By April Clayton
‘You are fat, you are ugly, you are disgusting’ - that is what Taryn Brumfitt, founder of the Body Image Movement, used to say to herself. On the verge of having surgery to seek freedom from these thoughts, Taryn realised that the issue wasn’t with her body, but her attitude towards it.
Taryn, now a strong advocate for ending the global body hating epidemic, has spent two years travelling the world to share hers and others journeys from self loathing to self acceptance, to create the documentary Embrace. Throughout Taryn’s experience creating the film, she wished to discover the answer to one question; Why do we hate our bodies?
Embrace will hit UK screens on 16th January. In a Facebook Live event, I got the opportunity to speak to Taryn, and hear how passionate she is about body dissatisfaction. Taryn created the Body Image Movement in 2012, a campaign to shift the way women think about their bodies; ‘I learnt to love my body and I felt like I had won the golden ticket. I simply wanted to share my story and help as many other people as possible,’ said Taryn, Director of Embrace.
In 2013, Taryn posted a controversial before and after image of her body; the before photo taken at a body building contest; and the after image post-birth sparking a media frenzy. ‘I haven’t had a negative thought about my body since posting that image,’ she said. The media response made Taryn see that the problem was bigger than she could have ever imagined. ‘Not only did I have so much more to say about body dissatisfaction but the issue needed a bigger platform. So I nonchalantly said I’ll make a documentary. How hard can it be? I thought. But of course, incredibly hard!’ said the Australian mother of three.
Embrace is the most powerful and inspiring documentary I, personally, have ever seen. ‘Embrace is filled with heart, soul and real goodness,’ Taryn stresses. Embrace will make you laugh and cry. The KickStarter documentary would not have been possible without support from over 8000 people who donated more than $200,000 to fund the project, making it the most successful crowd-funded documentary in Australian history.
The documentary follows Taryn around the globe. Her goal was to find unique stories of women who struggled with body hatred before finding self-love; ‘It was incredible to find all of these diverse and empowering perspectives’.
Taryn visited a cosmetic surgeon’s office in Beverly Hills where she stripped down to her underwear to show people what goes on behind the closed doors. We see the surgeon pull apart her body, shaming and prodding her. ‘I said to him, so what do you think of my body, what would you do to it, and his response was just…wow. It was just crazy,’ Taryn exclaimed. On hearing about Taryn’s experience, I went to speak to Dr Silva, the clinical director of the cosmetic surgery Perfect Image Consultancy in West London, to talk about Embrace. ‘It’s absurd that any surgeon would treat a patient in this way, here a patient is treated with the greatest amount of respect. You can’t treat someone like a piece of meat and you can’t tell someone what they should or shouldn’t look like.’ said Dr Silva. ‘The culture we live in projects this message of being perfect. But no one is perfect. Perfection doesn’t exist and the more someone is aware of this, the better.’
Emmy Award winning TV presenter, Ricki Lake, opens up about her long battle with body image in the documentary. Lake, 48, admitted to Taryn that she had no idea what it would feel like to not worry about her weight. Taryn points out though that Embrace isn’t a magical fix and, unfortunately, we won’t all wake up the next morning and extraordinarily love our bodies; ‘I can’t promise miracles but Embrace will make you want to make a commitment to learn to love and embrace your body’.
The courageous documentary points towards the media: ‘The pressure is extraordinary and is making women unhappy with their bodies because of excessive digital manipulation of images of women’. Taryn realises that sometimes it’s not our own bodies we hate but, actually, the idea of the perfect body. ‘We should all be empowered to not buy into it… Unfollow social media accounts that make you feel bad, don’t buy magazines that shame women and their bodies. There is nothing like the power of people’.
Embrace has been shown in schools across Australia and Taryn hopes it will reach schools across the globe, acting as an educational tool kit. ‘The response from kids has just been incredible but also heart breaking, I have seen them sitting their crying their eyes out because of how much pressure they are under to conform,’ said Taryn.
Simone Mowczan, a follower of Embrace, took her 8-year-old daughter to see the film; ‘She was amazing, about a week after the movie she saw a magazine and referenced the movie about how the girl wouldn’t look like that in real life. I was so proud of her’.
The film has been released in Australia and the USA and is already making an impact. Emma Donaldson from Sydney, who has seen the documentary twice, said over Facebook; ‘The film has made me make a conscious effort to pick positives about my body and how I look. It’s helped me motivate myself to exercise more and eat healthier, each little thing I notice makes me so happy about me.’
With Taryn teasing a sequel in the future, UK fans will be able to see Embrace in a matter of days. The film, which won the Documentary Australian Foundation Award for Best Documentary, uses a theatrical on demand service. This means people can sign up to be a movie host and take their friends to see Embrace. You can visit Demand film here to find out more.
‘I want people to walk away believing that they can embrace and love their bodies unconditionally, that for me is gold… Watch Embrace and come over and join me.’ – Taryn, Embrace.