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Being Fat and Feeling Fat

Once again, I’m grateful for the messages boards of Diet Survivors (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dietsurvivors) and Food and Feelings (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings) for giving me ideas for my blogs, this time on the difference between feeling fat and being fat.

As a person with dysregulated eating and/or distorted body image, when you feel fat, you’re describing eating or believing you’ve eaten too much, being bloated or stuffed, and/or experiencing your clothes as tight, making it seem as if you are too large for them. Feeling fat does not necessarily correspond with weight or being fat. At 102 pounds, you can feel fat from “normal” eating, overeating or wearing clothes that are too small. Yes, feeling fat, a subjective, internal experience, can be associated with being fat, an external one. However, as a nonfat person, you don’t have the actual sensations of carrying around excess weight, being judged, stared at, stigmatized, or discriminated against because of your size. What you experience is an emotional reaction to physical sensations of eating or too tight clothing, a response you can change.

People who are fat cannot simply will away their weight. They can try to accept and respect their bodies, shrug off negative judgments and comments, attempt to lose weight, and get on with life. But changing their thinking will not change their actual weight. If you only feel fat, you can transform your reaction by changing your beliefs. In a sense, you do a disservice to people who struggle with carrying around excess weight by complaining about feeling fat when you’re not. Being uncomfortable from overeating is nothing like not getting a job or being ostracized because of your size.

In our fat-phobic, thin-obsessed culture, it’s natural to confuse issues about weight and body. But, living as a fat person is very distinct from living as a thin or average weight person, so let’s put things into perspective here. If you are someone who often feels fat after eating or when your clothes are restrictive, it’s time to start changing your perception of the situation. Instead of thinking you’re fat, how ‘bout labeling what’s really going on—maybe you’ve overeaten, but maybe you’ve simply eaten “normally”; your belly is full and has stretched and swollen up because it has food in it; clothes that are snug will loosen in a few hours; and feeling full does not automatically make you fat.

Ditch the phrase “feel fat,” name the experience for exactly what it is, and you’ll start to break the negative association you have with weight. Remember, full is not fat!