While some of the most frustrating symptoms of IBS are physical, we don’t often talk about the mental symptoms of living with IBS. One of the biggest challenges people with IBS face is they feel fat after eating and struggle with their body image due to bloating. Bloating can cause your body to look very different from “normal,” and it can be frustrating to overcome.
Today, we’ll review some factors that affect body image and some strategies for promoting body image resilience when living with IBS. Body image resilience refers to navigating your negative feelings around “Why do I look fat after I eat” to protect your mental health and well-being.
Why Do I Look Fat after I Eat?
Unfortunately, we live in a society that praises thinness above all else. This focus means that how we often feel centres on how we look.
When you’re constantly bloated, this can really play with your self-esteem. While it’s normal for bodies to experience a small amount of bloating throughout the day (after all, the food has to go somewhere!), IBS takes it to an extreme.
With IBS, you can go from a fairly flat stomach to a “6 months pregnant” belly in the blink of an eye. It can be extremely jarring to see such a large change so quickly. And it doesn’t help that the bloating also causes you to feel physically unwell.
IBS Belly Bloat after Eating – Body Image Resilience
Body shame and poor body image are incredibly common in people with IBS. Learning how to practice body image resilience can be an excellent first step in moving past your focus on your body and instead focusing on your being as a whole. Working with a mental health professional is may also be beneficial if you think your body image and dietary restrictions are linked, as disordered eating and eating disorders are not uncommon in IBS.
Promote positive self-talk
We all have a little voice inside our heads, which can either help or hinder us. Unfortunately, negative self-talk can often get out of hand, leading to poor body image and mental health.
Try to be mindful of how you talk to yourself. Be critical about what you’re telling yourself. One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was to speak to myself the way I’d speak to a friend. You wouldn’t bash a friend for looking bloated, so you shouldn’t bash yourself.
The next time you notice a negative thought related to your body image like “Why Do I Look Fat after I Eat?”, try reframing it to ” “I am feeling bloated right now because it is normal to experience bloating after eating.” Remind yourself that bloating is temporary. Also, remind yourself that you deserve love, respect, and belonging, regardless of your body.
Unfollow for better mental health
Ever wondered how social media impacts body image? While social media can be a great way to feel like a part of a community and get to know other people experiencing the same struggles that you are, it can also lead to poor body image.
It may be time for a social media detox if you feel triggered by the posts you see on social media. Ask yourself whether the account you’re following uplifts or brings you down. If they bring you down, unfollow them!
Set goals that have nothing to do with appearance
Our bodies are amazing for what they can do, and we do a disservice to ourselves by only praising them and appreciating them for their appearance.
One of the best ways to develop body image resilience is to set activity goals that have nothing to do with appearance. For some people, this may mean exercising to build strength. For others, it may mean improving endurance. It could also mean exercising for healthy aging rather than weight loss. By making the goal about something other than weight loss, you give yourself a chance to succeed in ways you could never have imagined.
Ask yourself what you truly value.
When your identity is tied up in your appearance, you lose sight of who you are. It limits what you think you can achieve and impairs your ability to work towards fulfilling your talents and potential.
As adults, our goals in life often include a goal body, and many of us can’t imagine our happiest selves without also imagining a different body. But at the end of the day, if your mission in life is to be smaller, you’ll never find true fulfillment.
Take the time to think about what you truly want from your life, appearances aside. Do you have career goals you’d like to work towards? Parenting goals? Friendship goals? Once you take appearance out of the equation, it becomes so much easier to identify what is truly important to you.
Find a support system.
You don’t have to suffer in silence if you live with a negative body image. Try opening up to a person you trust. If you feel uncomfortable talking to a friend or family member about it, consider speaking with a registered dietitian to help you navigate your IBS triggers and minimize symptoms that may influence your mental health.
Interested in working on body image and bloating with a registered dietitian?
Book a complimentary 15-minute call with me to see whether we’re a good fit for one another.