Whether it comes from your own mouth or someone else’s, it’s a phrase that’s commonly used in our culture, and it’s been a hot topic of conversation in many body positive communities since last Friday, when ‘plus-size’ model Ashley Graham stated in an interview with People: “There are some days I feel fat.”
(I say ‘plus-size’ because Ashley has a very normal-sized body but is labeled plus-size by the modeling community despite not necessarily self-identifying as plus-size. And to be clear upfront, this is not a post to knock Ashley for her statement, rather I see her statement as a reflection of a larger sentiment that exists in our culture, one in which she exists + lives in as well.)
While sadness, joy, anger, frustration, guilt, shame, etc. are all emotions, fat is not an emotion, even though many of us have heard or used that phrase before. So I’ll ask you a simple question to further highlight my point: what exactly does it mean to “feel” fat? Whether you use it or hear it, how do you define ‘feeling fat’ in your mind?
Go ahead…think about it…actually form a definition in your head or even write it out…
Feel fat? Hm…
The truth is that for many of us, when we ask ourselves what it means to feel fat, we discover that we’ve simply used ‘fat’ (specifically, when referring to its physical presence on a human body in quantities greater than deemed acceptable and in places not deemed desirable) as a stand-in for:
– remorseful or guilty
– not good enough
– out of control
– unimportant or ‘less than’
and the list goes on…
We define it as the many negative emotions and attributes our society has attached to (and thereby has led us to believe about) the physical attribute of being fat. By the way, at a conceptual level, saying someone is fat or someone self-identifying as fat isn’t inherently mean or bad. It’s like saying someone has brown hair or olive-toned skin; being fat is simply another feature of someone’s physical appearance. However, it has become offensive because, culturally, we have made it mean so much more than that.
Some people may view my point as simply semantics, but the truth is that words have immense power in the way we view ourselves and the world around us. When we start to shame parts of our physical bodies as a way to avoid addressing the true source of our pain, we get all mixed up, and spend a lot of time, emotion, and energy on ‘fixing’ something that isn’t actually the source of our pain.
Saying ‘I feel fat’ – for many people – translates on the surface to: ‘Being fat is bad, so I need to make my body smaller, more toned, skinnier, etc. than it is right now.’ People use this phrase at a wide variety of weights because, once again, it’s not actually about your physical body.
Meanwhile, if we go one layer deeper and ask ourselves exactly what it means to ‘feel fat’, then we begin to get a glimpse of the true source of our pain. We begin to see that you will never get what you’re truly after simply by spending hours at the gym or following a strict meal plan.
Speaking as someone who has lost and gained weight many times in many different ways, I will tell you that once you ‘get that dream body’, you likely won’t just *finally* be happy and able to enjoy your life. Perhaps you’ve even been there yourself and can relate.
The reality is you’re often left panicking about how you will maintain it, burn out from the immense effort required to keep your body that way, ‘self-sabotage’ feeling ‘undeserving’ of your smaller body (I put those words in quotes for a reason), binge eat much more often since your body believes it’s been in starvation mode all this time…or basically any number of other things that don’t involve just *finally* being happy and enjoying your life at this weight into eternity. This often leads to the realization that you are still not fully satisfied with yourself, even at this weight.
And you likely never will be unless you go inward. Why is that? Because…SURPRISE!…your weight wasn’t ever truly “the problem” in the first place. Society (and many corporations that necessitate promoting diet culture in order to exist) may have you believe differently, but if you think simply changing your weight will solve all your problems without understanding and healing the deeper stuff going on inside of your mind, body, and soul, you will likely find yourself running an endless race. (I ran it for most of my life starting at age 9; I know.)
There will always be more to ‘fix’. This goes with anything: if you’re trying to achieve a goal or solve a problem in your life and spend all your time on something that is, at best, ancillary to the true goal or problem, you aren’t going to get far and even if you do, it’s likely not for long or in a way that makes you truly happy…
By all means, you’re certainly welcome to lose weight and exercise and do what feels good for you; that’s not my point. My point is to not use eating and moving your body (ideally, in ways that you actually enjoy) as a replacement for also looking within. Mental and spiritual health are a very important, yet very overlooked part of the health equation, too.
So please, for the sake of sanity and self-love and removing unnecessary stress from your life and clearing up SO much room in your mind to follow your dreams: stop looking in the mirror and on the scale and on the measuring tape and start going inward. The answers you’ll find there are much more long-lasting and powerful than having any ‘dream body’ you can imagine.
You’ve got this. <3
As always, feel free to share this with anyone who may find it helpful, and I look forward to hearing how it helps you.
*** Last, but not least, I’m doing some quick (~15 minute) market research interviews with amazing people like YOU! Are you interested? For a limited time, I’m offering a FREE 30 minute coaching session in return out of appreciation for those who are willing to participate and provide input. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re probably the perfect person for me to talk to. Click on this link to read more 🙂 ***
P.S. If you need some help with this (or other related topics) and are interested in possibly working together, comment below or click the ‘Contact’ link above, and let’s get talkin’!