Brynn Patterson, of Viewmont High School, reciting her award-winning poem at the 2023 Poetry Out Loud state finals.

Eat Less

By Brynn Patterson
Every year in a health or gym class I have been asked to count the calories I eat in a day and
plan out how I am going to burn them.
Every year I write an essay titled “Eating Disorders” Instead.
I have been told how much I should or should not eat my entire life.
All based on how fat or skinny that particular person thinks I should be.
My body has never belonged to me.
It belongs to the stranger that complimented my outfit earlier that day.
It belongs to my mom, who downloaded a calorie counter onto my iPod touch when I was 10.
It belongs to anyone who has ever had an opinion about how I look.
But it does not belong to me.
Eat less. Intermittent fasting. Only drink smoothies. Low carbs. No sugar.
If you despise what you eat, you won’t eat as much of it.
If you dread meal time, maybe you’ll skip it easier.
Eat to fuel. Not to enjoy.
Exercise to lose weight. Not to feel better.
Punish yourself for having a body
Otherwise you’re not doing enough.
I’ve been sucking in my stomach since third grade
And I’ve avoided the scale since Jr. High
I watched my great grandmother pinch her daughter’s hips and thighs, then go throw up to
erase the family meal
Shame runs deep in this family
And I was Predestined to hate myself.

Brynn Patterson’s poem was the runner-up in the 2023 Utah Original writing competition for students. She is a student at Viewmont High School, in Bountiful. She recited her poem at the Poetry Out Loud state final competition along with poet Kellen Hunnicutt, of West High School.