You may have seen a post I shared a little while back on Instagram about ‘Embrace‘ the movie. I wonder if anyone googled Taryn? Or even saw the film? Possibly not, but I get it, everyone’s busy and has so much to think about, let alone time to watch movies. But it’s something I feel so passionately about. So I thought I would bring Taryn’s story and message to you.
Taryn Brumfitt’s Body Image Story
Mother of three, living in South Australia, found herself at the point where she hated her own body. After her third child she couldn’t see past stretch marks, droopy boobs and wobbly bits. So she embarked upon an extreme training regime of diet and exercise. And achieved the ‘dream body’- she even entered a body building competition.
Not the World’s most unique story hey? But it didn’t run the same course that those stories we often see in the magazines and on day time TV show: fat mum sad/thin mum happy. She felt crappy, really crappy. And it was there and then that Taryn decided to embrace the body she had. She chose to live by one of her most well know quotes:
This led to her posting a before and after photo unlike those many had seen before.
It went viral! millions of shares worldwide. Ashton Kutcher shared it- you may well have seen it on Facebook. It also led to her being contacted by hundreds of thousands of women who struggled with their bodies. inspired, she set out to travel the world and make a movie about our relationship with our bodies.
The movie was made in a nine week trip, and funded by a Kickstarter campaign. Tarryn meet various women, from body positive activists, a woman with anorexia, a “plus sized model”, Ricki Lake, the list goes on.She discusses photo shop, models, health not being defined by fat or thin. It’s heart breaking, joyful, honest and most of all relatable.
The strongest message of all is the affect all of this has on our children. And I guess that’s where it has the biggest impact for me.
My Body Image Story
When I knew I was pregnant, and particularly when I learnt I was expecting a girl, it was a huge concern of mine that despite my best efforts she would continue on my behaviours and thought patterns. Because, at five years old I thought I was too fat to wear my leotard in gym class. At nine I wore my jumper all summer to avoid showing my arms. I was always a slim kid, but that’s not the point, no child should be wasting their wonderful mind obsessing about insecurities in this way. By my teens eating disorders had me fully in their clutches, which ultimately led to me dropping out of my studies and weighing barely 40kg.
From that point onwards, slowly, with lots of ups and downs, I began to heal. Made up a year of College, got to University, and started work. By the time I met my husband I certainly had, at least to a peace extent made peace with my body. Called a truce at least. I had been warned that pregnancy can be a trigger for people with a history of anorexia, their body growing and changing rapidly and beyond their control. Despite feeling confident those days were behind me, it was also something I was mindful of, and apprehensive about. However I was very fortunate that I adored being pregnant and it only strengthened my rapport with my body. For me, growing and feeding my baby made me love my body. And shifted my priorities hugely.
Our Children’s Body Image
I believe very passionately that children rarely do and think what you say. They do and think what you do. So I can tell her she’s strong and clever and radiates beauty and health. But she’s no fool, if I, her first ever role model for womanhood, am not practising what I preach, she won’t buy it.As parents I’m sure we all want our children to have strong self esteem and self worth. But how many of us can truly say we have that established within ourselves.
I’ve created nine strategies to promote positive Body Image within our families:
- Don’t make compliments automatically centred about appearance. Try; you are fast, you are strong, you are kind, you are funny.
- Chuck the scales out, your children are so much more than numbers and so are you. And teach the concept that size and health are largely unrelated. Thin doesn’t automatically equate to healthy.
- Avoid making judging comments about others. Stop fat shaming, yourself, your peers, celebrities, just stop.
- Try to speak to yourself as you would your child, your partner, you best friend. You would never describe your child’s tummy as disgusting, or legs an embarrassment.
- Fake it till you make it- stand in the mirror and tell yourself you’re amazing. Do it daily.
- Moderate their media, I appreciate thats easier the younger they are. But so many messages are picked up consciously and subconsciously by the bombardment of images we and our children see each day. You may think the glossies on the coffee table go unnoticed but you’d be surprised. Older children, often more tech savvy than ourselves, can readily understand the powers of Photoshop and image editing. It’s equally fascinating and terrifying to see those heavily adapted before and after. But it’s also eye opening to know *its not real*, it’s smoke and mirrors.
- If they say they ‘feel fat’, ask them what that feels like. We all have fat, we also have fingernails, yet most of us have said “I feel fat”, few of us have “felt fingernails”. Fat is not an emotion but can be used to describe a multitude of feelings, and act as a mask for true emotions.
- Encourage exercise for fun and enjoyment, not for “fitness” or to “earn your lunch”.
- Educate them about food, where it comes from, how it helps us grow, and feel strong. Teach that food is to be enjoyed, not feared, nor used in place of love.
If you are finding any of this highly emotive, and would like some professional support, you can contact the Eating Disorder association here, weight does not dictate if you have an eating disorder, your relationship with food and your body does.
I hope this helps and provokes some thought and discussion on the subject in your home. The movie Embrace is still available to see in the Uk link here. Or available soon via iTunes. And you can read more about Taryn and the Body Image Movement here