6 Reasons You May Feel Fat

Have you ever worn a bra that was itchy and cut into your skin? You can’t think of anything else except the moment when you can rush into your house and take that thing off. What we wear is important, but even more what affects us even more is what we wear underneath our clothes. How we feel emotionally about our body is not much different. To anyone else, our body might look just fine and the same as it did yesterday, but it doesn’t matter what anyone else sees—some days we just feel “ugh…” 

Fat is not a feeling. A defined emotion is frustrated, happy, sad, surprised, angry, but for some reason we reach for the inaccurate and insensitive word "fat." It doesn’t matter how overweight, underweight, or completely normal a woman’s body mass index is, she still has those days. 

One way to overcome this big feeling is to break it down into small parts. What does it really mean to “feel fat”? I’ve listed four reasons below from personal experience, but please comment below (or email me at hi@kaseybshuler.com) if you can relate in any other way. What we bring to light becomes light! 

1. Out of Control

My fat feelings may be triggered by an extra jiggle that wasn’t there before, the effort of squeezing shrunken workout pants over my legs, a bloated stomach, or catching a glimpse of my belly button poking out through the fabric of my shirt. My body has pushed beyond the limits of my clothing, so I feel out of control of my own body and its boundaries. A simple solution to this can be to buy better-fitting clothes. My stomach still sticks out from my ab separation, so clothes that are made of fabric that don’t hug my body make me feel more comfortable. Another is to eat foods that agree with my body. Eating too much sodium, or foods that cause inflammation could cause fluid retention. 

Other times, the root goes deeper than skin surface and I need to address my need to feel in control and my frustration of being unable to reign it all in. The Bible says that God is the one who is in control, so I don’t need to feel like my world is falling apart when my stomach falls out of line. When I remember God keeps it all together, even when I'm sleeping, I can breathe a sigh of relief without worrying about how big the breath makes my belly. 

God is in control:

"The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein" Psalm 24:1

"Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade on your right hand." Psalm 121:4-5

He is good:

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ Exodus 19:5

It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Psalm 127:2

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32

2. Weighed Down

I looked down at our bathroom scale the other day, just curious to see what I weighed. I stepped on the scale and looked at the black and white numbers. That day, the numbers said to me, “I am a measure of gravity’s pull on your body. Stuff yourself with the delightful food of this world, and it will reflect how much you are investing into your physical ties to the earth.” I stepped away in detached disgust, knowing that these were just numbers and had no impact on my identity, yet they did reflect my decision to eat too many sweet potato chips the other day. 

When I feel fat, I feel weighed down, both physically and spiritually. The scale might say I’m heavier, but my soul carries the brunt of the weight. The spiritual feelings range from anxiety to discouragement to shame depending on the day. But I know that God made me to stand upright, and to fix my eyes on heaven. There is so much language in the Bible about lifting us up out of the mire, out of the sea, out of the sticky places in our own minds. The Lord can us free from our own weightiness when we receive these words: 

Anxiety: Let the Words of God speak kindness to you. “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” Proverbs 12:25

Discouragement: God is with you. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Shame: When you look to the Lord, you can’t also look at yourself: "Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed." Psalm 34:5

3. Discontent

If I’m feeling fat, I’m not happy with how I am. I’m focused on me, and I don’t like what I see (or how I feel). I would never say this out loud within earshot of my two-year-old daughter, because I want to protect her heart. So what am I doing to mine? I say it in my head, or let it loose to my husband so I can justify being irritated at the little things that never bothered me before. 

My discontentedness helps me empathize with the people in Nehemiah’s time. They were upset because they just heard the words of the law. They were struck with their own incompetence to live up to God’s goodness. Nehemiah encouraged them: "Don't be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!” (Nehemiah 8:10). Maybe I’m discontent because, like the Israelites, I know how things should be and how they are not

But joy in the Lord lifts my soul above the fog of discontentment, and hope anchors my feet in assurance. My body may not be perfect now, but I can bend my aching knees to the ground in humility, put my hands together in prayer, and point my fingers upwards and say with confidence, “on earth as it is in heaven.” I can be grateful for what I have now (working legs! flexible arms with opposing thumbs! eyes to see and ears to hear!) and know that His work isn’t even done yet! There is more life to live here, and infinitely more than we can imagine when Jesus comes back to restore us. 

4. energy buildup

If I have been sitting or sick for a long time, I feel “fat,” but really, it’s just that I have a built-up energy reserve and feel unbalanced. It’s like a full uncomfortable feeling, and the best way to relieve the pressure is to move it out. The easiest way is to go outside on a walk, or do ten minutes of house chores, or a series of squats, wall push-ups, and down dogs.

5. unmet physical needs

My stomach may be bloated because I ate something my stomach disagreed with. This happened to me for years until I discovered that I was intolerant to gluten, peanuts, and corn because of hypothyroidism. I went on an elimination diet and did allergy testing. Sometimes I simply need to drink more water, move more, get sleep, and focus on resting. The gut gets inflamed as a stress response, so when we can get to the root of that, we can usually decrease that bloated feeling and return to our normal state.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He is mindful that we are dust.”  Psalm 103:13-14

But let’s not make it too complicated. We are born of dust, and to dust we shall return. We need to be nourished with physical elements, and if we are missing out on those, our body lets us know. His design for us is perfect. What a great Creator we have!

6. Hormones

And ladies, sometimes we just feel fat for no good reason. I used to feel terrible about myself every month when I was on birth control pills, and that was an artificially-induced bad feeling. I didn't even realize it until I stopped. Outside of medication, hormones are a way of life. Every monthly cycle is a reminder that we are created to create life (we being women in general…not that every woman’s story is to birth a baby). And even if we experience unpleasant side effects, they are the body’s way of rearranging itself to bring life forth. And, they are temporary. Instead of dreading each month’s symptoms, may the Lord turn our mourning into praise. Let the waves of hormones be buffeted by our anchor of hope.

“…we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul…” Hebrews 6:18b-19a

When these bits of self-care can’t displace the inner dialogue of “I hate everything (including myself)," I go to 1 John 3:19-20:

"And by this we will know that we belong to the truth, and will assure our hearts in His presence: If our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and He knows all things.”

Even when my heart says I’m bad and fat and disgraceful, God is greater. He says I’m good because He is good. And greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world. Greater is He who is in you because you are loved. And you are not fat, even when you feel like it. 

Reflect and Respond

  1. Do you have days when you “feel fat”?

  2. Can you pick out which emotions you are really feeling (angry, sad, frustrated, exhausted)?

  3. Can you place those emotions with the truth of the gospel? If you can’t, put them in the proverbial trash. Don’t let them take up room in your heart and weigh you down. Look to the face of Jesus and never be ashamed.