“I feel FAT.” Three words. Three words that carry a lot of ‘weight’. ‘Heavy’ words that you hear, say, or think every day, or every 15 minutes in some cases. You may go to bed at night feeling totally awesome and wake up the next day feeling FAT. Logically, you know that during the night or over the course of the day, you haven’t somehow grown a third butt cheek – but it doesn’t matter, today you don’t feel happy, sad, angry, anxious or lonely – no, you feel FAT.
What exactly does feeling ‘fat’, feel like? Not the physical state of actually being overweight, but the way that many of us feel on a given Tuesday, but not on Wednesday kind of fat? I think it’s safe to say that a lot of us use ‘fat’ as an emotion. Maybe you had a bad day at work, someone said something that hurt your feelings, you had a fight with your significant other, your workout was less than awesome, you didn’t make it to the gym, you ate a cookie, you’re stressed beyond stressed – whatever the situation may be, instead of actually feeling angry, disappointed, sad, etc., you choose to feel ‘fat’. We’re using a word that’s a physical state as an emotion; but, feeling ‘fat’ and truly being ‘fat’ are two very different things. Recognizing that is kind of a big deal.
Let’s break this down and see what the dictionary definitions of emotion and fat are.
Emotion: a conscious mental reaction (as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object or situation and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body.
Fat: having a large amount of excess flesh or body fat.
There’s a difference, huh?
You’re all going to be subjected to a story about me (I apologize in advance). My history with food, weight and exercise is rocky to say the least… I have spent a pretty good share of my life feeling ‘fat’. For anyone that’s met me or knows what I look like, that might seem like the bat-shit craziest thing you’ve ever heard, but I don’t make this stuff up, I’m not very good at writing fiction. It’s real. In fact the lower my weight is, the more stress I’m under or the more tumultuous my life is, the ‘fatter’ I feel. The harder I try to block my real feelings – the ones that hurt, that might make me angry or make me cry – the fatter I feel. There’s no need to feel lonely, angry, sad, unappreciated, etc., when I can just feel fat instead. Saying, “I feel fat.” is effectively the same as saying, “I am choosing not to feel.”
If you feel angry, and someone asks you why you’re angry, you probably have a pretty darn good reason and you don’t answer with, “because I am”. Instead you’ve got a story about the jerk that rear-ended you, or your boss telling you that you have to work on Saturday. But, if you feel fat, and someone asks why, what’s your answer? You can try the “because I am”, but that’s not going to fly for a good majority of you. I’ve tried that answer – shot down, every single time. So, why do you feel fat today? What’s really going on under the ‘fat suit’? What feelings are buried? It’s okay to dig them out and face them – in fact, do it now because the deeper they get pushed the fatter you’ll feel and the more painful it will be to un-fat yourself.
Know that you don’t just wake up fat. You don’t get fat after one bad meal or one missed workout. The way you look in the mirror and how you feel on the inside, while not necessarily mutually exclusive, should not be confused. You can’t ‘feel’ fat as an emotion – fat is a physical thing. Have you ever said, “I feel muscle”? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Next time you “feel fat”, ask yourself why you feel that way. Is it because you haven’t been eating well or working out? Are you feeling anxious about something, are you scared, lonely, sad? What’s really behind the ‘fat’?
If you’ve been spending more time feeling fat than you have feeling real emotion- happy, sad, upset, disappointed, excited, anxious – know that it’s okay to take off the mask and really feel. It hurts sometimes, but you’re tough (Yes, you are, now start believing it!). Feeling fat is easy – I know, I’ve been doing it for 23 years – but it’s not until you make yourself stop ‘feeling fat’ that you start living. Don’t waste another second trapped in your ‘fat suit’.
Amy, thanks for this post. It’s funny how accepted it is to call fat a feeling. My friends and I have said this so much through life and never questioned it that now I’m thinking “Okay, Captain Obvious, where were you on that one? Duh.” So thanks for the enlightenment. 🙂
Amy Kubal says
You are so welcome! 🙂
Kelly B says
Well, no, that’s not what I mean when I say that. I mean that my clothes are fitting a bit tighter than usual. I felt fat yesterday, when I was bloated from eating something that had my gut flora in an excitable state, and today, because I’m carrying more water than usual, based on the fit of my wedding ring. Once the water departs, I won’t feel fat anymore.
