Lovely ladies, do you ever have those days when NOTHING in your wardrobe feels good?
Mornings when you find yourself surrounded by a wasteland of dumped clothing, discarded outfits that made you feel frumpy?
The clock is a ticking time bomb until you leave for work. Yet despite a closet full of options, you’ve somehow got nothing to wear.
I’ve battled with god-knows-how-many mornings like this. And whilst I’m not saying I am totally immune to ‘fat days’, I do have a much better handle on them now.
In this article, I’ll be sharing my experience of what’s really behind ‘fat days’ and what I do to keep them at bay.
‘Fat Days’ – Are they ever really about your body?
It never ceases to amaze me how our body image can drastically swing in such a short time amount of time. Clothes that felt nice last week or even yesterday can suddenly make you feel like you’re ‘fat’ or ‘ugly’ or some other suitably mean insult we conjure up for ourselves.
When I was in clinical practice, women would swear hand over heart that one ‘blow out’ dinner would make them larger the next day. It took a lot of explaining to convince them otherwise.
You see, human metabolism doesn’t work like that. Even if I fed you pure fat intravenously overnight, you wouldn’t be discernibly larger the next morning. Our bodies don’t convert calories to body fat that fast. It’s physiologically impossible.
Yet some days, we mysteriously wake up feeling hard on our bodies. Quite often, even when we haven’t really gained any weight recently.
Why is this the case?
In my experience, when I’m beating myself up for ‘feeling fat’, it’s got nothing to do with the reality of my body size.
I used to question my boyfriend closely on these fat days, probing for validation that I was ok despite my mystical weight gain.
“Have you put on any weight? I can’t notice.” One eyebrow raised, he’d peer at me as if I were crazy, checking over my body for this imaginary body fat.
(A quick note: Body dysmorphia is a genuine disorder and that’s not what I’m talking about here. Please get help if this is you!)
Intellectually, I could see his point in the mirror that there were little to no body changes on a physical level. But I still felt fat.
And herein lay the clue to my freedom; feeling. As I’ve explained, it’s scientifically impossible to be fatter since the day before. So why did I feel it?
In our everyday vernacular, ‘feeling fat’ has somehow become synonymous with feeling unworthy, unattractive, ill at ease in your own skin.
So when I felt bad about myself, it was conveniently packaged into this bundle of emotions labelled ‘I feel fat’.
As much as we berate it, feeling fat actually offers us some sense of control. Weight is something that’s theoretically easy to change with exercise and diet. It implies that to feel good again, we simply need to lose weight.
Then magically, the storm clouds will clear, there’ll be rainbows and unicorns…I’ll be kicking butt every day as a young, successful woman…
Wricka-wricka. (Daydream record scratching to a halt).
Reality check. Feeling a healthy, comfortable weight is really nice. I’m not denying that. But is it a panacea to all our problems? No.
Does being thinner make all our issues and uncomfortable emotions magically disappear? In your dreams, sister.
Rather, fixing your problems means feeling your problems. Once we shine the light of acknowledgement on the things that are bothering us, we are empowered to go about changing them, really getting to the heart of the matter.
These days, I know that ‘fat days’ are an inner cry of help to pay attention to something. It may mean that I require an extra little self-care, rest, self-confidence boost, centreing, stress-management, you name it.
Sometimes, it can also be a little reminder that I really do need to clean up my nutrition a bit, or get off my butt and move a little more.
When I genuinely notice body changes (for me, it usually with a discernible extra layer of body fat around my hips and belly) or my clothes genuinely start to feel a little tighter – I don’t freak out these days. I lovingly thank my body for doing what it’s designed to do (that is, to store the extra calories I have eaten to protect against starvation) and think about what foods and exercise my body might be asking for.
If I’m honest with myself, it’s usually that some ‘extra’ foods have been sneaking into my eating habits, or that I’ve been neglecting gym sessions (usually in favour of work) a little too often.
A little weight gain no longer feels like a crisis. I view it as an opportunity to correct course and treat my body better.
So next time you’re ‘feeling fat’, instead of beating yourself up, could you view it as an opportunity to ask yourself how you could treat your body with extra love, joyful movement and nourishment?
On the other hand, for those days when you haven’t gained weight but still feel totally ‘meh’ about yourself, here are some other ideas to consider:
Journal an ‘I feel’ list.
Stop. Drop your clothes. Whip out a pen and paper and spend even as little as five minutes writing your feelings down.
To start with, it may be about your body.
I feel fat. I hate the way I look.
I feel frustrated. Nothing looks good on me.
But as you work through it – free flow writing if you can – other things may start to emerge.
I feel anxious. Nothing’s going well at work.
I feel judged. My performance isn’t measuring up and my boss thinks I’m bad at my job.
I feel stressed. There’s not enough time in the day to do my tasks properly.
Then aha! Your worries about not looking thin enough emerge as a veneer for your real concerns – in this case, not being ‘good enough’ at work.
Ask yourself this simple question.
This one phrase has literally changed my life:
“What can I do today to take good care of myself?”
Write that down and look at it daily! So often, we are focussed outwardly on taking care of everything else; work, family, friends, the kids, housework. And we forget about the most important thing to take care of, the thing that all of this hinges upon working properly…
Even on ‘feeling good’ days, it is my habitual practice to reflect on this phrase throughout the day. I have four dots peppered around my home to remind me.
It doesn’t require you to stop. It doesn’t require you to fight anything. It doesn’t even require immediate or drastic action.
Simply getting into the habit of asking yourself this question allows you to build an awareness of what you really want and need.
