Why do women feel fat even when they’re not?

By: Magda Walczak

Low self esteem. Lack of self worth. Poor self image. It’s like a disease. More often than not, women feel fat, even when they’re not.

I’m on a health kick. I’m down 8 lbs out of the 24 I want to lose and today I weighed in at the gym. A personal trainer lurked behind me and instead of feeling good that I dropped 8 lbs in the past three weeks, I felt like shit. According to the trainer – and the frustrating body fat machine – I’m still in the “obese” range for body fat. Now, if you’ve ever seen me you know I’m not obese. I’m not skinny and I never will be, but the junk in my trunk is not exactly excessive to the point where I can be grouped obese. Anyways, that’s not the point. The point is, that even though I know I’m not obese, I feel fat. All the time.

On the drive home from the gym, I felt really down instead of celebrating my achievement so far. Also, I had this funny feeling lurking in back of my mind… like “I’ve been here before.” There was definitely another time when I knew  I wasn’t as chubby as I was told, but I felt horrible about myself. So I looked to my blog. I found this post from 2009, discussing my self-image as I looked back on photos from years prior. In that post, I posed the question of why women are so self-critical. Why do we look down at ourselves and why are we never happy. Just as I predicted in that post, now, in 2014, I would kill for my 2009 body! Well, maybe not kill, but I’d gladly swop. I mean, I was thinner, much healthier and there was just a hint of lines on my face vs the quite visible marks I now carry.

The question was relevant in 2009 and it’s relevant now – What is wrong with women? Why are we so hard on ourselves when it comes to physical beauty? Why do I, like millions of other women, feel fat when in reality I’m just “not skinny?”

Boringly enough, I’m going to take the common position and blame the media. Here’s why:

There are no more “real” people on TV in 2014 than there were in 2009, and when they’re “real,” they’re actually too chubby to be relatable.

Let’s look at the “real” folks on TV. You have Rebel Wilson, Melissa McCarthy and Lena Dunham and that’s about it. All three of these ladies are a) obviously overweight and b) funny. They’re not seen as glamorous. They’re not “normal.” Most of the magazine stories about them include mention of their weight. Hell, many of their story lines in their TV shows and films mention it! There’s literally no one “normal” a woman can relate to in popular media. And no, don’t mention Mindy Kaling because she falls in the funny category and there’s so much discussion of her “normal” size that it totally makes her irrelevant for this argument. Also, that’s literally one person out of the hundreds of household TV and film names.

Magda dressed up, cooking

“Look mom! I’m obese!”

No offense to those mentioned, but I’m nowhere near their size. Lena Dunham actually isn’t that big comparatively, but she’s not fit, which also makes her unrelatable. For reference, as of the date this blog is published, I’m 5’6″, 159lbs, and that’s after losing 8 lbs. Oh, and I’m a size 8 or 10 so no, I’m not huge. Yet by media standards I’m a big, fat blob.

Sound exaggerated? It’s not. Next time you’re out shopping, or at the gym or maybe visiting a friend with teenage daughters, eavesdrop a little bit. Listen to the young girls talk. It’s scary what they consider attractive. Sure, things have improved. It’s no longer a size 00 that’s the ideal, but it’s still a size 2. Kate Upton (at 145lbs but at 5’10”) is probably the closest to “normal” as we get in terms of weight in media.

So what’s the solution? I wish I had one. It’s not something we can just change. These are society standards which take more than one blog rant to affect. All I ask is that you, the reader, takes this seriously and think about it. If you have daughters, expose them to different female heroines with different body types. Show them beauty in every shape while instilling the value of physical fitness, health and exercise. Think twice when commenting on how women look (which we all do!). As with most challenges in life, awareness is the first step.

Women’s low self image is a problem. We’re all to blame and it’ll take all of us to affect it. I sincerely hope that when I look back at this post 4-5 years from now it will be to remember how silly I was at 33 because at 37 I will feel fit and beautiful. Sadly, something tells me that won’t be the case…

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Always hungry. Nuts for dogs. Love to travel. I write about marketing, food, web, travel and whatever else strikes my fancy.

2 thoughts on “Why do women feel fat even when they’re not?

  1. I actually think I have the best self esteem now than I’ve ever had. I used to weigh around 120 but that was when I was 17 and did karate for several hours a day 6 days a week. At that time I still had low self esteem. Now I’m 29, 169lbs., and working to lose weight. I’ve tried time and time again but it’s not the same this time. I joke about how I’m going to be skinny on FB but really I just want to be comfortable. This is the heaviest I’ve ever been and I’m just uncomfortable with my body. My beauty standards have changed so drastically, I’ve learned so much about myself and what I think is beautiful. But I completely understand what you’re talking about. I was like that and at times still am. Great post. :)

    -Mai

  2. Try to stay physically active some how. Don’t go to Gyms if it intimidating, or you don’t like that type of atmosphere. If you feel fit, you are more likely to feel secure in how you look.
    Find things that you can do and enjoy. Learn about nutrition. Especially with All the GMO foods and just general crap that is not healthy.
    Understand that there is NO shortcut. But if you are persistent with diet and exercise, after the first 6 months (even for the most out of shape person, with an un healthy die) It is just part of a routine. A routine that has Mental as well as physical benefits that you will only realize if you make the effort.
    Start slow, and just keep at it. You will look back on your journey in a few months, and realize that you are happier, healthier and it permeates everything that you do.

    You will thank yourself.

    JB

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