‘Fat’ is not a feeling – but man, it feels like one. However, it’s not just those with eating disorders who struggle with self- perception. That’s the premise behind a book called ‘Always the Fat Kid‘, published in the States by Dr Warren and Dr Smalley. In it the authors claim that, even after losing weight, those who were overweight as children will continue to interact as ‘fat’ adults. This has a negative affect on their mood, relationships and self-esteem.
Warren (who was overweight as a child) says this: ‘Even more than ten years later, I am not quite as assertive as I would like to be…because as a child I was not used to having positive social interaction. It’s very hard to break these patterns and ‘truths’ about the world you acquire as a child’. (Interview in The Times)
I can testify to something very similar in my own experience. Fear of “fat” (a shorthand for mess and excess) drove me to lose half my body weight. But I kept feeling “fat” all the way down. I kept thinking, ‘just a little more, then I’ll be happy’. Ironically, today it plays out in the other direction. I’ve been at a healthy weight for a while now, but when I’m stressed or overtired, I still feel ashamed. I still feel like “the anorexic girl.” I worry about going out in public and being stared at. I fear I’m still that painfully thin girl who makes strangers flinch. I can still feel sick or emaciated or insubstantial or grotesque – whatever the reality.
The feelings we write on our bodies are powerful and self-reinforcing. Even after physical restoration, our minds and hearts need gospel transformation.
Have you struggled to adjust to physical changes you’ve made? What has helped?