wellness

"Could you be any crueller to yourself?" Taryn Brumfitt wants us to rethink ageing.

Documentary maker, best-selling author and founder of the Body Image Movement, Taryn Brumfitt has spent almost a decade on a mission to help women and kids embrace their bodies

Millions of people around the world have watched her inspiring 2016 documentary Embrace, which as Taryn proudly recalls, beat Marvel blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy at the box office on its opening night in Germany.

"I think that Embrace came out at a time when we were collectively ready to change the narrative around body image," Taryn reflects.

"We were sick and tired of hating our bodies and we were ready to see stories of women who were also struggling and so it helped us shift our perspective."

Watch: Taryn Brumfitt on the five ways to embrace you. Post continues below. 


Video via Mamamia

Optus Ambassador Taryn believes there have been some positive changes in the way the media represents women's bodies since she began the Body Image Movement in 2012.

"It's great to see more diversity across branding and advertising campaigns with different ethnicities and body shapes becoming increasingly visible. 

"I think what is interesting is there are certain big brands like Victoria's Secret that have floundered as they failed to adapt and embrace diversity. 

"As consumers we have the power to go elsewhere when businesses don't make positive changes and we can easily spot the brands that are genuinely empowering women... brands like Modi Bodi and Optus who I am proud to associate with are leading the way. 

"But we still have a long way to go before this is standard."

Taryn Brumfitt by Sam Oster

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As she approaches her 44th birthday in December, Taryn is considering adding training for a third marathon into her busy schedule.

"I enjoy going to the gym, taking hikes in nature and just dancing around the lounge room with the kids. I love feeling how I do at my age and I am more grateful and more proud to be living in this body.

"In fact, the older I get the more in awe I am of my body."

Taryn also believes we need to be mindful of how we talk about ageing and shift the dialogue around getting older.

"Firstly, ageing is a fact of life and denying it makes little sense as we all know what the alternative is!

"Secondly, if we really want to progress the conversations around ageing, we need to stop saying things like, 'I look so old'.

Listen: Taryn Brumfitt talks to Mia Freedman for the Lady Start Up Stories podcast. Post continues below.  


"Changing the narrative around what it means to age starts with us not constantly saying 'we're too old' to do something, then writing ourselves off or sitting on the sidelines. 

"We need to keep putting ourselves forward and we need to get out of our comfort zones."

As an aside, Taryn says she understands that for many women there are often complex reasons why they might want to sit out of various activities. Especially ones that might involve the kids.

"There are times women just want to sit and watch their partner take the kids down the water slide so they can have five minutes to themselves, and that is completely understandable. 

"Women and mums often do too much and legitimately need a break. I think that it pays to question why you might be on the sidelines, however; is it for a break or is it because you feel bad about how you look in a swimsuit? The reasons matter."

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With celebrities in their 50s and above like Sarah Jessica Parker back in the spotlight, Taryn hopes that one day we won't even talk about someone's age at all.

"I think that we are still at the beginning of the race with positive discourse around ageing. Yes, there are plenty of great examples of celebrities embracing their grey hair and fine lines, but one day I hope we don't even talk about that at all, the discussion will instead be about why she is there and what she has done. 

"It will happen but we are still slowly piecing the puzzle together."

As many of us emerge from lockdown after spending a lot of time looking at our own faces on screens under harsh lights and with filters, Taryn wonders how this will affect how we feel about ourselves in real life.

"I have no judgement for those who want to use injectables, surgery or dye their hair to enhance their looks. Everyone is free to make those choices and I am in full support, but my concern is for the women who are so sad or miserable about how they look that they feel embarrassed. 

"I mean, could you be any crueller to yourself?"

Taryn worked with Associate Professor Zali Yager from Victoria University and Dr Ivanka Pritchard of Flinders University on a study published in 2020 to look at the impact of Embrace on 1429 women aged between 18-77.

The study found that women who had seen the film were much more likely to report appreciating their body, and in some cases, the film prompted some really major and positive shifts in their lives that the women said contributed to their wellbeing.

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Taryn's famous 'before and after' photo that went viral. Image: Andre Agnew and Kate Ellis. 

"We are not born hating our bodies, and it is possible to learn to embrace it and everything that your body can do."

To help the next generation feel empowered about their bodies, Taryn is currently working to finish her Embrace Kids documentary, targeting ages eight to twelve years olds and due for release in 2022.

 "No child should hate their body and yet the research shows that 80 per cent of kids want to change something about their bodies, which is unacceptable. 

"We want our kids to learn to move, nourish, respect and enjoy their bodies as they grow up and I want to help them build foundations and values that focus on who they are, what they do and how they feel - not what they look like."

With a decade already behind her on the quest to end the global body-hating epidemic, Taryn has plenty more life goals to work towards.

"In the next ten years of the Body Image Movement, I want to continue making more films, books and online programs and tools to help women, kids and men to Embrace. I hope to do more work face-to-face, now that we actually can travel again too.

"And maybe I'll also find the time to train for that third marathon!"

To find out more about Taryn Brumfitt and the Body Image Movement, watch Embrace the documentary on Netflix and visit her website.

Feature Image: Andrew Agnew, Kate Ellis / Supplied.

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