Julia Roberto

For The Girls at a Normal Weight

Your feet are pounding on a treadmill for exactly an hour each day but the second you get off, you look in the mirror and your hips are too wide. You burned more than 500 calories. That’s enough to cover your breakfast and lunch. You’ll be okay today.

Yesterday, you only ran a mile at exactly 1.5 miles per hour faster than you normally did, and you felt bloated all day. You cried after dinner. You considered throwing up but if you do, you’re scared your heart will stop. It works hard.

You wake up and it’s Thursday and you’re supposed to weigh. You drag your sore and lifeless limbs out of bed and take the elevator down to the gym in a baggy sweatshirt and sweatpants.

You get into the locker room and strip off your layers into a sports bra and spandex. You weigh. You gained a pound. You cry.

And you put your clothes back on and go back to your room to get ready for class. You resent your cereal a little more. You eat a little slower. You know it’s not fair. You wonder if you’ll ever eat fries again. You dress yourself and pack everything you need, the homework you did three days ago, early, because you had free time.

You take the stairs to the fifth floor for class. Your calf hurts. It’s been sore for a week and you’ve ran 18.75 miles on it since you first felt a twinge of pain. You feel your thighs rub together and that pain stings a little bit more.

When you’re sitting on your couch watching TV with your friends later, you will curl up in a ball, in the same sweatshirt and sweatpants you sported to the gym that morning. You want to cry but exhaustion forbids it. You want to sleep, but you are not allowed to go to sleep until all your friends do. You do not need sleep. You are hungry but you’re not allowed to eat till 9. You want ice cream but you had a Starburst earlier.

When you do get a snack, you know it will be a 90 calorie granola bar that falls apart when you bite into it. You wonder if the person behind the counter knows that you don’t actually enjoy these bars and you wonder if they’ll ever God damn run out of them, so you have an excuse not to buy them.

Find yourself on the couch again, picking the crumbs off your sweatshirt with your spindly fingers. You feel like you’re thirty pounds underweight but you are actually 15 pounds heavier than they told you you had to be when you were underweight. Back when the world stopped spinning if you ate more than a salad for dinner. Back when your mother massaged your back and cried tears onto your cold flesh because she kept running into bone when she tried to soften you.

Your heart is beating slowly, it feels shallow. You feel shallow, you feel dumb. You curl up in a ball again. You want someone to hold you, to hold you together but you can’t bear for them to feel the flesh you thought you could destroy.

You are always destroying, when they all think you’re building, creating a new space for a new body to fit into. You are no longer the body that sat next to your sister as she told you that you were gonna die if you didn’t eat some more. You are no longer an extra large serving of apple crisp because you ran a little too long today. No one even cares about what you eat.

Except for you. You know the decision between noodles and broccoli is a moment of hell masked by a calm, cool exterior of a person who is supposed to be okay by now, you were supposed to be okay by now.

Your mother says you have made no progress and you cry because you look normal. You are no longer a fragile little bird whose wings are being mended carefully, you have already been tossed to the blue skies and sometimes they get a little too stormy for you. You are scared. Your wing is healed but maybe you don’t know how to use it yet, maybe you feel safer on the ground watching the other birds circle the earth and paint the world with their colors, but that’s not your home.

You may not be ready, but you should fly with them. You might fall and you might hit the ground so hard that you feel like you are missing a piece somewhere, somehow inside of you that makes it possible, but it is, and you have it.

And you may not be ready for the world. But the world is ready for you.