Are you feeling fat today?
“I feel so fat.”
“I feel fat and ugly.”
“I’m having a fat day.”
“I feel fat.”
Sound familiar? How often do these phrases run through your mind? Feeling fat is something that many women who are recovering from an eating disorder experience and even women (and men) in general also experience these fat feelings on occasion. “I’m having a fat day,” is now a common catch phrase for women of all ages. So what to do when you feel fat?
I remember back when the eating disorder symptoms began for me, and this “feeling of fat” was very overwhelming. It’s the worst feeling of not wanting to be in your skin. It takes over and seems like you can’t think about anything else. You feel like you don’t belong in your body, like you want suddenly to drop all the weight or steal someone else’s beautiful physique and instantly everything will feel better. I thought losing weight would make everything perfect. I wanted to stop feeling fat but I didn’t know what to do when you feel fat.
I remember before I got help for bulimia I felt fat just about every day. I would look in the mirror despising every ounce of fat on my body. I would spend hours trying to find the right pair of jeans that didn’t make my love handles stick out and hours mulling over which shirt made me look the least fat. “I feel fat and ugly, I feel fat and ugly, I feel fat and ugly,” seemed to be a never-ending tape that was playing inside my head. I desperately wanted to crawl out of my skin! It was a struggle that left me feeling worthless, disgusting, all alone, and of course, I felt FAT.
It wasn’t until I got into treatment for bulimia that I realized…
“Fat is not a feeling.”
At first when I heard this in eating disorder recovery, I didn’t quite understand. I had the “I feel so fat” thinking for most of my life, and I really had to look back and examine what was really going on inside. Why did I feel fat? What was the underlying cause? What to do when you feel fat?
For many women suffering with eating disorders these “I feel fat” feelings can actually trigger the eating disorder behaviors itself. When the “I feel fat and ugly” feelings come up, many women decide that dieting or restricting is the answer. Or the negative “I feel fat” feelings might trigger a binge or a binge and purge episode to try and escape or stuff down those unwanted feelings. It’s a really destructive cycle, because then the eating disorder behaviors trigger more of the unwanted feelings, which contribute to feeling worse about yourself, which lead to more eating disorder behaviors, which lead to more negative feelings and on and on and on. It’s a cycle that I was trapped in for nearly 10 years.
In the beginning of my bulimia recovery, all I knew was “I feel fat and ugly.” Before getting treatment for bulimia, I didn’t know how to properly identify what it was that I was truly feeling. I took all my negative feelings and I turned them into ‘I feel fat’ and then I used the eating disorder behaviors to cope with them. Slowly I learned by identifying my feelings that “I feel fat and ugly” for me was really just a catch-all for all the negative emotions I was experiencing. When I realized that I was thinking, “I feel so fat” I would stop myself and I had to ask myself,
If fat is not a feeling, then what am I really feeling inside?
When you feel fat, ask yourself:
- Are you feeling fearful, scared, hopeless, helpless or overwhelmed?
- Are you feeling sad, alone, depressed, disappointed, hurt, unhappy, or regret?
- Are you feeling angry, aggravated, annoyed, upset, uncomfortable, or frustrated?
- Are you feeling guilty, ashamed, unworthy, embarrassed, or worthless?
- Are you feeling anxious, nervous, frightened, insecure, or worried?
- Are you feeling confused, desperate, puzzled, lost, bewildered or troubled?
Feeling fat is really just a cover-up for a range of emotions. These are just some of the many feelings that might be underlying those fat feelings.
The “I feel fat and ugly” feelings I used to experience had a lot to do with the fact that I didn’t love and accept myself.
I didn’t love and accept myself, I didn’t love and accept my body, and I didn’t love and accept the feelings I was having. I didn’t know how to feel my feelings properly. I learned that feelings were scary and they made me feel out of control. Developing the eating disorder was a way to manage those powerful emotions and feelings that were coming up.
So What To Do When You Feel Fat?
Identify what you’re really feeling.
Stop, take a deep breath and ask yourself, “What am I really feeling?” It might be helpful to journal about it or talk to a support person about what you are going through emotionally and the feelings that are coming up. Use the questions above to recognize the feelings and emotions if you need help while you’re recovering from an eating disorder.
Acknowledge and accept that you are having these feelings.
It’s okay to feel your feelings! They are not going to kill you as overwhelming as they may feel. In the beginning when you are recovering from an eating disorder the feelings that come up are very intense. This is normal as you haven’t allowed yourself to truly feel the emotions for such a long time. Don’t worry, the feelings do subside and it does get easier! Remember, “This too shall pass.”
Recognize your triggers and create a strategy for dealing with them.
Why are you feeling this way? Where does the feeling come from? Is it something specific like an event or relationship problem, or is it based on an underlying belief like not loving the self? For example, you might get triggered by feeling anxious or alone, or maybe you got in a fight with a loved one. Try to write down what triggers you to feel this way so that you can create a strategy for overcoming the eating disorder behaviors the next time the trigger pops up.
Take positive action towards your bulimia recovery.
Use a healthy coping method to deal with the emotion so you can process it and release it. If you’re sad this might mean reaching out for support via a phone call or just simply letting yourself cry. If you’re angry it might mean taking a walk to clear your head, listening to music or beating up a pillow. If you’re anxious it might mean doing some yoga poses or journaling about what you’re going through to try to ease the anxiety. You might have different ways of dealing with the variety of emotions that come up when you are learning how to recover from an eating disorder.
Most importantly, you have to find a way that works for you to help you deal with your emotions and feelings in a healthy way, rather than use the eating disorder symptoms to cope.
Learn to change the negative self-talk into positive, loving thoughts.
This one doesn’t happen overnight. The “I feel fat and ugly” thoughts are like a tape and it’s important to change this negative eating disorder thoughts to overcome the underlying belief.
Shower yourself with thoughts of “I love myself.” “I accept myself.” “I love and accept my body.” “I love you.” “Thank you.” “You are beautiful inside and out.” “I bless my body with love, all parts of my body are beautiful.” Rinse and repeat.
Be easy on yourself.
Recovering from an eating disorder is hard work. You have to learn to forgive yourself when you are recovering from bulimia, recovering from binge eating, or recovering from anorexia. Take it one step at a time. You didn’t develop your eating disorder overnight and you won’t recover from an eating disorder overnight either. Be patient with yourself and enjoy your healing process!
Overcoming feeling fat is a part of the process of recovering from an eating disorder.
Congratulations, now you know what to do when you feel fat! Learning to identify and feel the feelings whatever they may be, learning to accept them and process them, learning to truly let go, learning self love and self care all come hand in hand when learning how to recover from an eating disorder. It takes work but it is so worth it. You are worth it.
You CAN recover and have an AMAZING life!
If you have any questions, please leave in the comments below!!!