There is a woman I have a little lady crush on.
It’s not her looks, although she is beautiful, and it is not her personality, for I have never met her (but I’m sure we would be BFFs if ever we were to meet). It’s her mantra and message that I am in love with, and like the title of her new book, Embrace, I embrace it wholeheartedly.
Taryn Brumfitt is her name and it was her ‘before and after’ images which turned the whole idea of ‘before and after’ on it’s head. In a nutshell, this fit body-building woman with the perfect body still wasn’t happy — but when she stopped trying to attain the perfect body, she became happy, and healthier.
That image nearly broke the internet, and now with over 60,000 followers on Facebook and seven million views of her Kickstarter video campaign, which raised over $300,000 in 55 days for her crowd-funded documentary, this Adelaide mother of three is changing the world, one body loather at a time.
Lucky Me got to awkwardly express my girl-crush on her as we chatted on the phone about teaching our daughters to love the skin they are in.
I love you, Taryn! I have a girl crush!
Haha! Really? Are you sure you’re not a stalker?
Kind of! I’ve followed your story for a while and I just love your message. Because of you, my husband and I have a new rule around our daughter that we don’t say the F word around her… the FAT word. I don’t want her to think we have body issues, or for her to have body issues.
That’s great and I love that you are recognising that, because that is something I say to all parents. You need to know the value and the power of your conversations around your children. Because what a young child then thinks is that fat is bad and they say ‘OMG I am fat, I am fat’, then they try to fight fat. And fat is just a natural part of our body that we need to embrace too. Without it we wouldn’t be here and we need to take it back to the noun. It’s like people running around saying ‘I am fingernails, I am fingernails’. It’s absurd.
It is hard not to slip up and say the odd body-hating thing.
I agree and I don’t want mothers to live with guilt. My daughter came to me and asked me if she looked pretty in a dress and I thought, ‘Oh goodness, please don’t say that in public, don’t you know what I do!’ She must have heard it from me, but I took that moment and asked her, ‘Honey, I want to know what you are going to DO in that dress?’ It’s those small subtleties in our conversations that we have with our children that can change. I didn’t concern her values on her looks, but what she was going to do. And that’s the premise of the body image movement; our bodies are not ornaments, they are vehicles to our dreams. We need to appreciate how they move and feel and not how they look.
Living so publicly now, with your before and after images seen by millions, how do you deal with some of the negativity?
At first I wanted to fight back when I was bullied online. I’ve heard and read it all. ‘You’re fat! You’re a bad role model!’ But I don’t want to give them my good energy. I was bullied in my teens and I decided to never sit on the sidelines again… having said that, in my book there may be a little section where I tell them I what I think of them.
Since the Kickstarter campaign you’ve earned the attention of a whole heap of celebrities like Ashton Kutcher. Was that exciting?
My dad taught me that we all come into the world the same and leave the same, so value people as they are. But I did have a moment with Ashton. I was in bed and my phone was going off, so I looked and read what he wrote about me, and my husband was next to me asleep so I shoved him awake and yelled ‘Ashton Kutcher is writing about ME!’ He told me to shush and go back to sleep. But these celebrities have powerful amounts of followers and so it is helpful for me and my message with the body image movement that they can take the time to forward it on to their millions of followers and retweet my messages.
I have a funny meme that’s become my mantra and it is this. ‘If you want to be skinny, take off all your clothes, look in the mirror, notice you are covered in skin and say ‘gee, I’m skinny!’ What’s your mantra?
That’s fantastic and I love it. Mine is ‘How do you get a bikini body? Put on a bikini and you have a bikini body.’ And that’s really my message, we can all put on a bikini and we all come in all shapes and sizes, so let’s celebrate that.
How have your family and your husband dealt with your new public image?
He is very private and our lives have been thrown into the spotlight. There was one photo that was me nearly fully nude out there and that took a little adjustment for him. But he has seen me go through hating my body to loving my body, and my body-hating really affected him. As a dad I know he wants a brighter world for our daughter where we value her contribution and achievements and what sort of human being she is, so he is very supportive of where I am now. He’s a really good man, so I’ll keep him around for a little longer!
I wish women would know that men — our husbands, our partners — love us no matter what our size. If they knew that they would love themselves more, too.
Absolutely and Mark wrote something similar in my book and I’ll quote it because it was lovely.
I married Taryn because of the person that she is and not what she looks like. She is loving, loyal, feisty, caring, courageous, a wonderful mother and the love of my life. To define what I think of her based on what she happens to look like on any given day would be an injustice and for that reason I simply don’t.
And here’s the thing — we don’t marry people because of their bodies. If you do, you are probably one of the couples who get divorced in this country. We need to marry, love and value people and for the currency to be about characteristics and their kindness and compassion and humor and the things that we can’t see, and not so much their aesthetics.
I love your message. We can’t miss your book in bookstores, because you are nude on the front…
Ha! Yes, I was in Big W the other day and my daughter pointed my book out and said, ‘THERE YOU ARE, MUM!’ I looked around and thought, oh, this is slightly awkward. But thank you, it was great talking to you.
Embrace: My Story from Body Loather to Body Lover is available now.
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