Amy Kubal says
You’re one of the lucky ones if that’s truly the case. I have a feeling you’re in the minority though.
Superhero Health says
I feel the opposite way when I wake up, I tend to feel skinny to the point where I need to go and hit some weights just to feel “normal”. However as soon as I have a bit of porridge or protein shake I then get back to feeling normal, not sure if this has anything to do with the starving period during sleep.
Amy Kubal says
It may, but it also maybe the same type of thing. Feelings and/or insecurities being masked by an appearance focus. It’s tough to say, and really depends on your relationship with food, exercise, and your physical, mental and emotional background.
Awesome post Amy and thanks so much for sharing! It will really help those who don’t understand this feeling get a better comprehension. I’m definitely going to pass it on to some friends!
Thank you for this post, Amy. This is something I need to work on. When I say (usually just to myself) that I feel fat, what I really mean is more along the lines of “I feel guilty and ashamed and disgusted with myself for the bad choices I’ve made or for the bad choices that I’ve already decided to make today.” It’s actually much easier to feel “fat” than to own up to feeling guilty, ashamed, and self-disgusted. Sometimes these feelings really are spurred by physical things–my jeans feel tighter, for example. But that’s not the root of what I’m feeling when I feel “fat.” I think it’s high time that I stop quitting at “I feel fat” and move on to identifying what I’m *really* feeling, because emotions are important motivators for me. If I feel guilty and ashamed and self-disgusted because of prior bad choices, that’s a motivator to make different choices going forward. If I simply feel “fat,” then I tend to use that as an excuse to wallow in self-pity and make the same old choices that led me to this place.
What a great read and hopefully hits home to a lot of your other readers. I think most people suffer not from feeling fat, but from feeling guilty from eating fatty foods. I will say ever since I switched my diet to a clean eating style and not eating processed foods, that my body is lighter, my moods are lighter, and my overall health and well being are top notch.
Nothing to complain about here. I enjoy life and everything in it! Thanks for sharing your personal story, Amy. Lots of people can relate. It’s good to get it out there 🙂
Interesting… I do sometimes ‘feel fat’. I AM fat, but I’m okay with that because I’ve lost over a hundred pounds on primal. (hooray!) I might be fat, but I’m a lot LESS fat. XD However, my ‘fat days’ don’t seem to be connected to stress… it’s kind of odd. I just feel very self-conscious and aware of my own body sometimes. I strongly suspect it might be tied to my monthly cycle. Maybe it’s bloating? Fortunately I rarely ‘feel fat’ otherwise.
I’ve never thought of feeling fat as an emotion, but it’s so accurate it’s scary. How do you deal with looking in the mirror and “seeing” fat when it really is just an emotion? Perhaps it starts with acknowledging that it’s all in our heads, not in the mirror.
Hi Amy, very interesting post, and thank you for sharing your story. But there is a “sensation” of “feeling fat”, no? (Opposed to an emotion). We feel our sensations in our bodies. And one can “feel fat” in the same way one can “feel dizzy.” Or “feel energized”. Or “feel nauseous”. Or “feel stiff”. Or “feel limber”. And I do think you hear people express “I feel lean” or “I feel light” or “I feel strong”. All these things are an observation of the body-state at a given point in time. For me, I can “feel” the difference in my body when I’m heavier than I like to be (“I feel fat”) or when I’m at my fighting weight (“I feel lean”). It’s a pretty matter-of-fact sensation to me – and being conscious of how my body feels is part of me learning to intuitively listen to my body and tweak my practices at certain points in time. I think such observations are very real and valid. What’s you take on this? Just throwing this out there for discussion. Keep up the great work.
I don’t just feel fat, I am fat. I just wish it wasn’t such an uphill battle to eat the way I should.
WOW!!! This really hit homw with me today as I was just thinking that I ‘feel fat’ today. My weight has been a sruggle for me as well and now with thyroid cancer and haviong the thyroid taken out it’s become so much more of a stuggle. I am on the mend and have been folowing the Paleo approach for a couple of months but I have really dug in and stayed strong for a couple weeks now and I have seen a world of difference 🙂 Thank you for sharing with us I enjoy reading your posts 🙂