The ‘Fat Feeling’
Yesterday was my first day in the inpatient eating disorders program. The first group I attended was the diabolical behavior therapy (DBT) group. Yesterday’s topic was learning how to identify, express, and tolerate our emotions.
With ED comes the expression, “I feel fat”. But wait…is fat really a feeling? Is it an emotion like happiness or sadness? The truth is that when we say that we feel fat, we are actually using this phrase to express other emotions we are experiencing.
In my case, ‘feeling fat’ means that I am physically very full. I am bloated. My stomach is loaded with food and I feel so disgusted at myself for having eaten all that food. Mentally, it means I am struggling because I know that I will gain weight. Emotionally, it means fear because I do not want to become larger and be made fun of for my weight and shape. It means feeling regret and guilt that I ate all that food; that I will be overweight once again.
Perhaps this is why I become so frustrated and angry with people when they respond, ‘but you are NOT fat! You are so skinny!’. I get mad because they simply don’t understand what I am saying. When I look into the mirror, I do not see a fat girl. But I do see a girl who was once overweight and had to work extremely hard to lose weight. I see a girl who is desperate not to ever gain weight because she was previously made fun of for her body. I see a soul who struggles everyday with these thoughts, fears, and misery. I see a small body that has taken years to get to where it is now. I see the days where I forbade myself from eating out of a desire to look thinner; to stop all the teasing that I so often heard. I hear the rumbles of my stomach as I denied it food, hoping to achieve the ‘thin look’. I see the sufferings of a girl who has a constant voice in her head, telling her that she is going to get fat.
So, what is the solution? Well, perhaps for others, simply knowing that by saying, ‘I feel fat’, I mean so much more than the physical appearance. For me, it reminds me that I need to keep my emotions in check. I need to focus on what I am really feeling (ex. Guilt, disgust, bloating), and accept that right now, these emotions are normal. Recovery from anorexia involves a bundle of emotions, often mixed up among each other. The key, as I am trying to work on, is recognizing that it is OKAY to feel these emotions. And that, with time, things will get better.