To the Girl With an Eating Disorder at the Gym

Here’s a potentially awkward situation, right?

I don’t even know you. You definitely don’t know me. I’m the brunette sometimes hovering over the magazine pile, wishing in vain for an abandoned back issue of Us Weekly to materialize. And sometimes I zone out on the bike, aggressively mouthing the lyrics to Pandora’s Pop & Hip Hop Fitness station. But enough about me.

Maybe it’s best to just be blunt. But bluntness from a stranger seems especially rude. More rude than regular bluntness, even. I guess I just want to tell you that I know. Or I think I know. Assumptions are rude too. But if what I think I know is right, then it’s important to tell you: no one will say this to your face.

You might show up before sunrise. You probably spend an incomprehensible amount of time ellipticizing. Your shoulders could be razor-sharp and your abdomen concave. Maybe every vein in your pin-thin arms is illuminated under the harsh fluorescents, or your protruding kneecaps and unacquainted thighs are buried beneath layers of Lycra and cotton. Maybe those telltale anatomical signs are nowhere to be found. Maybe you look like any other average gym-goer diligently sweating through a cardio session. But I don’t think you are.

Others don’t think so either. But they won’t tell you that. Because really, how could they? It’s personal, it’s private. Maybe it’s not even what they think it is. You probably just have a fast metabolism. Or you’re an athlete. You could just really love the endorphins.

And your dedication is impressive—admirable, even. I bet you get a lot of compliments on that. Casual acquaintances expressing envy over your healthy commitment to fitness. Praise for staying active—obesity is such an issue in this country, you know? If only more people had your drive. How do you stay so motivated? What’s your secret?

I know your secret. I had the same one. And there are others around you harboring it too. But you don’t want to talk to them about it. You certainly don’t want to talk to me about it. You’re fine. If it were really so bad, you’d know it, you’d feel it. You feel great. Well, you feel okay. If it were out of hand, it would be obvious. People would know. People would say something to stop you.

But they do know, and they won’t say a word. No matter what size you shrink down to or how many miles you log. Even if you look the part, even if you don’t. It’s not a broken arm or gaping wound. No one’s going to swoop in and save you, and it’s not worth waiting for them to. None of it is worth it. But you have to see that for yourself.

I hope you do.

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