For the world of body positivity, Taryn Brumfitt is a welcome game changer.
With her poignant documentary Embrace, the Australian photographer and mother-of-three shared her transformative journey towards self-acceptance after giving birth. The 2016 film is honestly so powerful, I believe it should be essential viewing for every mom — and woman — out there.
Brumfitt naturally agrees, which is why she’s now encouraging others to hold worldwide screenings of the movie, however they can. Her ultimate goal? To introduce it as an educational platform in schools and beyond, so it can send a much-needed message to kids — and especially young girls — everywhere.
“For years society has been telling women to be beautiful as if that was the most important thing they can be,” Brumfitt says in the film’s trailer. “Why do so many women hate their bodies and what could we do about it?” she asked herself.
Brumfitt was inspired to create the documentary after an unconventional “before and after” Facebook photo of hers went viral overnight. The post, which would go on to inspired dozens of other body-positive messages just like it, was intended to challenge society’s ideals of what it means to be beautiful, and how our worthiness exists from within us. And with just two side-by-side images, it did just that.
In Brumfitt’s “before” shot, we saw what many still consider to be a “perfect” body — beautifully toned with a golden tan. Brumfitt was impressively rocking a bathing suit during a body building contest shortly after birthing her third child.
But what we didn’t see are the intense struggles the mom endured to get to that point.
After considering surgery to alter her post-baby body, Brumfitt decided to instead embark on a nearly four-month training endeavor filed with restrictive eating and daily physical exertion. She was hoping to learn how to embrace her body by achieving what she felt was peak physical condition. Instead, she felt imprisoned by the entire experience of constantly fighting for “better” body.
In contrast, her “after” photo shows a woman comfortably sitting with a softer, fuller figure. She’s not holding anything in, and her entire presence feels entirely relaxed. By sharing these two images, Brumfitt felt able to truly embrace her body, by learning to love it no matter how it looks on the outside.
The stirring message captured the attention of over a million people and sparked a media uproar
— but it also led Brumfitt to launch “The Body Image Movement,” a social campaign that allowed Brumfitt to raise of $260K on Kickstarter in order to create Embrace.
In the film, Brumfitt engages in gripping discussions with experts, entertainment personalities, and women of all sizes, shapes and backgrounds. The documentary’s larger intention was to understand why disturbing rates of body image issues in our world exist, and how they are keeping women everywhere from embracing the natural state of their bodies.
What she ended up creating was a body-loving battle cry.
Brumfitt’s film and the inspiring movement that has ensued has solidified what I’ve spent the past year figuring out myself — that my physical form, in all its stages, is a nothing short of a miracle. To declare this is a big deal for me, I’ll confess. Because it’s taken me an excruciatingly long time to love myself.
For nearly two decades, I did everything I could to maintain a thin body. I dieted, I starved myself, I binged and purged, and I even abused a steady relationship with diet pills. For years, my external frame was an acceptable “skinny” that others welcomed. All the while, my internal anxiety and low self-esteem kept me from ever enjoying how I looked.
Most of the time, I even saw a much larger woman looking back at me in the mirror than there actually was.
And then something magical happened. I gave birth to my now 2-year-old daughter. During my pregnancy, I compassionately listened to my body for the very first time. And surprisingly, living in a body holding an 45 extra pounds felt more freeing and enjoyable than I had ever thought possible. While I was definitely feeling awesome about myself, I couldn’t figure out how to connect that to the old limiting views I held about myself.
It’s amazing to have found a documentary that has helped me (and many other women) realize why I experienced this self-loving change and how to move forward in the world with a body I accept on my own terms.
One thing I know for sure — I never want to go back to a place of self-hate ever again, and I never want my daughter to find herself in a place like that, either. Thanks to role models like Taryn Brumfitt, I’m starting to believe that’s truly possible.