If you are a woman, chances are you have heard those three words today.
Or maybe you thought them yourself.
But what do these words mean?
It can mean many different things for different women depending on their life experiences. In every case however, these meanings have their origin in implicit memories (see previous blog). Implicit memories are “experienced” as a combination of body sensations, feelings and beliefs. They are body memories often without a conscious story.
So if we really want to understand and help the client’s experience when they say “I Feel Fat,” then we have to ACCESS the implicit memory. We have to use the language of the body to find the story.
How do we do that?
The acronym S-I-F-T provides some clues. Each letter stands for a different dimension of our lived experience. This process, coined by Dan Siegel in The Mindful Brain, involves using mindfulness to learn from our bodies.
Sensations—How is your body responding when you “feel fat”? Notice what is happening in your body in the present moment—muscle tension, heat, movement, or stillness.
Images--What images or memories come to you when you calmly focus on “feeling fat”? Notice what other images and memory snippets your body starts to connect to.
Feelings—what emotions are actually present with the”feeling” of fat? Sadness? Anger? Shame? Try to stay in the stance of observing with curiosity.
Thoughts—what thoughts, words, and beliefs bubble up as you become focused on “feeling fat.” Allow an open, non-judgmental attitude.
S-I-F-T can surprise clients. Suddenly underlying meanings and connections are revealed.
When I work with female clients who state “I Feel Fat,” we begin with becoming more calm, curious and mindful. This calms our physiology down and sets the stage for learning. For one woman, “I feel fat” leads to a sensation of nausea and shame. The body sensation of nausea leads her to memories of tense lunches where she was teased about her weight during grade school. “I Feel Fat” was the way she had labeled the stored memories and related feelings of fear and helplessness. Standard techniques can still be employed in therapy for body image and eating issues, but guided mindfulness can be a kind of detective work that allows us to directly work with the body’s story.
Want to learn more about working with eating disorders? If you live in the greater Louisville area, please join the Kentucky Psychological Association on Friday, May 16 from 9-5. A panel of speakers that includes therapists, dietitians and physicians will discuss their ideas about the treatment of eating disorders. I am excited to be one of the presenters and will focus on the mind/body connection.
Here’s the link: http://www.kpa.org/events/event_details.asp?id=421020