Have you ever felt fat? It’s a really common experience, and it seems to happen more often than we think. You can find someone who has had this feeling in their life recently or maybe even just heard them talking about how they’re feeling right now with friends at school/work.
Interestingly, those who meet the criteria for a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa, bulimia or other eating disorders can experience and notice ‘feeling fat’ more intensely than others. The same group associates this feeling with higher levels of distress over longer periods that lead to compensatory behaviours including restricting food intake.
The sensation of ‘feeling fat’ sits somewhere between the over-evaluation and over concern in body shape and size and the harsh, strict, restricting dieting regimen that follows. It is a cycle that can be incredibly difficult to break but is remarkably easy to self-reinforce. The negative beliefs held in relation to the body, reinforce the hard, internal critical messages that push teenagers, young people, and adults to feel that they need to correct or change the outcome.
Diet leads to diet. Diet leads to over-evaluation, obsession, rigidity and control.
Remember that fat is not a feeling
‘I feel fat’ is a universal expression, but we understand that ‘fat’ is not really a feeling. The physical fat stored in our bodies is not an emotion and therefore is not something that we can ‘feel’. ‘Feeling fat’ is descriptive and a narrative that we share with ourselves or others to describe a (usually) negative state of being.
Feeling fat has nothing to do with your weight
Many people from all around the world identify with a certain feeling or bodily sensation that we call ‘fat’. This has nothing to do with body shape, size and weight but rather it is an experienced unique quality of their own bodies.
The emotions associated with feeling fat
Emotions are just one of the many symptoms that can come with feeling fat. We all experience anger, sadness and other negative emotions when we’re obese; it doesn’t only happen to adults either-many teens and young adults also find themselves overwhelmed by their thoughts sometimes leading them into a bad mood change or even rage. The thing is these feelings might not always be due entirely inside ourselves, there could already have been prior trauma which caused problems.
Does everyone experience feeling fat in the same way?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as feeling fat can mean different things to different people. For some, feeling fat may simply be a physical sensation – they may feel bloated or uncomfortable in their own skin. For others, feeling fat can be a mental health issue, closely linked with eating disorders and body dysmorphia.
What are the top reasons for feeling fat?
- Increased body awareness. If you find yourself constantly checking your body, it may be an indication that there is something wrong. For those meeting criteria for eating disorders and/or body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), this heightened awareness state can happen more often than not throughout much of the time – even if nothing out-of-order occurs.
- An uncomfortable physical state. We may misclassify or file other uncomfortable, unpleasant states such as bloating with PMS (premenstrual syndrome). We feel excessively full and sleepy/tired during these periods.
- Experiencing other emotions. Emotions are a natural and important part of life, but we often don’t know what they mean. We might associate certain emotions with physical sensations that feel unpleasant or exhausting to us because these states have been difficult for us in the past when trying to place them mentally (and sometimes physically).
- When feeling fat impacts your life.
If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, it’s time to call in the professionals. Feeling fat can be a sign of an underlying eating disorder or mental health issue. If you’re feeling fat, it’s important to talk to a doctor or mental health professional to get help. Feeling fat can also be a physical feeling, such as when you’re bloated or carrying extra weight. In this case, making lifestyle changes – such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly – can help. Feeling fat is different for everyone, but if it’s impacting your quality of life, it’s important to seek help from a specialist treatment center. Feeling fat can be a sign of an underlying eating disorder or mental health issue.
Adam Mulligan did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.
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