We all have “fat days”. Even if you are a man reading this, you probably are not scratching your head wondering what a “fat day” is. You know.
We all know.
Fat days are like cold-and-flu season, garden weeds, or your dog’s next teeth-cleaning appointment – they are going to come. Inevitably. There is no sense trying to run and hide.
But what can we do? If having “fat days” is more about management than elimination, and we are all going to “feel fat” from time to time, then where is the dividing line between the inevitable and its amount of influence over how we feel about ourselves, our bodies, and our lives?
Once again, it boils down to knowledge…and choice. First, we have to understand and decode where “feeling fat” comes from and what it means to us. Next, we have to decide if this business of “feeling fat” still works for us, or if we would prefer to make a new choice in how we understand and deal with fat feelings, and fat days, in our daily lives.
So where do we start? We can begin by exploring where feeling fat even comes from, how it started, and why it is so much a part of our culture today that we often accept it without question – and even welcome it in as a helpful, rather than harmful, regular houseguest.
In 1995, the Discovery Channel reported the sad but fascinating results of the introduction of western television programming into the culture of the little island of Fiji. Prior to receiving access to westernized shows like “Melrose Place” and “90210”, only three percent of Fijian females suffered from eating disorders. Three years later, 74 percent of Fijian girls reported feeling “too big” and 62 percent had gone on a diet.
We may not think the environment around us gets under our skin, but we don’t have to look very far to see how much influence it actually has on our day-to-day routines and perceptions of ourselves and others. We feel fat because anti-fat messages are everywhere we are. Billboards, television and movies, advertisements, even our daily dialogues with each other are full of labels like “thin” and “fat”, “good” and “bad”, “healthy” and “unhealthy” – and almost none of it is backed up by actual scientific facts.
In fact, most of the steady diet of fat-bashing that we take in has one purpose and one purpose only – to induce dis-ease so that we will spend our hard-earned cash to fix a problem that is all in our heads!
Okay, so now we know. We have been told to feel fat, and we have – up until now at least – very obligingly obeyed. But now we really do feel fat – so what options do we have to extricate the word “fat” from the very real and valid feelings we are having underneath?
First, we can start to access our power of choice by working hard to understand what “feeling fat” means to us. We have to recognize that “fat” in and of itself is NOT a feeling . More accurately, “feeling fat” it is an edgy little ache that grabs our attention long enough so we will trace it back to its source and deal with the real root issue. So when we feel fat, we can instantly snap to attention and begin our sleuthing process – tracing it back, and back, and back, until we uncover what triggered the fat-feeling so we can deal with that and move on to recapture our sense of health, wellness, and balance.
If you are struggling with or in recovery from an eating disorder, you may already be familiar with the technique of naming your fat feelings. This is a very helpful approach that involves building your emotional vocabulary. There are five major emotions – anger, fear, disgust, sadness, and happiness – and about a million permutations of each. For instance, if we know it is not “fat” that we are really feeling, could it perhaps be “anger”? Or is it instead a permutation of anger – maybe “rage”, “annoyance”, “hostility”, “displeasure”? In this way you can take your power back by naming what you are really feeling, and investigating what your real emotions are trying to tell you so you can work through them and return to peace and equanimity again.
You might also want to try another code-breaking exercise to figure out what “fat” really stands for in your life. In this exercise, you will complete two sentences. First you will write down: “Thin =” and complete the sentence with appropriate descriptions of what “thin” means to you in that moment (examples might include: good , happy, desirable, successful, popular, attractive, etc). Next, you will write down “Fat =” and complete the sentence with your assessment of what fat feels like to you in that moment (examples could include: disgusting, irresponsible, lazy, unattractive, unacceptable, lonely, unsuccessful, etc.). In this way you can backtrack to discover what you are really feeling, and begin to deal with those feelings.
At Southlake Counseling, we understand how painful “feeling fat” can be – we have spent years honing our skills for battling back against our culture’s focus on the socially-acceptable prejudice of weight-ism and helping others to do the same. If you are having trouble completing the exercises above, or if you try your hand at them and find that strong emotions are coming up and you need support to work through them, visit us at www.southlakecounseling.com. Let us help you to start your New Year off on an empowered note by saying “no” to feeling fat in 2010 – and saying YES to feeling what you really feel, owning your right to have and express your true emotions, and doing what you need to do to live the life of your dreams!