What Does Feeling Fat Actually Mean?

Authored by Matthew Idle

Edited by Alexander Bentley

Reviewed by Dr Ruth Arenas Matta

I Feel Fat - What does Feeling Fat Really mean?

Scroll through popular social media app Instagram and you will find a variety of “weight loss experts” explaining to you how to lose weight and keep it off. More times than not, they are selling a product and the information given is far from what a trained medical professional would offer.1https://worldsbest.rehab/compulsive-exercise/ Social media and so-called experts on weight loss have caused a surge in individuals “feeling fat” and believing they too need to lose weight, even if there is no weight to lose.

The phrase “feeling fat” is one that is often used by both males and females to express the way they feel about their bodies. It is a phrase often used by women and girls, and it transcend ethnic lines and cultures. A distorted body image is an issue that many individuals have in the world. With the popularity of Instagram and other social media apps, body distortion is a growing problem.

Body image distortion can result in an individual having an eating disorder. You may know someone who has transitioned from just have a distorted image of their bodies to having an eating disorder. But how do they go from merely “feeling fat” to struggling with an unhealthy food habit?

Body shape and weight loss in eating disorders

“Feeling fat” is a common issue in individuals that are diagnosed with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, orthorexia, binge eating disorder or body dysmorphic disorder. It is claimed that these individuals “feel fat” on a more intense level than others. The same individuals can also feel higher levels of distress in life over a longer period of time compared to other individuals.

Someone suffering from an eating disorder can suffer from a variety of compensatory behaviors.2https://worldsbest.rehab/pica-eating-disorder/ A compensatory behavior is an unhealthy activity that individuals with an eating disorder engage in to make up for having eaten food. The activity is done to eliminate the anxiety, guilt, and shame they have about food. Compensatory behaviors include restricting the intake of food and liquids, over-exercising, purging, abusing laxatives, self-harm, obsessive behaviors, and potentially, suicide.

Why do you “feel fat”?

“Feeling fat” is an over-evaluation of one’s body shape and weight. It is a harsh criticism that creates a very restrictive diet regimen. The fat feeling and dieting that occurs afterwards is a cycle that can be compared to other disorders.

It is extremely difficult to break and individuals suffering from “feeling fat” can find it easy to reinforce the belief that they are overweight. The harsh belief that an individual has that they are overweight continually pushes them to strive for change.

One diet leads to another diet. This is a cycle of dieting and obsessing about being overweight. Cycles can last longer with each new diet, making it difficult to stop.

There are some specific signs and symptoms a person with a negative body image experiences. Signs and symptoms may include:


  • constant obsessive self-image scrutiny when looking in mirrors
  • thinking depreciating thoughts about one’s body
  • frequently comparing your body shape and size to other people
  • having envy of a friend’s body shape and weight
  • comparing your body to that of a celebrity or another person in the media

Fat is not a feeling

It may be difficult to realize it, but fat is not a feeling. It is important to note that a person that has a distort image of their body has a deeper underlying issue. The issue is far greater than just the body. Looking deeper into a person’s life, you may discover that they are stressed or worried about something in their life. Or perhaps they are overwhelmed or angry about an aspect that has occurred.

The emotions and feelings that a person experiences elsewhere can be attached to body image. An individual may be perfectly healthy and in no need of losing weight. However, due to issues elsewhere in their life, they believe there is something wrong with their body.3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4759846/

“Feeling fat” may a distraction from the real problems you are experiencing. You may not want to feel or acknowledge the true emotions or problems. Therefore, a distorted image of your weight is the result. For many people, they live life being distracted from their “real” problems by “feeling fat” and focusing on their body image.

You remain stuck in a long-term diet mentality due to “feeling fat”. By focusing on your body image, you are unable to solve the real problems in your life. Fixing your body shape or weight will not make you happier. Rather, it is a temporary relief as the true problem is much deeper.

Getting help for “feeling fat”

There is help available to end the fat feeling you have and focus on what causes. As has been expressed in this article, the fat feeling is not down to food, but is a result of something much deeper. Therapy is a way to unpack the issues you have in life. High-quality sessions will allow you to understand the underlying problems that have caused the fat feeling.

An eating disorder specialist will help you uncover the issues at play. This is the first step to healing and making a full recovery. Your therapist may use several techniques to focus on the emotions and feelings causing your body image distortion. You may be asked to make a journal to highlight the times throughout a day you feel fat. Various worksheets may also be used allowing you to express your feelings.

In therapy sessions, you will be able to share your notes. Unpacking your feelings gives you the opportunity to get help and to speak about the issues you experience. Sharing allows you to speak with others, perhaps some individuals who have gone through similar experiences. You therapist may also use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), an evidence-based form of therapy that is used to address eating disorders.

If you “feel fat”, there are ways to end this. Getting help from a trained therapist is the first way to solve the problem presented by the fat feeling. The issue is more than a food or weight issue, and discovering the root of the problem is paramount to healing.

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