by Irene Rubaum-Keller
Originally published in Strive magazine
“You look just like a Rubens painting,” said Tim, a friend and talented painter himself.
“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 eighteen 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
© Irene Rubaum-Keller 2010 - 2013
Compare Your Weight To
These Famous Women
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 thin.
Compare Your Weight
•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.