Five Pounds

Michele Merritt
2 min readFeb 24, 2021

Honoring myself during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

Photo credit: me, with the last pair of pointe shoes I ever trained in before I gave up chasing impossible dreams.

Five pounds was the goal

To dance that part

To fit into that tutu

With the sparkling rhinestones

Five pounds was the stick

Ms. Martha used to slap my tummy

Telling me I looked pregnant

While I did rond de jambe en l’air

Five pounds was the fun I permitted myself

Eating the pizza and keeping it down

But with every smile I grew larger

Each laugh inched the scale upward

Five pounds became ten and then fifteen

It became pills and secrets

To cover the bruises on my stomach

Self-inflicted punishment for a few jelly beans

Five, then ten, then fifteen pounds I slowly gained back

Terrified the rising numbers would never cease

Convincing myself that picking up weights in the gym

Was better than losing my body and myself

Five pounds is evidence of love and nourishment

That I could not give myself all those years

But gave to two humans as they grew

Inside me and now alongside me

Five pounds, so I’m told

Is the weight that all the bacteria

Making up the unique biome

Can amount to in a human body

Five pounds of me that is also not me

Transporting info from gut to brain and back

Without which my starved mind

Could not learn to love my beautiful body

Five pounds is the weight of impossible expectations

I’ve placed on myself my whole life

The messy and complicated path to healing

A road with no true beginning or end

Five pounds is the strength I gained

When I finally admitted

I would never shed the weight of that number

But the number will never define me.



Michele Merritt

Philosophy professor. Adoptee. Advocate. Activist. Marathon swimmer. Cheese consumer. I write about dogs a lot.