“I feel fat.”
A few weeks ago I told my dietician, “Fat should be a feeling.” Then, with those teacher-like eyes, she gave me a look that seemed to say, “Don’t be ridiculous, think about what you just said,” and told me to write that down and explore it.
How many times have you looked at yourself in the mirror or thought to yourself at some point during the day, “I feel fat”? I have said this many times and often multiple times each day as I looked at myself or thought about my appearance. Unfortunately I spend an extraordinary amount of time thinking about my appearance. In the absence of eating disordered behaviors, such as purging and restricting food, my thoughts about body size and weight have greatly increased. To be quite honest, my body checking is somewhat out-of-control at times. (Body checking is when I “size myself up” in the mirror, stare at my stomach or thighs while away from the mirror, or think obsessively about how much space my body is taking up.) I body check excessively, to where it is sometimes hard to pay attention to what people are saying or focus on something important. For example, I was sitting in a Bible study last night and, while I could focus a lot of my attention on what was being taught, I kept adjusting my shirt to make sure it wasn’t sticking to my stomach. It took several times of adjusting and thinking “I feel so fat” before I stopped to think about what I was doing.
Fat is not a feeling. Say it with me: fat is NOT a feeling. For the last year I have listened to therapists and eating disorder treatment professionals drone on and on about how “fat” is not a feeling and I wouldn’t listen. I desperately believed “fat” could be a feeling and it certainly felt like a feeling; especially when I was in treatment and had to eat “so much food” in a “short” amount of time. (Lets be clear, I was not eating an excessive amount of food, just what was on my meal plan for that particular meal, AND the time was roughly 30-40 minutes.) I certainly felt fat after all that, yet treatment professionals would not accept this as a true feeling. It was not until recently, in particular last night, that I really evaluated my “I feel fat” phrase. So here I am, exploring the feeling of “fat.” I have explored it so much I discovered it is not real. Fat is not a feeling. Allow me to explain:
When I was adjusting and readjusting my shirt to cover my stomach, or when I was sitting with friends looking at my thighs thinking they looked massive, what I was really feeling was insecure. I felt insecure about my body. This a true feeling I experience almost daily. Last night before the Bible study I packed my dinner and challenged myself to eat it in front of people I do not usually eat around. One of the biggest challenges in my recovery has been eating in front of people, especially people I do not know very well. This is why it took me several weeks, perhaps even a month or so, to feel comfortable eating lunch with my dietician on a weekly basis. Anyway, I was with three women when I ate dinner and my comfort level varied with each. Around the first woman I felt completely comfortable and confident while eating. She has seen me eat before and knows many of the details surrounding my struggle with eating disorders. The second woman was someone with whom I felt moderately comfortable; she is kind but I still worried about what she might think. Finally the third woman made me nervous. She is someone I do not know well and I was afraid she would think about how fat I looked and how I shouldn’t be eating at all. This situation is what tipped me into the insecure “I feel fat” area. It took me longer than it should have to eat my “safe” (an eating disorder voice approved meal for eating in public) meal, but I did it.
Throughout the entire meal I kept thinking about how fat I looked and how anyone who saw me would be judging me for eating in public, or for even eating at all. My body checking and body insecurity was so high I could hardly focus on the conversation. Not only was I feeling insecure but I was also feeling very anxious. I put myself in an uncomfortable situation to help further my recovery and it caused my anxiety to skyrocket. I felt fear. Fear of being judged, fear of gaining weight, and fear someone would say something negative about my food choice. I felt guilty about eating and wanted nothing more than to purge food that was completely in line with my meal plan because in that moment I was sure it would make me gain weight. Looking back now I can see the errors in my thinking and where I need to be more diligent in choosing true feelings in the future. In order to advance in my recovery I need to remove “I feel fat” from my vocabulary and replace it with a true feeling.
I now have new ammunition to fight my eating disordered brain when I think about saying, “I feel fat.” I can feel a lot of things, and do on a daily basis, but I cannot feel “fat.” Within the time it took to eat my dinner (in public) I felt insecure, anxious, fearful, and guilty but I did not feel fat. I can have fat, which I do (we all do), but I cannot feel fat. Instead of allowing myself to dissect these feelings and explore them, I did as I so often do, and projected my feelings onto my body by summing them up into one word: fat. I need to continue to put an end to the war with my body and start focusing on the feelings. Once I learn to connect and feel my true feelings I can remove “I feel fat” from my vocabulary for good.
With Body Love,