Why FAT is a feeling!

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.

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.

Image from Unsplash.

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 ofoh 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 associatingfeeling 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!

Image result for emotion wheel

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.

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  1. I’ve been really struggling health-wise the last week or so, which means my eating has been terrible. Therefore I feel really fat right now. It’s making me sad.

  2. I caught myself even saying it today! After a family meal where the portions were dauntingly massive and I struggled through the whole thing. This is a very good reminder and a wonderful post, as always <3

  3. An excellent post In highlighting body image, I just love how you write it as the truth. I have always struggled with this, so by reading it makes me feel less alone. Excellent post keep it up lovely x

  4. Wonderful post. I like that the diagram can give us a concrete way to improve our emotional intelligence. My friends and I use to always say, “I feel fat.” We did that as teens. I don’t say that out loud anymore but I often still think it. Probably do still associate it with a feeling. So I’m going to use that diagram! Thank you!

  5. This is a very powerful post! Thank you for sharing! I’ve been overweight my whole life and struggled with binge eating for years. I’m now in recovery going on year 2 and fighting the associated “I feel fat” mentality can still be a struggle. Thank you!

  6. An excellent post, even for those of us who don’t suffer from body image issues. We need to learn how to be open about our true feelings and not masking them under a different term or title.

  7. I’m so glad this was able to help. Our weight is something that, for some reason, is so valued within society, and yet I can’t understand why. Our weight and size hold nothing against who we are as people or how we put ourselves out into the world.

    Sending you lots of love. Remember; The number on the scales or the label on your trousers don’t mean a darn thing!

  8. It’s hard when our body goes through changes that we aren’t necessarily happy with. I’ve struggled with being both overweight and, currently, underweight. Neither is a nice place to be. But I find the unhappiness I feel towards my body is not on me, it’s on how I was brought up, on how society or other people see me. I know plenty of overweight people who are not only healthy but also happy. Some people are naturally a little overweight, the BMI scale sadly is flawed and doesn’t account for many factors involving bone mass, the mass of organs, etc, and sometimes we naturally hover on the ‘overweight’ side of things.

    Don’t be discouraged though. If weight loss is something you can do and are not limited in, then, by all means, work towards that in a healthy way. If it’s not for whatever reason, just do the best you can do to be healthy in your lifestyle but don’t get hung up on the weight on the scales or the size of your jeans.


  9. Once again your post tells it like it is. For the first time I’m struggling with being slightly over weight. It’s something I’m not too happy with.

  10. As of late I’ve been really struggling with my weight and appearance so needed to read this today! It really has brought me some clarity.

    Lola Mia x

  11. I was never hear about that emotion and feeling wheel, Well explained. Glad to see this post. Saved for later reading.

  12. Fantastic article. I love the emotion wheel, will definitely be using it in future!

  13. I think we’re probably all guilty of this one, something that comes to mind right away is when you’ve eaten a huge meal and are feeling bloated, I’m definitely guilty of saying I feel fat rather than I feel bloated, though I don’t see bloated on the feeling wheel either… So maybe bloated wouldn’t be a correct way to verbalize my feelings ha ha.. My stomach feels ready to burst…. It feels, irritated? I don’t know ha ha… I LOVE that wheel though, I may have to steal that one!

    Davis |

  14. Very well explained about fat and the feeling about this. Many people move towards the negativity by thinking over this FEELING FAT. You described well. Thank you for this post!

  15. This is a really good post. I think you did a great job explaining how fat is not a feeling. Honestly, I never really thought of it this way, but I think you are absolutely right in how you describe it! Thank you for sharing!

  16. I love that emotion/feeling wheel. It is always a surprise to me when I can’t identify my feelings. I have a list of feelings, but this wheel is much prettier! I will be saving it on my phone so it’s handy when I need it. Thank you!

  17. I needed this. I am guilty of saying “I feel fat” to describe the negativity I’m experiencing. I agree that it is a lazy way of describing my feelings. Thanks for writing this.

  18. Great Post ! I totally agree with you. Fat or thin is not a feeling. I am always slim & I accept this that I used to feel little bit less confident about it sometimes thinking I need to put on some weight but I always support that fat or thin is not a thing to be ashamed of & they can’t be associated with emotions logically. Whether you are fat or thin, the thing that matters are who you’re as a person and how you feel. I have chosen Name Simply Beautiful ß in blogging because of this reason. I always say be yourself be simply beautiful..love yourself who you’re & appreciate it. Also, it is not bad to express how you feel, only we need to break this taboo about physical appearances that if you’re fat or thin, it means negative emotions. This post was brilliant & thought provoking. It made me express here. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post. That emotion & feeling wheel is awesome too. Never seen such thing before! Much love ????????