And taking good care of yourself, fulfilling what you really want and need, is one of the best proactive measures against a ‘fat day’ that I know of. How can you feel bad about yourself when you know how to make yourself feel good?
Put it in perspective
This is meant with full respect but take a really humble look at how lucky you are to have the body you are in.
When you find yourself getting carried away with how much thinner you would like your thighs to look, just think – how many people would give anything to even have legs?
If you have a body that is whole, healthy and complete, you are one of the lucky few. Countless other people are born with physical ailments that we couldn’t begin to imagine.
I mean this with absolute love and respect for any woman with physical disability – you are loveable, beautiful, whole and complete just as you are too.
However, the point I would like to make is that our bodies deserve so much more honour for the work they do for us. Body image concerns seem superficial and shrink in the light of gratitude and perspective.
Create rituals of self-care
I have noticed that ‘fat days’ used to strike me worse when I felt stressed, rushed and harried first thing in the morning.
On the contrary, when I breathe spaciousness into my morning routine and take time for little acts of self-kindness and grooming, I simply can’t help but feel good.
This means many little things, sometimes on different days. But here are some of my favourite simple pleasures:
Neatly ironing my clothes the night before. I love slipping into fresh and crisply ironed clothes after my morning shower.
Drinking my morning coffee outside and allowing myself to daydream for 15 minutes as the birds wake up.
Cleaning my feet in the shower with a homemade coffee scrub. So often, a shower is a jump in/jump out affair. Scrubbing a part of my body that serves me all day long feels really good and very refreshing.
Doing a mini face peel as I make the bed.
Lighting incense or a candle first thing in the morning whilst I make coffee. It fills the house with a beautiful scent that delights the senses.
Cleaning up properly after breakfast so the kitchen is clean and beautiful when I come home from work.
Listening to an inspirational or funny/uplifting podcast (that’s often on the drive to work).
Sending texts to friends or family good-wishing them a beautiful day.
Surprising my partner with a fresh juice or lovingly packed lunch.
Rubbing some beautiful essential oil into the base of my neck.
Doing something productive to get a head start on my day – a simple load of washing, cleaning the bathroom basin, or some chore that’s been bothering me.
I don’t do all of these every day but I do something, nearly always. Perhaps create your own list and repertoire of rituals to start your day feeling full and calm.
Throw out the clothes that don’t fit (I DARE YOU!!)
Take a moment now – please – and find a piece of clothing that you’ve been saving to fit back into ‘one day’. (Ladies, I know you have a pair of jeans or ‘that dress’ that you’re holding onto.)
Hold it, sense it…How does it make you feel?
Does this clothing inspire joy and pleasure? Does it uplift and empower you? If so, don’t let me stop you – hang it back up.
OR: Does this item make you feel guilty for not being that size? Does it sap your energy? Make you pick on yourself? Does your energy drop when you feel into this clothing?
If you felt ‘yes’ in response to any of the above, for heaven’s sake please THROW THAT SHIT OUT RIGHT NOW! Donate it, sell it, burn it, I don’t care but darling girl, it is does not have a place in your wardrobe.
So many of us hang onto old items of smaller-sized clothing the way we clutch the false dream of weight loss making our lives all better.
This doesn’t make us move toward a future of bright vibrant health and happiness. These reminders keep us looking backward at a past version of ourselves that somehow feels more worthy than who we are today, locked in comparison of how we’re not good enough right now.
Ill-fitting clothes certainly do nothing to help our ‘fat days’ either. Wearing clothes that pinch and sit awkwardly don’t really motivate us to eat differently, do they? (You’d be in smaller clothes already by now, if they did.) And they certainly don’t make us feel beautiful.
Cleanse your wardrobe of these de-energising items and feel the real weight lift – the weight on your mind!
Buy quality, well-made clothing
We live in a society that values ‘fast fashion’ and I could write for eons about my concerns with ethical fashion and consumerism.
I for one am certainly not perfect. Whether it’s right or not, I do like to wear beautiful clothing and I truly wrestle with a way to do this which fits within my value system.
In the context of positive body image, I have certainly found that wearing pieces that I love and adore, which also fit perfectly, does wonders for how I view my body shape.
And although I don’t always get this right, I aim to buy the best quality clothes that I can afford. Items that are tailored nicely and that I can move freely in. It’s so liberating to open up my wardrobe and be greeted with a suite of options that spark joy and that I know will wear nicely, maintain their proper shape throughout the day and won’t expose my backside or any other part of my body that I don’t wish to share with public viewing.
It takes time. I’m still working on it! But invest in high-quality, ethically made clothing wherever you can afford to. One piece at a time. Start with undies! Oh my – bamboo soft knickers that don’t pinch and itch and simple slide on like good undies should are now a non-negotiable.
You won’t look back! And you won’t have so many ‘fat days’ either.
A final note…
If you are a larger size, I’m sorry for the title of this article and the body prejudice it reflects. I truly mean no offense; ‘I’m having a fat day’ is simply a phrase that I hear bandied around by friends and women all too often. In our everyday vernacular, ‘feeling fat’ has somehow become synonymous with feeling unworthy, unattractive, ill at ease in your own skin.
I’m not saying it’s right. It’s not. And as women, we should question the social injustice embedded in this statement, as well as what we’re really saying when we complain about ‘feeling fat’.
So when you say, “I feel fat”…It is really about your body size? Is it really okay to even complain about this? (How does it make other women feel about their bodies too?) Replace ‘I feel fat’ with a big dose of self-care, self-love and watch it’s hold over you disappear!