Feeling Fat? How to Feel Better Right Now

Man's Feet on a Scale
Man's Feet on a Scale. Nico De Pasquale Photography/Getty Images

Whenever I utter the phrase "I feel so fat," to a fellow trainer of mine, steam shoots from her ears and she breathes fire. Then she shouts, "Fat is NOT a feeling!" 

Of course, she's right, but just like tomatoes seem more like a vegetable than a fruit, fat can sometimes feel like a real emotion rather than an inanimate substance that sits around in our body, uncaring and unmoving. Fat may not have a soul or a spirit, but it sometimes feels like it's out to get us.

Technically, fat may not be a feeling, but it sure feels that way when it happens, doesn't it? In fact, feeling fat usually has nothing to do with our actual weight. We often feel fat during the following scenarios:

  • After eating too much - There's nothing worse than that slightly sick feeling you get when you went just a little too far - An extra slice of pizza or going for thirds when you should've stopped at seconds...maybe even firsts.
  • When you're retaining water - This may be due to hormonal fluctuations in women, too much salt in the diet or, believe it or not, not drinking enough water. Of course, there can be other causes and if it's a daily problem, you should see you doctor for a diagnosis.
  • When you see someone thinner than you are - Suddenly, it's as though you can actually feel your love handles right through your clothes, or those saddlebags swinging behind you as you walk. We know that comparing ourselves to others is a bad idea, but it's not always easy to avoid.
  • When you put on your jeans after taking them out of the dryer - Who doesn't feel fat when yanking on pants that are two sizes smaller than what went into the washer? If you're out there, I want to meet you.

What to Do When You Feel Fat

  • Silence your inner critic - Your inner critic says you're fat? Remind him or her that whatever is causing you to feel fat doesn't necessarily mean you are fat. The situation is temporary. Try the 5-year rule here: Ask yourself if this is something you'll really care about in 5 years. If the answer is no, tell your inner critic to stuff it.
  • Wear comfortable, flattering clothes - I once had a client who would deliberately wear too-tight pants whenever she felt fat. This was both punishment and a way to curtail any extra calories throughout the day, but all it really did make her feel even worse. When you feel bad about yourself you need comfort, not punishment. Wear clothes that fit well and make you feel good and you may find you don't feel so fat anymore.
  • Do something healthy - Take a walk or drink a big glass of water. Go buy a bunch of veggies at the grocery store and chop them up when you get home or look up a new healthy recipe. Pick one of my workouts or sign up for one of my free exercise programs and make a plan to get started. Sometimes doing one healthy thing can remind you that you always have a second chance...and a third...and a fourth....etc.
  • Drink plenty of water - Water is the single most important thing you can drink to avoid getting dehydrated and retaining water. It may seem counterintuitive...Why would you want to put even more water in your body when it's already full? However, drinking water will help your kidneys flush out that excess fluid. The more hydrated you are, the less you'll retain water. Try this Hydration Calculator to find out how much water you should drink.
  • Keep a food journal - If you 'feel fat' more often than not, meaning you feel bloated, maybe there's something else going on. Are you skipping meals and then eating too much later Drinking too much caffeine and not enough water? Is there a certain food that always makes you feel bloated on a regular basis? Are you lactose intolerant? Keep track of what you eat each day and consider working with a dietician to find out what the culprit might be.
  • Work on your body image - It's hard to stay confident in one's skin when we're bombarded with the 'ideal bodies' we see on TV, in magazines and on the Internet. Learning how to focus on your good parts rather than your flaws can help you avoid the I-feel-fat syndrome.
  • Laugh at yourself - Feeling fat is certainly uncomfortable and, in the moment, it can feel pretty awful. But, in the big scheme of things, is this momentary discomfort really that big of a deal? Will you care about this in a week? A month? A year? We tend to take ourselves just a little too seriously...remind yourself to lighten up. This too shall pass.