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Fat Isn’t a Feeling: Finding the Real Emotions Behind Body Shaming

How many times have you said the phrase, “I feel so fat today?”

If the number is too high to count, you’re not alone. So many women (and men) are walking around saying this phrase over and over, but very few are aware of what they’re actually implying.

Think about it: what do you actually mean by saying that you “feel” fat?

Fat isn’t an emotion. What does fat mean to you?

For most people, saying “I feel fat” actually means “I feel ugly, unlovable, unworthy, or lazy.” NONE of these things are synonymous with fat, but a lot of screwed up messages in our increasingly fat-phobic society are teaching us that fat equals unhealthy, unsuccessful, and unattractive.

What about “I feel skinny”? What most of us mean to say is, “I feel beautiful, worthy, and loveable.” All perfectly valid things to want to feel, but none of them are truly synonymous with being skinny. Beauty is a state of mind, not a checklist that you have to accomplish in order to give yourself the “pretty” title. Feeling lovable and worthy are choices, and not dependent on your weight.

When we say these things, we make it so that our perception of what we look like dictates how good we’re ALLOWED to feel that day, or how bad we HAVE to feel that day. “Feeling fat” means we’re forced to feel terrible. “Feeling skinny” means that you’re allowed to feel good about yourself that day.

As a food and body love coach, many of the women that I work with have a hard time getting around the “feeling” of fat. They come to me saying that they don’t want to “feel like a cow” anymore (cows are definitely not an emotion). I always ask them to get really clear with themselves about how they are realistically feeling and what the implications behind those feelings are.

With any struggle in the food & body image area, there’s a lot of shame. Many women feel ashamed about their weight, their eating habits, an eating disorder, or their exercise routine (or lack thereof).

It’s not so much the situation itself that creates the shame, but the EMOTION that we’re putting behind it.

Weight gain, for example, makes us FEEL unworthy or unlovable, which drives the shame cycle. But, saying “Ugh, I feel fat” is often easier than diving into what we’re truly afraid of feeling. It’s easier to blame our body for our unhappiness than to dig deep into the emotional work that is required of improving body image and living happier lives. For women who have spent years yo-yo dieting, blaming their bodies feels instinctual when they’re using weight loss as their one means to fulfillment.

Here is a little step-by-step practice to dig into what you’re feeling, so you can actually heal those sensations instead of letting them linger and dictate your day:

Original thought: “I feel fat”

What does “fat” feel like? It feels like I’m too heavy, ugly, and undesirable.

Do I know for certain that these things are true? Well, technically I learned these things. Meaning that fatness is not actually equal to ugly.

If they are true, what is the worst thing that can come from these things? Being undesirable means that no one will love me.

Keep going…

What is the worst thing that can come from that? It means that I will be alone forever, and that is scary.

Boom. So we’ve just uncovered the REAL reason that you’re not feelin’ so good that day. It has nothing to do with your body, it’s about your fear that you’ll be alone, not good enough, etc. This is about you putting pressure on your body to make other people love you. This is about you not trusting your body because you’re making her responsible for your happiness, and if you don’t feel happy, you blame your body and reinforce this distrust.

To be clear, this is a totally valid fear, and in my opinion, the biggest fear that drives all of our negative feelings. It’s important to be really honest about what’s true for you in that moment, and let your body off the hook. She’s doing the best she can, just like you.

I’m calling BS on the “fat” feeling right now! Next time you’re reaching to use one of these phrases, get real with yourself about what you’re actually feeling, and it’s ONLY from THAT point of view that we can learn to disassociate what we perceive our body to look like that day from how we want to feel.

About the author

Kyla Sokoll-Ward

Kyla Sokoll-Ward

Kyla is an intuitive eating and body love coach who teaches women to quit bingeing, eat intuitively and find bliss in their body and life. She is a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and graduated Cum Laude from Elon University with a degree in public health. She believes that all women should be free to live life in a place of self-love and trust and wants to help you get there!

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3 Comments

  • Wow brilliant article! So many truth bombs to really make you think!!
    Although lately I feel FABULOUS I have had times where I “feel fat”
    I hope more people read this article, so good.
    Kristy xx

  • I really enjoyed this article, as a manager of a gym I find I come across this so much but particularly with myself. When you work so close to the industry and aren’t where you think you should be weight wise its so much easier to be incredibly harsh on yourself. This article is a reminder to build ourselves from the inside out and to be grateful for the bodies and health we do have!! Much love xx

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