How Can I Convince Her?

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.

 

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