This is not another story about a woman who wants other women to love their bodies. Well, it is … but this woman has reached over 100 million people with her message. And sitting down with her makes it easy to see why she has cut through.
When you talk to Taryn Brumfitt, her energy almost knocks the wind out of you. It’s like she has this great big ball of enthusiasm just sitting in her chest and it’s impossible not to get swept up in it; after all, millions have. As soon as you meet you just know she is one of those women that was just born to be brilliant. You can imagine she would have been captain of the netball team and on the student council, collecting followers everywhere she went. Some people might have called her bossy, but what she is, is a leader – and a phenomenal one at that.
Most people are familiar with Taryn’s story. She had just had her third baby, looked in the mirror and hated what she saw. She decided to have a tummy tuck and her boobs done – that would make her happy, wouldn’t it? But gazing at her three children, she wondered how on earth she could teach them to accept and love their body if she was so uncomfortable in hers. She didn’t need surgery. She could do this herself. She joined a gym, worked out like a crazy person and starved herself – she was so fit she entered a body building competition. Standing on that stage she finally had the body she’d always wanted. She’d be happy now, wouldn’t she?
Something had to change about her body, and it wasn’t the way it looked. It was the way she learnt to feel about it. So she stopped the craziness, gained weight and had an epiphany. “You’re not going to wake up one day and unconditionally love your body. But what you can do, in any given moment in time, is make the choice to embrace your body. It’s like a muscle that grows and it grows over time and it’s something you’ve got to give a lot of love and a lot of energy to, but it’s so worth it,” Taryn stresses.
One picture, a thousands words
In May 2013, she posted a photo on Facebook of crazy-fit Taryn in a bikini, next to a picture of her new, softer body. She was naked, side-on and smiling – she was happy. It was a ‘before and after’, but opposite to the type you usually see. The internet went insane – people applauded her, people hated her, people didn’t understand how she could possibly be happy … and heavier. In response to her photo, Taryn received over 7,000 emails. And now, four years into her journey, those stories still move Taryn to push forward every day. “I always come back to a story of a woman who emailed me who had suffered from sexual abuse. She’d never shared her story with anyone and walked through life feeling judged by everybody because she was overweight. She wrote, ‘no one knows my story, no one knows that I suffered from sexual abuse, every day I try to keep my head above water, every day I’m trying to keep my emotional and mental health. I know I’m not physically healthy, but I’m just doing the best that I can’,” Taryn shares with me as we settle into what I can feel is going to be a conversation that’ll go on well into the afternoon.
After the hype of her Facebook photo, Taryn was thrust into the spotlight and soon realised she had much more to say than she could fit into a four-minute TV interview or a 140 character tweet. “I’ve spoken to and met some amazing women with brilliant minds and with so much to contribute to the world and it’s truly their lack of self-love and self-respect that is holding them back. Stopping them from putting themselves forward, from putting their hands up, from being a leader, from being a business owner – whatever it is – because of how they feel about their bodies,” she says. Taryn wants to know what the world would look like if those women found love; body love. “If you’re looking at this from a global perspective, even if half the world stepped up and could use their brilliant minds to contribute – what would that look like? It’s about freeing yourself up because your cellulite, your stretch marks and the number on the scale is not a tragedy. But in the world, these are the things that are a tragedy. They need our attention.”
Determined to make her impact much bigger than a Facebook post, Taryn founded The Body Image Movement, now an internationally recognised crusade that knows the importance of body diversity, aiming to redefine and rewrite beauty ideals by harnessing and facilitating positive body image activism – yep, that’s a thing. Taryn then setup a Kickstarter campaign so she could create a documentary called Embrace. The Embrace Kickstarter trailer has had over 25 million views and earned the support of personalities like Rosie O’ Donnell, Ashton Kutcher and Ricki Lake.
“If you’re looking at this from a global perspective, even if half the world stepped up and could use their brilliant minds to contribute – what would that look like? It’s about freeing yourself up because your cellulite, your stretch marks and the number on the scale is not a tragedy. But in the world, these are the things that are a tragedy. They need our attention.”
It’s the most successfully crowd-funded documentary in Australian history. And if you haven’t seen it yet, well then you’ve now got plans tonight: download it on iTunes because it is a must-see. Taryn talks to women on the street around the world who all admit they don’t have much love for their bodies. The word ‘disgusting’ is used a lot. I ask Taryn if anyone she spoke to said good things about themselves, and sadly she didn’t find one. “Nope. A few people would say something like, ‘I’m strong, but I hate my thighs.’ There was always a ‘but’.
No one ever sat in the space and said I love ‘xyz’. I realised we needed to do a much better job.” Working in an environment where I’m constantly surrounded by women, I couldn’t agree more. Few women can even take a compliment without playing it down in some way. “Take the compliment!” Taryn strains. “Take it. We’ve been wired this way to be small and hidden. Women in general. So when you’re given a compliment just say thank you.”
Taryn spent months travelling around the globe and found that women aren’t just dissatisfied with their bodies, they are repelled. The documentary looks at the fashion industry and the media and what they’re doing to contribute. She talks to women like Turia Pitt, Ricki Lake, Mia Freedman and experts on their experience about the alarming rates of body image issues that are seen in people of all body types. Taryn quite literally bares all to explore the factors contributing to the problem and seeks to find solutions.
“Take the compliment!” Taryn strains. “Take it. We’ve been wired this way to be small and hidden. Women in general. So when you’re given a compliment just say thank you.”
The documentary took Taryn two years to create –and meant many months away from her family. But now she wakes up every day and pinches herself. “There is so much momentum around this film, there are screenings happening every day. When I wake up there are thousands of new people who have seen Embrace, either in the US or the UK or Ireland. It’s so exciting.”
Embrace is set to become one of the highest-grossing documentaries in Australian history, and through it Taryn has reached 100 million people and counting. She’s also told her story in a best-selling book of the same name. Taryn isn’t the first to share the body love message, but she might be the only to truly create a global movement from the message. She’s an influencer, a bit of a rebel and a leader we can all learn from. During her journey she’s been on the receiving end of a lot of silence and a lot of ‘nos’. But she just doesn’t listen.
“One of my mottos for getting people to say yes is ‘polite persistence wears down resistance’. That’s been my life motto since I was a teenager. And I think it’s also balancing your tenacity and your passion. For me it’s always been about what I’m asking people and how I’m getting through to people. It’s really going straight for their heart; it’s about making that connection.”
Taryn will be kickstarting her national tour with us on the Gold Coast on 6 June 2017, followed by Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, and Sydney. Since we think this is the one event that you should bring your teenage daughter to, we’re introducing a student discount. Use the code STUDENTDISCOUNT at checkout to receive $20 off (and don’t forget to bring your student ID on the day).
This is an except from Latte magazine.
If you are needing further professional help and support in regards to eating disorders, anxiety, depression and mental health please contact the following resources.
Lifeline: lifeline.org.au/ or 131114.
National Eating Disorders Collaboration Helplines nedc.com.au/helplines.
Beyond Blue beyondblue.org.au or 1300 22 4636