During one of my workshops last year, our focus topic was on body image.
We discussed the obvious sentiments of how we felt with the way women were (and are) portrayed in the media, things that make it more difficult for women to accept and love themselves, and our own personal struggles with body image and what we do to help overcome those issues (hint: we are still working on them).
One comment stood out and this is why I love discussing things in a group of diverse and varied individuals. I learn things. I approach them from a different perspective. I learn to think outside the box.
The comment that resounded with me was the phrase “fat is not a feeling.”
It caused me to pause and reflect on how many times I’ve looked at myself in the mirror and silently echoed those words to my reflection. It reminded me how many times I felt bloated and puffy around that time of the month and assumed I had unexpectedly gained weight in weird places, forgetting that this happens every month. Most of all, it highlighted in my mind the number of times I had recently gone back and forth with my happiness from accomplishing so many new and stronger things in the gym with the frustration that my body was changing to allow me to do them.
For me, the phrase “I feel fat” means that I feel uncomfortable in my body. Whether that’s because I’m nervous to go to a social event or it’s just a day of overall low self-confidence, it rarely has anything to do with my physical form.
I understand the sentiment, but for every time that I’ve said “I feel fat,” I can stop, think deeper, and recall the actual feeling I was having at that moment. Sometimes it’s a serious of feelings, but fat is never one with any validity.
I have grown out of years of disordered thoughts and actions, but the fact that they became so commonplace for me means that they are easy and comfortable to return to. An idealized version of myself still lingers somewhere in my mind, ready to surface as my mood sinks. Much of this version is superficial and exists in proportions that are illogical and impossible given my genetic traits.
Yet still she persists.
It’s easier now given time and recovery, but I don’t expect her to ever go away. I expect she will resurface as I continue to get stronger in my workouts and I have to buy larger clothes to accommodate that. She will resurface when I feel myself struggling in business. She will wait until I am at a low or stressed out point to entice me into thinking that the better I control the outside, the happier the inside will be.
And that’s ok.
I’ve listened before and I’ve wound up in one of the saddest places I’ve ever been. I’ve gone through it and I know it’s worthless. We don’t overcome things like disordered eating and addictive behaviors just to go backwards. If we’re smart, we learn. If we don’t learn, we repeat.
I still say “I feel fat.” I’m not perfect. Now, thanks to that workshop and the words that resounded so deeply with me, I can say it, stop, and follow it through. “What am I actually feeling?” “What’s really going on right now?”
Saying “I feel fat” means that I don’t have to focus on the actual problem and I can compound the unwanted feeling(s) that I’m trying to avoid. Ten times out of ten it’s something that I’d rather not acknowledge but divert onto my physical appearance because it’s easier.
So the next time you feel compelled to call yourself fat, take a couple minutes to think deeper. Ask yourself some of the previous questions.
Remind yourself that fat is not a feeling, but there’s a whole myriad of ones that are and that’s where your focus needs to be.