What To Do When You Feel Fat

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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.

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You CAN recover and have an AMAZING life!


If you have any questions, please leave in the comments below!!!


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  1. I have been off laxatives for 6 days and seem to be losing the plot, my tummys swollen, i cant stop crying and i feel so alone and ugly, i dont know where to turn and im not at home which makes it all seem worse. any advice would be helpful, i think im in danger of cracking up.

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    • Hi Nicola,
      I know what it’s like to feel awful, ugly and alone. Do you have a treatment team and support? Eating disorders make you feel like you’re alone, but you’re not and if you don’t have people to talk to then the best thing to do is reach out for support. Talk about how you are feeling!
      It’s a huge accomplishment to be off of laxatives for almost a week! Don’t worry the bloating is normal, as it does take some time for your body to adjust and regain its balance after using all those laxatives.

      I would say look deeper inside, what is it you’re really feeling? Worthless, sad, anxious? Where do those feelings come from? Underneath it all, what feelings are you trying to cover up with the laxatives?

      You’re not cracking up, there are millions of women worldwide who struggle with this same thing…Although I know it does feel like you’re going crazy though! There are support groups with recovering women that might be able to help too- online and in person. Hang in there. You do deserve to fully recovery, Nicola, and please don’t give up! I know it seems like a fight at first, but the battle is worth it! You can beat this, I believe in you :)


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    • My daughter is 2 years sober recovering heroine addict. She is beautiful and thin but always struggles with feeling fat and not pretty enough for her boyfriend. He compliments her all the time. Where can she get help with no insurance. Cleveland area. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

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  2. Hello Lauren, I just happened to stumble upon your website and I have been truly inspired by your effort in helping people with eating disorders recover and obtain their freedom. I am currently recovering from anorexia (without a therapist or dietician), and I’m a bit lost about what to do and how to deal with certain things that has been happening to me so far. Is there any way I could contact you personally for advice/help? Maybe be offered some advice on certain things? I’m currently studying abroad, so its difficult for me to get support from those around me..

    Thank you Lauren, hope to hear from you soon!x

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    • Hi Naomi!
      I am so glad you found me and thank you so much for your kind words and support! I do love what I do so much and I truly believe in my heart that all women who suffer from an eating disorder can truly gain freedom and experience an amazing life! That is, if you are willing to do whatever it takes, be open to new possibilities and be willing to surrender and change and admit you don’t know how sometimes. Its about stretching and growing past your limits of what you ever dreamed was possible for your life.

      I believe in you too Naomi! Thank u for reaching out – it sounds like you need someone to connect with! You are not alone in this and I would love to offer my support. :)

      I offer all women one free coaching session and we can set that up as soon as we can find a time that fits with both of our schedules. I’ll email you with my availability and before we chat please write down the #1 thing you are struggling with right now and if u have any questions you want to ask.

      You need support Naomi!! We can’t do this alone. I know you are strong and it’s okay to let others in to help. It doesn’t make you weak- vulnerability = a good thing. It means we are real. Human. We have to open up and share our truth, what we are going through, and we need other people to share these experiences with.

      Where are you studying abroad? I lived in Switzerland for a semester myself in college and traveled around Europe for 4 months, it was awesomeee!!! Anyways, look forward to chatting with you and getting to know you more!



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  3. You have written this so beautifully…and so honest.. it feels like I was reading my own thoughts.

    I have had an eating disorder for almost 8 years..been in “recovery” for about 4 now, and even with that time under my belt, this article gave me new coping ideas.

    Bless you for sharing this; I feel so lucky to have found it! Bookmarking now :)

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  4. Hi. Been trying to recover from anorexia since early December and this feeling has just been getting worse since I started to recover. It used to be that I felt fat but I knew I couldn’t really be because I didn’t eat enough to gain any weight (at least in November onwards) but now I just feel so desolate and definitively fat and I’m so scared it will make me go back to what I did before and I’m trying so hard to recover. The feeling just takes me over and I tend to exercise manically and worry all the time. A friend who’s 3 years older than me was kind enough to listen to me in November and helped me on my way to recovery, but I feel like I burden her way too much. Do you have any extra advice on how to cope with recovery? Do these feelings ever stop? Thank you very much.

