Cover Photo: An illustration by Natasha Jiwa of one woman with her hair in a bun who seems to be daydreaming, surrounded by nude women who look at her encouragingly.
Illustration by Natasha Jiwa (@isyoursco) via Instagram

What I Learned About the Women I Love on the Other Side of the Battle With My Body

It took about a year for me to understand the bulimia was an expression of my anger. A way to hurt my body and myself, and a desperate attempt to regain normalcy.

Do you feel like you’ve lost something?

It’s understandable you’re hurting yourself.

I’m not myself,

It’s just a practical solution!

OhThese don’t fit.

You’re filling a void.

I ate six apples,Strange.

*

You don’t look much different at all, Mona.

The way you are seeing yourself is not real. You have goggles on. Try and be accepting of change, that your weight or your appearance do not define you.

*

Who is that?

needed

Took you long enough,

It took me almost thirty years to learn to hate my body. To examine it the way many women surrounding me examine their own.

I noticed so early we weren’t the same.

You were completely oblivious.My whole life I compared my body to yours while you strode through comfortable and confident. I would look down at myself and think, why am I so soft?

I didn’t feel ‘fat’ necessarily, but I looked so different than you did. I was soft, round. You were so . . . straight and hard. Thin.

You ate so much. I wouldn’t eat half of what you did, I made a point of it. And still I was always heavier.

Finally, something my body did better than yours.

They just made me look even bigger. Boobs were just more fat.

When we went to our grandmother’s house, she would pretend to snap your arms, complaining about how skinny you were, asking mom why she wasn’t feeding you, but me?

She’d pat my arm approvingly. ‘So strong!’ she’d say. I knew what ‘strong’ meant.

I’m in control of this. I know that sounds naïve. But I can stop at any time.

You’re filling a void.

I gained the same amount of weight once.

My first job, when I was a secretary at GE, I gained ten kilos.

It was the first time my meals were not home cooked. On Secretary Day, we were each given a rose and went outside to the courtyard for a photo. I’m short, so was in the front, and I remember thinking I looked quite nice that day.

I’ll never forget seeing that picture, not recognizing myself. I went to a doctor who gave me pills for killing my appetite.

I don’t even remember what was in them, my mother was so worried. I only stopped when I lost it all.

I used to dream of getting a breast reduction. I was so small, and they were so large. More than once, strange men on the street would just grab them, as if they were compelled, as if they were entitled to.

It wasn’t the food that felt good, but the act of eating. The motions.

That’s a lovely dress.

Thank you!

I feel like myself in it.

It was you before, too, Mona.

Mona is a Brazilian linguist and writer based in Brooklyn, New York. Her essays have been published in Longreads and Catapult Magazine, and she is currently working on a non-fiction essay collection. Mona currently lives on the road with her partner and two dogs.