How many time’s have you looked in the mirror, or prodded yourself, or finished a meal and thought ‘God, I feel FAT‘? Too many! BUT in anorexia recovery I’ve learned that while FAT isn’t an emotion, it very much IS a feeling.
While you won’t find the word ‘feeling‘ or ‘emotion‘ anywhere within the textbook definition of fat, believe me when I tell you it’s a very real experience for many. Esepcially those who have ever experienced an eating disorder. Fat is many things, from a describing word to an adjective. And at the tail end of it all, it can definitly, definitly be a feeling, too.
Why FAT is not an emotion (but is DEFINITLY a feeling).
Feeling fat bears no relation to being fat. You can be in a small, malnurished body and feel ‘big‘ or ‘heavy‘. Quite often when I refer to myself as feeling fat I am met with the obvious retorts of ‘oh shush. You’re not fat.’ And that’s when I feel like reminding them that, no I’m not, and I know I’m not, but I feel uncomfortably big in my own skin. That’s the best way I can think to describe the feeling of fat. And while that makes very little sense in itself, it’s a very real feeling.
But where does the term ‘feeling fat’ come from.
Allow me a moment to talk about where the confusion comes from. For most people, it’s a case of associating ‘feeling fat’ as being negative. When someone says ‘I feel fat’, they might also feel unworthy, unloved or even frustrated. Not only is fat not described as an emotion, but none of the above are synonymous with it. Not even the word ‘negative‘ is anyway related to fat.
“All these associations have been made starting with our current society. Fatphobia and body shaming is still at large despite all the advocacy behind them.”
We are being taught that fat must mean unhealthy, lazy, or ugly. While ‘thin‘ is being used when we are feeling happy, loved, successful, worthy, pretty or handsome. We’re associating all these positive emotions with a word that means ‘having little, or too little, flesh or fat on the body‘.
“Ah but Chloe, you’ve just said fat IS a feeling. But that’s not what you’ve written here.”
And you’d be right! But, what I’m saying is, that while fat can be a feeling, it’s not a feeling in the way anger or sadness is. Those two things are emotions. You might go to bed because you’re emotionally feeling sad, and this sadness could stem from feeling fat. You get me? Feeling fat isn’t an emotion, but it can damn well influence them!
When I say “I feel fat” my partner will often ask me ‘why.’ It’s then that I begin to tap into what I’m actually feeling emotionally. Am I sad today? What about anxious or irritated? And why would any of that suddenly make me feel fat? It’s a result of years of misunderstanding my negative emotions. For a long time my weight has been how I’ve coped with difficult feelings. So, to feel fat on a day when my emotions might be chaotic is a perfectly valid experience.
“BUT feeling FAT? What’s that all about?! How does one “feel” FAT? You don’t “feel” green!“
For many with disordered eating habits and poor body image, there is a lot of guilt and shame being stowed away. We’re ashamed for many reasons; for overeating, for under eating, for gaining weight, for being off work due to illness, for crying, for not crying, etc. I could write a whole novel about the reasons why I am ashamed or guilty, and some would contradict each other.
If I gain weight I feel an intense amount of shame.
I feel unlovable and unworthy and like a fraud. Like I was never sick in the first place. But I wouldn’t say any of that, I would say ‘I feel fat‘ because it’s easier than diving into actual emotions. I prefer to blame my body and weight instead of dragging up all the negative emotions bubbling below. But don’t get me wrong. While I’m not necessarily processing fat as an emotion, I 100% feel fat. I feel tight, bloated, like my skin is ripping at the seams. If I’m having a particuarly bad day, I might even visually see the dreaded ‘fat‘ on my person. While being in a bigger body is nothing to be ashamed of, in the eyes of a recovering anorexic, it’s one of the worst things to come out of recovery.
You won’t understand it. We don’t understand it. That’s just how eating disorders are. They don’t make any sense.
Let’s talk about emotions and FAT.
There are so many emotions for us to choose from (both positive and negative). Notice how ‘fat’ isn’t on this wheel. Next time you’re feeling fat, tap into how that impacts your emotions. Or, vice versa. What emotions are you struggling with and how could they be impacting how you see yourself that day? And if you can’t pin point anything, don’t worry. It could just be that you’ve woken up feeling more bloated and heavier than usual. No shame. We’ve all been there. And it’s perfectly fine to identify that feeling of splitting at the seams as ‘feeling fat.‘ However, it’s very important to remember that while it’s a feeling, it’s neither an emotion nor a fact!
This post was first written in 2019 under the title ‘Fat is NOT a feeling.’ However, through my time in recovery and discussion, I feel I didn’t quite express my intentions correctly. While I fully believe that one can’t emotionally feel fat, you can very much physically feel it. You can feel heavy and out of place within your own body. Sometimes I even feel like my clothes have gotten three sizes too small, when in fact they are just as they always where. It might not be a fact, it might not even be an emotion fely internally, but by God it’s a horrible feeling.
** If you like what I do please consider donating to my KO-FI fund. I’d like to be able to reach more of an audience so I can potentially grow this blog to be much more than it currently is. I also hope to bring freebies and eventually toolkits to you all as a way of saying thank you for your support.