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{#TransparentTuesday} “Fat” is not a feeling

My client Elly used to get super intense “fat attacks”

where despite how good she felt about her body the day before, she would be suddenly struck by the conviction that her body is now fat and disgusting.

As a personal trainer, I wasted a lot of Elly’s time talking about her body during these fat attacks.

We would analyze why she might have gained a little weight the last few days, and talk about some new intentions to focus on for the next few. We would set up stricter habits and stronger accountability for nutrition, sleep, and stress.

I took for granted that Elly knew herself and her body better than I did. I assumed that if she felt fat, it was because she had gained weight.

Eventually, I discovered my mistake.

One day Elly came into our session in tears about how fat she felt, and I just sat with her on the floor as she cried. Following my intuition, I didn’t say anything about her body this time. I didn’t mention water retention, nutrition, or even sleep.

Instead I coached Elly inward, asking her what had been going on for her emotionally, mentally, and energetically earlier that day.

It didn’t take long to discover that her boyfriend had said some stuff to her that made her feel insecure, stupid, and even completely crazy. (I’d met this dude, and in my personal opinion he was a terrible bully.)

Carefully curbing my personal opinion of her partner, I gently asked her how possible it was, on a scale of one to ten, that the stuff he’d said had triggered her fat attack. She sniffled for a minute, then shrugged, then mumbled “I don’t know, like an 8?

I was surprised, but thrilled.

After all, if she was willing to admit that the problem wasn’t food or exercise, we finally had an opportunity to create some positive changes immediately.

I continued asking Elly questions, like what she wanted to say to her boyfriend right now, when she feels most confident and beautiful, and what makes her feel powerless.

By the end of that session (in which we did exactly zero exercising), Elly and I had uncovered that her boyfriend has a high-stress job and takes his irritation out on her, and that this invariably triggered in her a sense of “suddenly” feeling fat and disgusting.

I also asked her what other uncomfortable emotions feeling “fat” might be protecting her from experiencing, and she surprised herself by answering instantly:

“I’m afraid he wants to break up with me.”

This day was a game-changer for me. It’s the day I stopped assuming clients were constantly gaining and losing tiny amounts of fat I couldn’t see, and started addressing the inner issues that are often knocking when a client feels “fat.”

It didn’t take long to realize that this was way more valuable for most of my clients than trying to tighten up their diets or self-care habits every time they felt fat.

Once a client understood that the problem wasn’t her body, we were then able to coach around the real problem. More often than not, this meant that instead of feeling “fat” my client would realize she felt sad, lonely, or angry.

As they say, “fat” is not a feeling. It’s always a cover-up for something else.

If you get “fat attacks,” or other body-image meltdowns in which you suddenly feel super insecure: pay attention. When does it happen? What triggers it?


Try this: Write down exactly what you were thinking and feeling right before.

Ask yourself: if your “fat attack” was a distraction from something, what might it be a distraction from? If it was protecting you from experiencing an uncomfortable feeling, which feeling might that be?

Keep a journal with all your “fat attack” notes, and see if you can start noticing trends and triggers for what sets it off. Those are the real issues you need to be working on.


As for Elly, she eventually realized that her boyfriend was the main trend and trigger, decided she didn’t like the way he made her feel, and broke up with him. (I was so excited the day she told me that I nearly hug-tackled her on the treadmill.)

Your body is not the problem. Fat is not a feeling. Dig deeper, and see what really needs to be addressed. It might be harder at first, but you deserve to work on the real issues.

Wishing you a beautiful Tuesday!


P.S. I am officially getting rid of my old Remodel Fitness Facebook page. Please come join me at my *brand new* Jessi Kneeland business page, where I’ll be posting from now on!

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