by Irene Rubaum-Keller
Originally published in Strive magazine
“You look just like a Rubens painting,” said Tim, a friend and talented
“Thank you,” I said, not knowing, at eighteen, what a Rubens looked like. I
assumed Tim had paid me a high compliment, and felt like a beautiful
goddess. Then I saw a Rubens. I went from beautiful goddess to morbidly
obese in an instant. How could Tim think I looked like that? At eighteen I
was 5’7” and 140 lbs. Not skinny, but a Rubens?
I’m still 5’7”, not eighteen anymore, and now weigh 130 lbs. As far as the
weight charts are concerned, I’m at the low end of normal for my age and
height and you know what? I still feel fat! Not everyday but about 70% of
the time and I know I’m not alone.
What do we mean when we say we feel fat? I asked many people this
question. I found few men who feel this way and few women who didn’t.
Here’s a sampling of what the women said:
Jane, 5’5” 119 lbs., knows it’s going to be a fat day if she has to wear her fat
pants. She says, “I just know on that day I won’t feel good about how I look.
No matter what anyone says to me, I will feel fat the entire day. I’ll feel
antisocial, disgusted with myself, self-conscious and very insecure. All I’ll
want to do is hide out at home and wear baggy boxers and a big T-shirt.”
Grace, 5’6” 125 lbs: “When I say I feel fat, I mean I feel gross. I feel ugly,
hopeless, depressed and afraid that I’m always going to feel that way.”
Linda, 5’2” 110 lbs: “It’s hormonal for me. Right before my period I know I’m
going to feel fat. Doesn’t matter how much I actually weigh. Bloated and fat
for at least three days every month. Sometimes I hate being a woman.”
Why We Feel Fat
I saw something fascinating on TV recently. A swimsuit
designer, who designs for regular women, had a fashion
show. There were women of all sizes and shapes
modeling bathing suits. It was shocking! The first model
was a size 10. She was wearing a bikini and, to my
brainwashed eye, she looked fat. The models who were
bigger than a size 10 looked huge to me.
Then they had one very thin woman, size 4, in a bikini
and she looked “normal” to me. I realized that we NEVER see normal
weighted women modeling swimsuits or anything else for that matter.
Considering that the average American woman is 5’4” and 142 lbs., it’s no
wonder so many of us feel fat.
What creates a self-image are the messages we get from outside of us about
who we are. When we’re very young the brain tends to accept all new data
as true. So, if your parents told you that you were smart, cute and chubby
often enough, those traits became part of your self- image. If the popular
girls were all tall, blonde and thin and you were a normal weighted
brunette, that experience becomes part of your self-image. If all the models
and actresses were significantly thinner than you, then that became part of
your self-image as well.
“The self-image creates an emotional set-point in terms of body image and
the belief in one’s power to regulate body weight,” explains Steven Reiter,
Ph.D., clinical psychologist in Westwood, California. When we push past
that emotional set point and really begin to make changes, by losing weight
or feeling better about how we currently look, the old self wants to pull you
right back to what’s comfortable. It’s very difficult to change your self-image,
but it is possible.
For the past eight years I’ve worked at UCLA’s Risk Factor Obesity Clinic
helping people with the psychological aspects of weight loss and weight
maintenance. I’ve seen hundreds of people lose vast amounts of weight. My
experience tells me that it’s not just extra weight but how we feel about
ourselves in general that needs to be addressed. Whether we think we’re fat
and we’re not, or we really are overweight, low self-esteem tends to be at the
core of it.
How To Turn A Fat Day Around
Here are some simple things you can do to help yourself feel better when
you’re having a fat day:
* Go to the gym. Not just to work out for your health, but also to spend
some time in the locker room. Here you will see what real bodies look like.
This is the only “fair” place for you to compare your body to others.
* Think Sophia Loren. She’s not 23, she’s not a size 4, and she’s gorgeous.
* Dress and act as if you were having a thin day. Pretend you feel good
about your body. Again think Sophia Loren.
* Be aware of how you talk to yourself on a fat day. See if you can be nicer.
* Find all the studies that show men prefer normal weighted women to
thin women. Read them often.
* Get into therapy if your self-image is poor and it’s making you miserable.
It’s worth the investment in yourself.
* Spend some time looking at a Rubens. If you’re built like that, you’ll see
the beauty in it. If you’re not, for a few moments, you might just feel thin.
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© 2010-2011 Irene Rubaum-Keller
Weight To These
To get a general idea of your
weight vs. theirs, allow 5 lbs. for
every inch in height. For
example, if you’re 5’7” and want
to compare yourself to Sarah
Jessica Parker’s 5’4”, add 15 lbs.
to her weight, since you’re 3
inches taller. So at 5’7” you’d
need to weigh 115 lbs. to be as
•Sarah Jessica Parker 5’4” 100 lbs.
•Jennifer Aniston 5’5” 112 lbs.
•Claudia Schiffer 5’11” 128 lbs.
•Christy Turlington 5’10” 119 lbs.
•Kate Moss 5’6” 105 lbs.