  19. Very good post. I say this many days: “I feel fat” and it is true, what you have pointed out. I have screenshot the wheel. Thank you…

  20. Definitely, our socosoc has created a stigma around the word fat. People compliment you when you loose weight . even it may be the result of your starving yourself and would put you down even you are in recovery from weight loss .

  21. Wow I love this! I’m definitely guilty of this! I suffered with bulimia in my teens & to me whenever I see myself “fat” it’s the worst feeling ever but when I see myself “thin” I love it, therefore I can totally understand the importance of this article! Thank you!!

  22. Yes! This is such an important conversation. Thank you for writing this post – I know it’s not the easiest topic.

  23. Such a powerful post and the way you’ve broken it down has made me see this from a new perspective ❤️ Thank you for that!

  24. I don’t vocally say “I feel fat” but I think it a lot of times. This is a great reflection and perspective. You’re very right about it.

  25. I love this post! I’m guilty of saying that I feel fat when what I mean is that I don’t feel confident in my body. I’m trying very very hard to stop using it as an emotion word but I am in the habit of it still because I know that what I see in the mirror doesn’t always reflect reality so rather than outright say that I think my reflection is fat I say “I feel” so that people can’t argue with me so much.

  26. The emotion wheel image is so interesting! Interesting how they are all connected x

  27. Thank you so much for reading. I still catch myself saying ‘I feel fat’ but I have to remind myself of this post, and how I can’t be a hypocrite to it. I think we have just been trained all our lives that fat is a feeling and we should use it to describe ourselves, but what we are only now starting to realise is that fat is nothing more than cells and words on a page. It does not define us as people and it certainly isn’t even on the same spectrum as emotions.

  28. This is an amazing & thought provoking post! I love the emotion wheel. I have always said I feel fat. Even in the midst of my eating disorder and I had to buy clothes in the children’s department I would still say that. I never stopped to think about what’s going on inside of my mind. Thank you for sharing.

  29. Thank you for reading and leaving me a comment. I still say ‘I feel Fat’ even though I know with good faith that it has nothing to do with me feeling fat at all, and all to do with me feeling sad / angry etc.

    – Nyxie

  30. If I had a £ for everytime I’ve said ‘I feel fat’ over the last 35+ years, I would be rich! That wheel is fab and you don’t realise how many different emotions there are that we can be feeling. 🙂

    Sarah ???? || Boxnip

  31. This is a great post, I hadn’t even thought about this before. I’ve definitely said many times before that I feel fat, but it didn’t really hit me that it isn’t actually an emotion. Like you have said, it’s been made into such a negative word in this day and age, I’m not even sure it’s possible to change that now either!

    Chloe xx

  32. Love this. Love the emotional wheel– and really that is so useful for all moments when we want to perform self-sabotage instead of looking at what we’re really feeling and allowing ourselves to feel it. Fat is not a feeling. I love the saying– Fat is something you have. Not who you are. You have fingernails but you are not fingernails. Great post.

  33. Amazing post. Something I’ve never considered before. I’ve definitely said “I feel fat” before, I won’t lie. But I’ve never really thought about how I feel or what I’m saying. I love that emotions wheel too – I might save that to refer back to! Very insightful post, thank you for sharing and giving me something to think about and ensure I don’t do again!

    Jenny in Neverland

  34. YES i agree. The way you speak about yourself is so important and we should not encourage negative self talk!

  35. Very true! I use to find myself saying this from time to time after gorging on sweets or other junk food!

  36. I love this point, especially with appearance; really what we’re doing is hiding an underlying need, cause, or emotion. Addressing the physical rather than emotional is easier to deal with and easier to push off as “superficial” if the response you receive is negative. At the same time, it both creates a barrier between you and others AND makes others more comfortable when addressing issues. It’s easier for you (and them) to address “feeling fat” rather than anything involving sadness, anger, or fear. Well written and insightful, girl, thanks for sharing!

  37. Thank you for reading. The emotions wheel can be so hard to understand and get your head around, but I really recommend that you keep it on your phone to use when you don’t know what you are feeling 🙂

  38. Love the emotional and feeling wheel. I’ve never seen anything like that before and it really makes me take another look at my emotions.

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