REDEFINING SOCIETY'S BEAUTY STANDARDS | cathhalim.com

REDEFINING SOCIETY'S BEAUTY STANDARDS



Even when I was at my thinnest (twenty kilograms ago), I felt that I wasn’t pretty or thin enough for society. “How much weight did you lose?”, “You look like you’ve lost weight”, “Did you put on some weight?”. Instead of asking how life had been, my society prefers asking me about my appearance. Like a trophy you win during a competition, you carry that “weight loss” as if you’ve reached your life goal. When the weight crept back, you tried harder to keep it off. You start skipping dinners, working out for an extra hour — all in the name of achieving society’s standards.

The Beginning

I started my first diet at age 13, replacing my breakfast and dinners with a 120-calorie protein shake. At 13, I was growing and it was normal to gain weight as my hormones changed. What I wasn’t told that it would be unhealthy to go on a diet to stop this normal weight gain. When I started losing weight through my meal replacement shakes, everyone celebrated it. As a young girl, I learnt that being thin was the only acceptable body, and it was the only body that was celebrated. That was the start of my disguised relationship of pursuing a “healthy” body.


Days of exercising 7 days a week


The Turning Point

At the peak of my fitness journey, I was eating only meals that consisted of steamed broccoli and grilled chicken breast. My food was never cooked with oil, and had little taste. I was working out for a good two to three hours every day of the week. I was hyper-focused on losing weight. While I continued to be disciplined in my fitness and nutrition, I did not realize that it would set path onto all of my health problems. 

A standard less-than-350-calorie meal

I would never learn how to redefine my standards of beauty until my health suffered. At my worst point, I was suffering from brain fog, fatigue, bloating, short periods, rashes that I never developed before, acne breakouts and other digestive problems. I was on the verge of getting a stroke and on the way of ruining my thyroid. On top of that, I was always anxious and had terrible mood swings. I never realized all of these health problems stemmed from my body image issues. 

Learning how carbs are not enemy & achieving food freedom

Overcoming The Standards of Beauty

Disordered eating, a result of my poor relationship with my body image, is far more common than you know. It can easily disguise itself as “wellness” and before you know it, you’re suffering from years of binging, overexercising or restrictive eating.

The painful part of recovery is to relearn the beliefs that society tells you. No one will ever tell you that weight gain will help you reclaim your health back. Society is fat-phobic. They are constantly talking about ways to lose weight and finding ways to shed weight. Everyone celebrates weight loss. Fitness routines and meal plans are all about how much weight you can lose. Social media only shows photos of people looking pretty and perfectly fit. 

It has been a year since I have been in recovery. I had no idea how to break down my internalized diet-culture beliefs until I met my nutrition coach. Through coaching, I start to slowly repair my relationship with my body.

A year of recovery later

Looking Forward

It has been a full year of not worrying about weight gain, the food I eat and if I get to workout or not. I no longer categorize my food as bad or good. I take rest as I need. My physical and mental health have improved. 

My experience has taught me that society’s standards do not determine how I should lead my life. It will never be easy to go against society. As I recover from my disordered eating, I know that it is worth it.

This article was originally written for Swoon — an Indonesia based lifestyle media founded in 2020 by Jessie Setiono and Pricilla Halim

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