2023 Australian of the Year Taryn Brumfitt campaigns for positive body image
People are different - and their bodies are different. And each body is special.
Social media and consumerism dominate our minds about how we should look, what we should wear, how we should think, what's good, what's bad, who's in, who's out.
Yet amidst this noise is someone who has been campaigning tirelessly about the importance of authentically accepting, loving, and respecting our bodies - as they are, and as we want them to be.
One woman who is spearheading efforts encouraging people, especially women and children, to embrace their bodies is 2023 Australian of the Year, Taryn Brumfitt.
Taryn received her prestigious accolade from Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, at a ceremony in Canberra.
Taryn's impact in amplifying the need to promote body positivity among women for better physical and mental health is truly significant.
Taryn is an activist-media sensation, who leads a crusade to shed negative body images and body-shaming to create a new way of perceiving our bodies.
Valuing difference is key
With the International Women's Day 2023 campaign theme of #EmbraceEquity, there are many parallels between embracing our bodies and the understanding that valuing and supporting difference is a key part of the journey towards women's equality.
Campaigning to promote positive body image
Via educational resources, speeches, award-winning documentaries, and bestselling books, Adelaide-based Taryn Brumfitt aims to promote positive body image and combat toxic messaging in the media and advertising.
"We weren't born into the world hating our bodies, this is something the world has taught us. Body-shaming is a universal problem, and we have been bullied and shamed into thinking our bodies are the problem. Because you can't look after something you don't love. It is not our bodies that need to change, it is our perspective," says Taryn.
Posting a viral "before and after" photo
Taryn made her first impact on public life when she posted a viral reverse "before and after" photo on Facebook where she embraced her post-natal body.
The birth of her third child saw Taryn determined to regain her pre-pregnancy figure and what society might considers to be the "perfect figure". After considering plastic surgery, Taryn pursued a strict weight-loss and exercise regime, as well as competitive bodybuilding.
“The lifestyle that I lived to have that perfect body felt very restrictive, and it wasn’t really very joyful,” says Taryn.
This unhappiness sparked Taryn's decision to break out of societal restrictions and post her famous "before and after" photo.
Founding the Body Image Movement
After inspiring millions online, Taryn continued to extend her impact by founding the Body Image Movement (BIM), an organization that works to "help people embrace their bodies".
BIM is on a mission to:
- Educate the global community and provide tools to promote positive body image.
- Celebrate body diversity in shape, size, ethnicity and ability.
- Promote positive physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
- Combat toxic messaging in media and advertising.
Extending her work into a social impact documentary
One of the pillars of BIM is Taryn's 2016 social impact documentary, Embrace, that explores how Taryn learned to love her body, and why so many women are unsatisfied with how they look.
Shown in 190 countries and streamed on Netflix, Embrace was nominated for the Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Best Documentary.
Directing a follow-up film to inspire body positivity in children
Australian of the Year recognition came just months after the release of Embrace Kids, which sees Taryn return to the world of cinema after the success of her directorial debut, Embrace.
Embrace Kids is a follow-up film to help young people love and celebrate their bodies, bringing together a vibrant collection of stories and voices to show that the first step in changing the world, is changing your own mind.
Featuring known activists Celeste Barber and Jameela Jamil, the film explores themes of body image, social media, gender, identity and representation and is accompanied by educational programs and resources.
Writing a debut picture book for early learners
Embrace Kids isn't the first time Taryn has focused her campaign work on children and young people.
Taryn's debut picture book, Embrace Your Body, is aimed at early learners and provides an opportunity for parents, carers and teachers to help children build a foundation of positive body image values based on moving, respecting and enjoying their bodies.
Reacting to a paediatric health emergency
Kids will continue to be the focus of Taryn's campaign work following her recognition as Australian of the Year.
Taryn is alert to what she describes as a “paediatric health emergency” among children battling mental health issues and eating disorders. In Taryn's experience, dieting culture has trickled down to children as young as six.
“We really need to help our kids across Australia and the world because the rates of suicide, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, steroid use, all on the increase, related to body dissatisfaction," adds Taryn.
Responding to this issue, Taryn and her organization The Embrace Collective are launching the Embrace Kids Classroom Program, a free set of resources that will be rolled out to every primary and secondary school in Australia. Taryn has teamed up with Australian researcher Dr Zali Yager, one of the world’s foremost experts on body image with more than 15 years of experience in this space.
“Little Aussies describe their bodies as strong and energetic and powerful, and they have genuine love for what their bodies can do and how that makes them feel. This gives me hope that we can get in early, block the shame and despair, and let them live their lives as teens and adults with the freedom that comes from embracing your body – not the illnesses that come with hating them. What if, instead of spending precious time and energy at war with their bodies, our young people were free to become the leaders, big thinkers and game changers the world needs more of right now?" says Taryn.
Inspired by Taryn's work, let's #EmbraceEquity and #EmbraceBodyImage by celebrating women's bodies in all their shapes and sizes, and all work to help ensure that the next generation is empowered with the confidence to fully be themselves.