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Relationship between feeling fat and inhibited emotional expression in women Simlett, Maria

Abstract

Feeling fat, regardless of one's actual size and shape, is an experience that is commonplace among females in our society, and one that can have detrimental effects on their health and well being. Despite this fact, very little research has been conducted that examines women's experience of feeling fat. Clinical literature has suggested that feeling fat may be a result of females transposing emotions that they do not recognize or express onto their bodies; however, there is no empirical data to date that supports this hypothesis. In the present study, relationships between feeling fat and inhibited emotional expression were explored in 143 women between the ages of 20-59 years. The participants completed 4 measures of feeling fat (frequency per day and per week, intensity, and degree) and 3 measures of inhibited emotional expression (silencing the self, anger expression, and emotional expression). In addition, a subset of women (n=45) responded to the question, "What do you mean when you think or say 'I feel fat'?. Results indicated that there were significant bivariate relationships between feeling fat and inhibited emotional expression. Standard multiple regression analyses suggested that two of the inhibited emotional expression variables (Externalized Self Perception and Divided Self) contributed the most to the models of feeling fat. Analysis of the meaning of feeling fat question indicated that feeling fat is primarily a physical experience, there are differences in how the women describe this experience, and some women have an awareness that feeling fat is exacerbated by emotions brought on by internal and external triggers. Possible explanations for the findings are discussed, and future research directions are suggested.

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