happier, more confident, more creative, more loved or more sexy - you do not have to change your body. You just have to catch the thoughts and work out how to give yourself what you actually need.
Love Harri x