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  5. Hi I have been looking for help or for people who feel/felt the same way I do. After I eat I feel this feeling of loneliness, guilt and regret. Is it normal that after eating I can litteraly feel my face, arms, legs, & stomach getting bigger? I look in the mirror and see myself as if I was really fat. After I go a long time without eating I see myself skinnier but if I eat something I instantly see myself getting bigger. I recently started taking laxatives but they are not working for me. I’m looking for a little advice because I don’t know what to do anymore.

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  6. Hi! I just happened to come across this website and It was like you knew what was in my mind. I just can’t even find words to tell you what I felt when I read this. I feel understood, but I don’t know what to do. There’s times where I just can’t control myself and istead of talking about my feelings I just kinda eat my way out and then afterwords I feel fat, ugly, and just ugh! What can I do?

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  7. Hi Lauren, thank you for your honest and encouraging words, i came here because i was feeling like i’m the fattest girl ever recovering from anorexia. i have been doing well as it comes to eating and not compensating for almost two years now (with ups and downs, of course), But i don’t seem to get a healthy body image and it’s driving me crazy. With a bmi of xxx i “know” i’m not fat nor am i thin. But i can’t get to see myself as others would view me. i don’t know how to deal with it. All i know is i’m desperate for SOMETHING or SOMEONE to show me how i look. For i’m done with starving myself, but i’m also done with guessing what i look like. Is there any way you know to tackle this?

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  8. This post really touched me. Very often, even today in fact, I feel “fat”. Sometimes, when I look in the mirror, I cry about the way I look. I know many times I have tried to starve myself to lose weight, which often causes me severe headaches, and every so often to faint from dehydration. I know I have a long way to go in accepting myself, but reading this story really made me feel as if I’m not alone in the way I feel, and that it gets better.

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  9. so helpful. thankyou for writing this all the stuff about emotions is so true. and journaling emotions is so helpful i started doing that instead of journaling events to destract myself. and be easy on yourself is such a good tip cause the world is a bitch full of fake plastic and photoshopped people who make you feel worse and being nice to yourself and knowing you can have a deeper more meaningful life then image obcessed barbies and models kindof helps. you know what i mean? like spending time with your family annd progressing in life rather then obcesing about outward appearance every second of the day like the people on tv. (not saying their to blame just saying the people who tell them what to do need to get with the times and be a little more open minded)

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  10. hi lauren . Oh my word i could not believe it wwhen i came across this . I have just recovered from anorexia but the psychological scars it has left have been an absolute nightmare to deal with . Its so hard to accept my new shape and body size – with flesh on it , not just skin and bone – it really upsets me sometimes and i get so depressed about it all i want to do is go vback to the way i was before. But i know that i cant – it was a horrible experience and i got such a scare because my legs started swelling and my mum who is a nurse said that it was the early signs of heart failure. Now it has kind of gone the opposite way and i just overeat most of the time . I have such a hard time accepting my self .. And to make things worse , my boyfriend commited suicide so it has made my recovery all the more difficult . I really just need someone to talk to who understand what its like and to have been there cos although i have been for counselling , it hasnt helped much cos in all honesty if u havent been there u cant grasp the anguish . Thank u so much for the tips , they are so relevant and so true i will def use them as tools to continue my healing process :)

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    • HI Nats so proud of you for recovering yes that is scary and i am worried about heart failure too. may i ask how old you are i feel way too old to have this disorder for 15 years and i have gotten to be just skin and bones so depressed ashamed and won’t face anyone anymore mom yells at me its my fault and people have been scaring me so bad that i need to be hospitalized because my organs are going to fail and now all i do is focus on eating and gaining weight because i feel so unhealthy what have i don’t to myself i just can’t seem to gain the weight back how long does this take
      does anyone feel scared and lonely of their health. I really need support because the hospitals don’t take my insurance so its up to me to gain weight . Im only 5-2 and very underweight please tips and support.

