Through-out the day we all tell ourselves stories—stories about how we are smart or dumb, funny or boring or how fat or skinny we are. For a teen girl who feels fat it might sound something like this:
Don’t even look at that muffin—do you want a muffin top? I wonder if we will have a pop-quiz in algebra? Ugh, my jeans are tight. Do they look tight? My ass probably looks huge in them. I am such a fat girl. Oh I have to remember to tell Claudia about band practice later. I’m kinda hungry. No, don’t be hungry. You are always hungry.
I am seeing a newer increase of internalized fat-phobia. This is not anorexia or disordered eating—although it might lead to that. Internalized fat-phobia is a mental state that constantly nags at an individual about their weight, appearance or size. For girls, it means not only constantly obsessing about their weight, but also feeling absolute terror at the prospect of being fat. Even when this does not manifest in an eating disorder, over-exercising or unnatural eating, it can consume a person’s mental state and debilitate their self-esteem.
How do you know if you have an internalized fat phobia?
___Do you think about your weight more than once per hour?
___Does thinking about gaining weight cause you to become overwhelmed with dread and anxiety?
___Do you schedule your days around eating and/or working out?
___Do you frequently think about eating or your weight before falling asleep at night?
___Do you often day dream or wish to lose weight?
These questions were created by a few of my interns who came forward and told me about their own internalized fat phobias. Although they eat and exercise normally, their weight is a constant worry. If you answered ‘yes’ to more than one of these statements than you should seriously consider getting help.
Internalized fat phobia is a precursor to disordered eating and many self-esteem problems. It should not be taken lightly. I encourage both parent and teen readers to address mental fears of weight-gain before they become more serious. I wrote this post so readers can understand that although it is not normal to have phobia and fears about weight, you are not alone in your anxiety. You can reach out for help.