Sunday, 28 January 2018

Feeling 'fat' // Eating Disorder Recovery #2

Hello lovely people,

Welcome to the second instalment in my Eating Disorder Recovery series. In today's post, I want to talk about feeling 'fat'.

I used to feel 'fat' on a daily basis. It was the worst feeling in the world. I used to sob my heart out over that feeling. This was a feeling that existed years before my eating disorder. Feeling 'fat' was something that haunted my daily existence. Going into changing rooms was a nightmare. It was as if the mirror itself was taunting me and mocking how 'fat' I felt.

In recovery, I was informed that 'fat' was not a feeling and what's more, in order to acknowledge what I was truly feeling, I needed to banish that idea.

I both agree and disagree with that statement.

Let me explain. Rationally speaking, of course 'fat' is not a feeling, 'fat' is a neutral descriptor for bodies. Except that it's not. In fact, I would argue that 'fat' is one of the most weaponized words of our time. It is a go-to insult that packs a serious punch. Why? The word 'fat' has become synonymous with lazy, greedy, shameful, useless, unclean, ugly and even disgusting. We live in an openly fatphobic society. While nasty comments about race, class and sexuality are generally shunned, fatphobic comments are still socially acceptable. Not only that, they are deep rooted in Western cultural ideals.

So, where does that leave us?

We've already addressed the fact that the word 'fat' has seriously negative connotations in wider society, but when you have an eating disorder, fat is not just bad, it is the worst thing you could be.

Let's examine this a little closer.

If you are in recovery, have body image issues or are just curious, I encourage you to try out this short exercise with me.

In the dictionary of your mind, what is your definition of 'fat'?

Prior to recovery, my answer would probably have been something like:
 'failure; disappointment; unpopular; ugly'.

At this point, it might also be worth asking, what is your definition of thin?

Again, my answer would have been something like:
 'successful; beautiful, desirable; popular; loved'

Now we've examined our definition of 'fat', let's look at the emotions behind it.

Read out your definition of fat with the words 'I am' in front of it; 
e.g. 'I am a failure, a disappointment, unpopular and ugly'.

What emotions do you feel when you say those words? 
For me, it's frustration, self-disgust, anxiety and loneliness.

Know that there is no right or wrong answer.

Therefore, when I said I was feeling 'fat', I was feeling that specific combination of emotions. 
Now that I am in recovery, when I feel these emotions, I say that I am feeling 'vulnerable' instead of 'fat'. Now that my definition of 'fat' has changed and my understanding of the word has broadened, I find that 'vulnerable' is a better fit for me.

More about the word 'fat':

Up until fairly recently, I fiercely rejected the word fat. I could not understand why anybody would want to use that word. Instead I used 'plus-sized', 'curvy', 'fuller-figured' etc. When I discovered that some body-positive activists were calling themselves 'fat', I was shocked. How could this be body-positive? How could you call yourself 'beautiful' one minute and 'fat' the next? Fat was something to be avoided - feared even. And yet here they were, embracing the word whole-heartedly.

I was pretty dumbfounded to say the least. Little did I know that their definition of fat was very different to mine. That in reclaiming the word fat, there were in fact, neutralising it. No longer an insult, just a way of describing bodies. Quickly, it seems, 'fat' lost all it's power and became boring, almost.

Crucial to my understanding of feeling 'fat', is the acknowledgement that it had nothing to do with my outward appearance. My feeling 'fat' manifested itself in my stomach: that was the part of myself I most wanted to hide and the part of my body I felt most ashamed of. Although this is true, it is also true that my stomach had nothing to do with how upset I felt, no more than my hand or my ear.

The aim of this blog post is to validate all the feelings you may be experiencing. For me, feeling 'fat' was such a vivid part of my eating disorder and a difficult part of recovery; I thought it would be nice to honour that by writing this post. By peeling back the layers of our beliefs and emotions, we can gain more insight into our current situation and in turn gain a sense of calm, in what can be a chaotic state of mind. 

I wish that I had known much sooner that it was OK to feel this way and that it was OK to not know what I was feeling or why I was feeling it. 

Moral of the story: Emotions are confusing. Eating Disorders are confusing. You are awesome. 

Quote by Nayyirah Waheed // Art by @kimothyjoy in collab with @huffingtonpost

I hope that you have enjoyed this post and that you found the little exercise to be helpful.

Find more Eating Disorder Recovery posts here 

Remember to follow me on bloglovin/Facebook/Instagram to make sure you don't miss out on any upcoming goodness.

Until the next time,

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