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      • hi jazmin , i am 21 years old. dont feel too old to have it, it is a disease that can affect any one at anytime in their lives and is often due to depression. i am so glad you are trying to get better. dont be discouraged, it takes time to recover from this horrible disease. i was very very scared for my health thats what made me decide to do something about it. . try to get some ensure and have it between meals it has lots of nutrients that your body needs to be healthy again and eat high energy foods like nuts every one to two hours . it should take a few months u need to try and take about 2000 cals to start with to get you to a healthy weight quicker. but only eat small meals every one to two hours if u eat a regular size meal all at once then u will experience a lot of discomfort. counselling always helps is possible get to a psychologist as soon as u can .. best of luck , just remember that the body needs food to survive . once you start eating properly and your weight has stabilised u will feel less depressed

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  11. So I don’t have an eating disorder but I fear I may develop one. I work out and eat healthier foods (most of the time) but I still have that “feeling fat” thing going on all the time. When I don’t work out, or when I eat something–anything pretty much!–I get super down on myself. I am mostly confident after a long work out, or from being really hungry. It’s like my body wants food, but after I eat, I can’t stand myself! The hungry feeling I enjoy worries me. Any suggestions on how I can not feel fat when I eat?

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    • Hi Taylor! I know exactly what you mean.. and there’s probably more going on inside of you, and the way it manifests is on the outside with the controlling food behaviors. You asked, how can you not feel fat when you eat? Well it begins with shifting the way you think and feel about yourself and the food while you’re eating. What are you saying to yourself when eating? How are you feeling? For me, there used to be a lot of fear like, ‘I’m afraid to eat this bc I don’t want to gain weight’ and ‘you’re so fat, why are you eating that’ and on and on.. SO it really starts by identifying what is going on now and then starting to shift it to positive, uplifting and supportive thoughts/feelings like, ‘I eat for health’ or ‘I am worth every bite that I take’ or ‘I eat to nourish my body and love myself.’ But then you see when you start saying those things, you will begin to experience growth because you might not believe it at first. So then the deeper work begins, and this is what I get into with my clients, doing the inner healing work on really loving and accepting yourself and your body and transforming your relationship with food and yourself. I think it’s great that you are realizing this all now before you go any further- remember the ED is all about fear and the only antidote is LOVE! Hope that helps girl :)
      Peace, Love + Freedom,

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  12. Thanks for the feeling fat information. I too struggle with that and it always centers in my thighs and butt. Have always hated that part of my body don’t really know why. All I know what to do now is go slow so I can figure out what it is I need to do. I am starting to think that sugar may not be the best choice. This is really a great place to reach out and find answers.
    Thanks again,

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  13. there is no upper age limit when struggling with body issues. I am now 52 and have put on weight, lost weight, got fat, got thin, built muscle , lost muscle , had 3 children and 2 miscarriages. I have not worked out, not exercised and then done the opposite, I have climbed to Everest base camp twice in the last 2 years (each in in 8 days which is quite fast,) I have run several 10km races in good times. At the end of all of this I have had a lifetime of feeling fat most of the time, and then feel attractive and sexy. I am presently feeling awful and undesirable, it doesn’t matter that most women and men would say i have an attractive body – I can see that myself most of the time, I can’t feel it. Today I feel desperately unhappy. I so want to love myself better and wish that I could. Lisa

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  14. It really help me, thank you. I’ve been bulimic and then anorexic for close to 9 years and i have started the recovering process this year. I google how i feel looking for a fashion advice but this post… really saved me. Thanks for sharing your experience :)

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  15. Hi ladies,
    Thank you so much for your comments!

    Kathy, going slow and taking your recovery one day at a time can definitely help you make those steps forward that make you feel more grounded and centered. Recovery is all about re-training ourselves to think + act with Self Love. It is a day to day process, and you are on the right track!

    Lisa, we DEFINITELY believe it is possible for you to love yourself more. It is very apparent from your comment that you are a very ambitious woman and what better to practice loving than the drive you have within yourself to be a better person! There are so many tools here on the blog, and we also offer tailored one-on-one services if you want to go deeper with your particular blocks in your recovery. We would love to help you further if you are interested!

    Ellie, I can TOTALLY relate to how you are feeling. I was a “straight” fashion model until I was in my mid-twenties and when I almost died from my own eating disorder, I had to accept that gaining weight was the only way I could live. I felt fat for a LONG time before I began to love the body I have. It has taken me time to accept MY particular body type, my hips, love handles and curves. Now I am so happy and proud of my body that I happily wear two piece swim suits and have even recorded youtube videos of me dancing around in my skivvies! Learning to love your body IS possible for you too! I believe in you!

    If any of you ladies would like to chat with me or Lauren more one-on-one, please send us an email at support (at) healingforeatingdisorders (dot) com.

    We would love to hear from you!

    Many Blessings!
    Blake <3

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