I tell her how damaging diet culture is and how it makes us think we must shrink ourselves and deprive ourselves of so many good things, and she nods, agrees, then takes a bite out of her meal bar. I tell her eating less than 1500 calories a day can cause lasting harm to her metabolism, that carbs are not the enemy, her discomfort with her body is not because of her size but because they tell her it is. And she knows, she says, and she believes she is beautiful and worthy even though she’s fat — and that word comes out like a stale piece of bread, hard but spongey, falling from her mouth with a dull thud as if it is such a distasteful word to say. She says she must have zero pieces of bread because if she has one she’ll have twenty and there’ll be no stopping her from eating the deliciously whole and dense pieces of fat. So she must have zero. She must always strive for zero. But it should not be even though, as if the scale is offset by an arbitrary number someone said is wrong for her height, and so she must find a way to strike a balance, stretch herself too thin for even distribution, though her bones will inevitably break under the pressure of so much stretching. Because she was not meant to reach so high for such an unreachable goal — an ideal so absurd in the name of health and beauty that we will destroy our sanity and grow disheveled just trying to even out the scale. Though I know better, she isn’t aware that while she’s saying she knows I’m right her hands are reaching for the tape to measure how much less space her waist is taking after a week of zero carbs and zero sugars and zero cheats and zero appears to be the goal. She keeps reaching, stretching, thinking she’s becoming taller when she’s only growing smaller. And I fear how far she’ll go to get to zero. Even though she claims to know where to draw the line, I see the eraser marks streaking the floors of yesterday where the line was crossed long before I told her that she is beautiful just as she is even though she tells me, heavily, she knows.