If you find yourself saying, “I feel fat,” or other negative self-talk, you actually may be talking to yourself about other feelings or thoughts in your life. Decoding these messages will stop the negative body thoughts and also help you confront the underlying issue you are facing in your life.
“A negative body thought such as “I feel fat” might be a way to distract you from a particular feeling such as loneliness, sadness, or despair,” Houston, TX therapist Rachel Eddins
wrote in a recent post
. “What happens is that the uncomfortable feeling (loneliness, sadness, despair) gets translated into a negative body thought.
Imagine you are dating someone and you find out that s/he went on a date with someone else when you had agreed on being exclusive. You decide that you’re not going to say anything because you don’t want to “push him/her away.” Suddenly you find yourself criticizing your body. “My thighs are disgusting, I feel so fat.” What happened? Can you decode this message into feelings? Can you see how the discomfort you felt about the situation was displaced into your body? Were you feeling disgusted about the situation? The negative body thoughts helped you from having to confront the situation. Instead, it was directed into your body.”
Decoding the Feelings:
Eddins provided an exercise for the next time you find yourself with these thoughts:
1. Which adjectives (disgusting, etc) did you use to describe yourself?
2. What aspect of your personality or situation in life do those words describe? I feel fat might equate to feeling heavy, which might equate to feeling sad or depressed. If you say that your arms are too big, what else in your life feels “too big” right now? Is something overwhelming you? I have a big behind might equate to responsibility constantly following you. Your therapist can help you with this if you feel stuck.
3. When you have negative thoughts ask, “I’m yelling at myself about my body. I wonder what would be on my mind right now if I weren’t criticizing myself?” What thoughts and feelings preceded the negative thoughts?
4. Use your understanding of how your negative thoughts reflect emotional aspects of your life to be compassionate with yourself. When you notice that you’re having a bad body image thought, remember that it’s not really about your body.
5. If you find yourself resisting this exercise, “you don’t understand, I really am too fat”, see if you can go a little deeper. The language that you use disguises feelings. There’s a reason that your negative body thoughts occur at certain times and that you pick particular words to describe yourself.
“Decoding your negative thoughts helps you directly face other issues in your life that bother you,” Eddins said. “It also helps you move in the direction of acceptance as you increasingly understand that the words you use to talk to yourself about your body are not objective facts.”
Photo By Daniela Brown [Creative Commons http://www.flickr.com/photos/danibrownphotography/]