“I feel fat”: The statement that masks other feelings

It’s Friday evening and I hear my inner critic saying, “You should go to the gym. Don’t be so lazy.” I counter with, “But I have other work to do at home tonight. I’ll go to the gym tomorrow.” The critic quiets down as I settle in and start typing up the minutes from a recent church meeting. Every now and again, he gets his two cents in: “You really should have gone to the gym” — “You’re getting really loose in the middle. Some abdominal work would help.” — “At least do something physical today!” I momentarily wonder whether it’s my critic I’m hearing or my body telling me it wants to move around. But, I decide it’s just my critic. My body actually feels sore from the workouts of the previous two days. *sigh* Sometimes it’s all I can do to just ignore that nagging voice.

It occurs to me that I often hear myself saying, “I feel fat”. Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the American Counseling Association conference in San Francisco where I attended ten workshops. In one of them, I was reminded of the non-feeling words that clients (myself included) often use as feelings words, “I feel fine.” or “I’m good.” or “I feel okay.” or “I feel fat.” Fine, good, okay, fat…these aren’t emotions. As a counselor, I aim to increase my clients’ emotion vocabulary to include more descriptive words: frustrated, annoyed, disappointed, hurt, guilty, disgusted, ashamed, embarrassed, frightened, exhausted. I even provide my clients with a list of feeling words to choose from. So, I’m wondering now what I’m really feeling when I hear myself saying, “I feel fat”. Could it be that I really feel…unstimulated? uninspired? guilty? ashamed?

I would bet, just from my work with others, that some of my readers use words like “fine”, “good”, “okay”, or “fat” when they really mean something deeper, more nuanced. If we can get in touch with the real emotion behind the vague label, we are more likely to be able to do something about it such as: use healthy distraction (writing, creating something, gardening, calling a friend); identify the thoughts that are running through our head when we feel that way; do some deep breathing while repeating a positive statement such as “I am doing the best I can”; practice “radical acceptance” of the emotion, telling ourselves that the emotion is not good or bad, it just IS.

What are you feeling tonight? What are some ways you can cope with those feelings?

Peace, health, and descriptive feelings!



2 thoughts on ““I feel fat”: The statement that masks other feelings

  1. Leslie Neshama says:

    Thanks, Megan, as always…..for your courageous ways and your inspiration.

    I am not a fan of the perfunctory question, “How are you?”.

    I live in an assisted living setting, and at meals, a gentleman often comes into the dining room, with a booming “How Are You?”.

    Megan, I shut down the second he says that.

    The question itself feels to me as if I must say ‘fine’ or ‘good’ or ‘wonderful’.

    I may not feel those ways AT ALL, but this question seems to be offered in the spirit of “Is everyone happy?” — No, everyone is not (always) happy…….

    When I feel safe, when I feel able to be myself, that is the very time when I can tell my truths.

    So, I often boycott the mundane “How are you?”.

    And I have given myself the space to not feel guilty for that.

    Some people may be able to give back resounding “I AM TERRIFIC. THE WORLD IS WELL. EVERYTHING IS WONDERFUL.” For me, that is not always my reality.

    Megan, your post reminds me that I *do have the right*, I *do have the responsibility* to say the things that are true for me.

    And to my mind, not doing that is a grave injustice to my sense of self, and I am just not willing to do that.

    Thank you for listening.

    Here is to respecting Your Self, and loving Your Self, through good times and bad……….


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