I do it too, sometimes. I caught myself doing it today actually. I am not perfect by any means and I am still learning to speak nicely to myself when I want to elicit change, rather than talking to myself like a mean girl in the 5th grade would. I caught myself writing a text that said “I feel sorta porky today.” And immediately was like, WHY did I just do that? Even worse, I sent it while conversing via text about my workout and what extra thing I could maybe add to it. I know better. I know that’s not a nice thing to say about my body. I would never look at you and say - Man, you must feel porky today! First of all, what the f*** does it mean to “feel sorta porky”? Second: Fat, my friends, is not a feeling. It can be several things - but a feeling is not one of them.
Rather than quoting the dictionary definition of fat, because I’m sure you know what it is or what it can be, I want to drive home the point that fat is not a feeling and it’s really quite damaging to tell ourselves that particular story day in and day out. Similar to the blog I wrote about my clients apologizing to me for their lack of strength and perfection, I have been in many personal training sessions where people grab various body parts and say these things ... and it’s not just women who say them:
- I feel SO FAT and bloated right now! (*grabs stomach, squeezes and points*)
- I just want to get rid of this FAT right here, it’s making me feel so gross!
- I saw a picture of myself and I look so CHUBBY from every angle.
- My friends look so much skinnier than me in all the photos!
- I don’t want to do that exercise because I can feel my fat moving and it makes me feel disgusting.
- I let myself go and now with all this beer and eating out and I’m just feeling … fat and nasty.
Can you imagine how bad it would make you feel if you heard me calling you fat, nasty, gross, chubby, or disgusting? Just because I thought your body was larger or fatter than I wanted it to be? It would most likely make you feel ashamed, embarrassed, angry, and maybe even sad. So really, what the hell are we doing saying these things to ourselves? Why do we think that our reaction to our own voice - calling our own body out on not being perfect - will be any different than if someone else were saying it to us? It’s not any different. In fact, I think it’s worse.
Do you ever notice how the physical state of your body tells a story? A story about where you are right now - physically, emotionally, and maybe even mentally. I for example, am heavier than I was a few years ago. In my own case it’s because I stopped obsessing about food and stopped trying to cure an autoimmune condition by not eating certain things. I wasn’t quite orthorexic but I was afraid of all sorts of food stuff that I had labeled as potentially harmful or ‘bad’ for me. I worked through a lot of that (it was not easy quick work) and whaddya know - I gained some weight ... but I’m a whole lot stronger and feel a whole lot happier and way less obsessive about what’s going into my mouth. I eat well and I don’t attach guilt to the occasional indulgence - because so much of my life - in a lot of places - is in better balance. I wasn’t in balance before - and my body, though thinner, was weaker and told the story of someone who was desperate to control something that was out of her control - but dammit, she was going to try. Until something had to give. Because willpower isn’t infinite - it’s finite - and something will give when too many things to ‘control’ are on the table.
Have you ever met someone who was overweight and struggling deeply with depression and self esteem issues? And then seen and talked with them after they sought treatment for depression, only to discover by treating their emotional state and rediscovering their value and purpose, they suddenly felt lighter and their physical presence followed suit? I have. More times than I can count. Their body told that story. In order for them to move forward and change, they had to first lovingly accept where they were instead of berating themselves for their physical characteristics.
What are we really saying when we grab our own flesh and proclaim that we are "feeling so fat today”... ? Are we already sad or angry? Are we feeling bad about not "measuring up" and comparing ourselves to others? Are we looking for affirmations that we suck because deep down we know we aren’t perfect and we’re embarrassed by it? Did someone tell us we were fat when were younger and that made us feel ugly and we don’t know how else to motivate ourselves to exercise? The story can be a different one for everybody. But the point is: Can we identify the story we have told ourselves over and over again that we are reinforcing by verbally assaulting our appearance? That story, whatever it is for you, is a powerful one that probably has come up time and time again. But it can only shift should we choose to rewrite how we tell it. I told myself for a long time that I was sick and a little bit broken. When I started seeing the improvements I could make by accepting where I was and getting excited about small successes I was then able to rewrite that internal dialogue and turn it into one of strength, acceptance, and respect for where I had been. And into hope and enthusiasm for where I was headed.
I want to remind you - that you are so much more than your physical appearance and the extra weight you are or are not carrying. Your mind and your body though, will reflect the stories and the words and the foods that you repeatedly feed it. So what is it that you are hoping to achieve every time you announce you feel fat and think you are gross? What do you expect to happen when you compare yourself to another person with another set of genetics and their own unique gifts? Show yourself compassion to get to your next step. Don't be a mean girl to yourself. Our words are a force, that we choose every syllable of the way. Our words allow us to express, communicate, explain things, and think - thereby creating the events in our lives. I can’t make you stop saying that you feel fat. And it won’t stop overnight if you have said those words out loud, over and over, year after year. But you can choose to say something else even if it's easier to say something mean.
But HOW do I stop the negative thought pattern?
Awareness first. Can you pause when you hear yourself think or say those negative things? Remind yourself that fat is not a feeling. See if you can actually identify the real ‘feeling’ you are having when you say those words. Don’t try to escape whatever feeling that is. Have it, feel it, acknowledge it - let that crap go and move on. Ask yourself - Can I choose to see this situation a different way? You can, if you want to. It's not always easy. Happiness and being content eludes many of us. There are a zillion books on how to find 'it'. Be grateful for your body and the movement it can perform and how strong you are making it. Be grateful that you have the choice to eat good foods and some people don't. Be respectful of yourself by choosing your words carefully. Only you have the privilege of rewriting your story into something way better. Your body, I promise, will follow in the footsteps of all the encouragement you give it.