5 reasons why feeling fat is nothing to do with your body

You may never have stopped to question the concept of ‘feeling fat’, rather taking it at face value and assuming that your body is to blame. 


Frequently though, feeling fat is about underlying emotions, with little to do with your physical state. Your negative emotions get unconsciously projected onto your body channelling a stream of self-loathing judgement.

What else could ‘feeling fat’ actually mean?

1. Overwhelm

You’re feeling overwhelmed with the endless and growing to-do list. Your anxiety is palpable, as you run around in circles striving to get everything done. You’re running on an endless treadmill with no stop button, and life feels hopelessly out of control. You find yourself fixating increasingly on your stomach and adding this to the list of ‘life areas to sort out’, as a wave of self-hatred descends.

2. Comparing

You’re relaxed and happy, enjoying a rare morning cappuccino, whilst scrolling through Instagram. You glance across to see a woman entering the café. She’s of a similar age to you and in gym gear, looking glowing, toned and vibrant. You recoil into your seat in shame, as the comparison syndrome rears its ugly head. Five minutes ago, body thoughts were absent and your mind was peaceful; in seconds this has completely changed. You notice your thighs rubbing against each other and your tummy digging into your jeans. You feel fat and unattractive.

3. Trigger foods

It’s someone’s birthday at work and a beautiful cake is sitting on the desk. You edge closer to the table, admiring the pink frosting and succulent sponge looking back at you. You’re adamant that you’re not going to eat it, as you’re on a new wellness plan with no sugar or gluten. You feel virtuous at the thought. Then, the cake is cut, and people smile, eat and share. You feel the misery of deprivation and ambivalently allow yourself just one tiny slice. Momentary bliss ensues as it’s the first time you’ve had sugar for a week. Immediately afterwards, you feel fat; you feel it everywhere and it makes your skin crawl.

4. Conflict

You argue with your sibling and hot rage simmers through every pore of your body. You feel wronged and overlooked. It feels completely unreasonable to have been treated this way. Again, your body takes a battering for this, as you want to jump right out of your skin, noticing the numerous imperfections, the lumps and bumps. You can’t shake the feeling and it lingers for hours after the argument.

5. Feelings of failure

You slept through your alarm and are running late. The children are fighting and you haven’t filled out the form for school. You feel a deep sense of failure about everything. You never get it right and other people seem to cope much better. What started as a little niggle of negativity has now spread to a globalised wave of feeling inadequate and not good enough. As you leave the house, you glance in the hallway mirror and feel fat. Nothing is working out and your body is part of this picture.

These are just examples - there could be many other scenarios that trigger feeling fat and they can be very personal to you.

Practice developing self-awareness, as to when you are feeling fat and ask yourself the question: ‘Is this about my body, or something else?’. You may find that the latter is often true. You may want to work with a professional therapist who can help you to develop this self-awareness so you can take back control of these negative thoughts. 

This article was written by Harriet Frew.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Cambridge, CB1
Written by Harriet Frew, MSc; MBACP Accred
Cambridge, CB1

Harriet is a counsellor, writer and trainer working in eating disorders.
Instagram: @the_eating_disorder_therapist; Podcast - The Eating Disorder Therapist

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