Taryn Brumfitt before and after

Embrace your beautiful body

Taryn Brumfitt, is living proof that you can’t judge a person’s health and happiness by the way they look. Not too long ago, Brumfitt loathed her body and was seriously considering the drastic step of plastic surgery to “fix” her post-childbirth body. On the surface, she looked like she had it all: she was happily married, the proud mother of three young children and running a successful photography business. Behind the scenes, however, she was desperately unhappy with how she looked and suffering from crippling body issues.

The visit to the plastic surgeon was the catalyst that got Brumfitt thinking differently about her appearance — although, not in the way that you might expect. Brumfitt didn’t go through with the surgery. She had begun to question the message she would be sending her young daughter if she went under the knife. As in, how could she teach her daughter to have a positive body image if she didn’t have one herself? How could she teach her children to love their bodies if she had surgically enhanced her own?

“Looking beautiful is a fleeting moment in time. Feeling beautiful is something you can have from the moment you enter the world to the moment you pass.”

“I decided against surgery and then I hit rock bottom,” says Brumfitt. “I wanted to make the right decision for my daughter, but I was still stuck inside a body that I hated.”

After reaching an all-time low, Brumfitt had a light-bulb moment: what if she could actually live happily in the body she already had?

She decided that what she needed to do was fix her emotional wellbeing ­­— not the way she looked. She needed to reprogram the way she felt about her body, her perception of beauty and health and the value she placed on each of these considerations.

“Looking beautiful is a fleeting moment in time. Feeling beautiful is something you can have from the moment you enter the world to the moment you pass,” Brumfitt says. “Beauty is nothing we can see; beauty is humility, kindness, compassion and humour.

“Health is not just physical but emotional and spiritual, too. I want my daughter and sons to grow up in a world that values them for achievements and accomplishments, not their good looks, thigh gaps or ageless skin.”

Questioning the way she thought and felt about her appearance and what effect this had on those around her was the beginning of this South Australian mum’s excursion towards self-acceptance. Her journey from a “body loather” to a “body lover” has subsequently opened up a much-needed dialogue about body image and has inspired thousands of individuals to discover the value and power of loving their own bodies from the inside out through the Body Image Movement.

Before and after

Brumfitt’s personal enlightenment about how she valued her body as a woman, a mum and former bodybuilder went viral when she posted a “before and after” photograph of herself on social media. We constantly see these types of images displayed across the internet, usually touting the benefits of a new weight-loss solution or revolutionary dietary plan.

Brumfitt’s before and after shots, however, were a little different. The “before” shot was a picture of a taut and toned Taryn in a skimpy bikini and “stripper” heels, performing in a bodybuilding contest. The “after” shot depicted a naked Taryn looking happy and relaxed, with a different physique — a natural one.

Not only did the images show that Brumfitt was unabashedly at one with her body, it also highlighted how far she had travelled physically, mentally and emotionally to get there.

“I simply posted [the photo] to help other women to learn to love their bodies before, during and after; but, the second I posted it, it immediately got a gazillion likes and comments.”

“My health in my before photo was very unbalanced; to the eye I probably looked super healthy, but here’s the thing about health: it’s not just physical,” says Brumfitt. “During my short time having the ‘perfect’ body, I was often grumpy, extremely body obsessed and never really felt present in any given moment because I was always thinking about my next gym session or preparing meals in little containers.

“In the after photo I was at my peak, the healthiest I had been all my life. While I had put some weight back on, I regularly moved my body, I was eating really nutritious food, I was meditating and I felt balanced.”

If you look at the after photo, you can see this on Brumfitt’s face. She looks present, happy and comfortable in her own skin. She looks free: uninhibited by the negative constraints of self-criticism and the burden of feeling as though she had to be something other than what she was.

“I simply posted [the photo] to help other woman to learn to love their bodies before, during and after; but the second I posted it, it immediately got a gazillion likes and comments and I knew it had hit a chord,” she says.

Brumfitt’s post most certainly hit a chord — there were stories run about it in every country around the world, from France to South Africa to the US and everywhere in between. Since it was posted, her before and after shot has been seen by more than 100 million people and led to a number of TV interviews. Perhaps this was because Brumfitt’s photo perfectly illustrated a woman who was happy, proud and at peace in her own skin. It was Taryn’s honest, positive and straightforward message about body acceptance that resonated with so many and continues to do so.

“The minute I learned to love my body I thought to myself I must share this with other women. I felt compelled. It was almost as if I had discovered a secret; I was just so excited to think that I might be able to help others feel as good as I do.”

Awareness and acknowledgment

Anxiety and negative thoughts about one’s appearance certainly do not merely run skin deep. Loathing or resenting the way you look can influence your sense of self and greatly limit your capabilities as a person. In the posts Brumfitt writes on her popular Body Image Movement blog, she mentions a “dark passenger”: the voice inside her head that told her she was fat, disgusting and ugly on a daily basis. “It was the voice that always distracted me from being present in any given moment; it took away my joy and zest for living. It anchored me down and it didn’t allow me to be all that I can be,” says Brumfitt.

This dark passenger is something we can perhaps all relate to in some way. It’s that pesky internal critic that draws attention to your self-perceived faults and foibles. That nagging voice can be a hard thing to silence at times and can be extremely debilitating emotionally, mentally and socially. One of the things Brumfitt discovered when seeking to change the way she saw herself was that, through practice, it is possible to silence the self-imposed negativity that may be holding you back.

Being aware of the negative self-talk is the first step to overcoming it. “I think for people in the initial stages of trying to love themselves that a good strategy is to ‘fake it until you make it’,” Brumfitt explains. “In the beginning, acknowledge the voice in the head, then confront the voice and then ignore the voice. After some time you will find the strength to say something positive and then you need to build on that. It’s like building a muscle: slowly and easy does it, but with work you will build that mental muscle.”

Simple things such as putting more value on your health than your looks, being kind to yourself and changing the language you use with yourself can make a big difference.

Brumfitt remembers the illuminating moment she looked in the mirror and saw herself for the first time. She saw not the things she wanted to change, or that had changed over time, but all the beautiful things that were actually there staring back at her. She no longer saw the “fat, ugly, gross person” that she had labelled herself as being for so long, but rather the kind, compassionate and humorous human she actually was.

When she looks at herself now, Brumfitt sees beyond the aesthetics. “If I do catch a glimpse of my body, especially my tummy, I reflect on what my amazing tummy has done! It has housed three children. My breasts have provided over 4000 meals to my children. They definitely don’t look like they used to — and that’s OK. I have a rock-solid relationship with my body: I respect and appreciate everything she has done!”

As Brumfitt has shown through her own experience, simple things such as putting more value on your health than your looks, being kind to yourself and changing the language you use with yourself can make a big difference next time you see your reflection in the mirror.

Changing the conversation

Once Brumfitt realised how many people like herself were affected by a negative body image, she began the Body Image Movement, an internationally recognised movement that challenges the objectification of women’s bodies and recognises the self-objectification women put on themselves to look a certain way. The Body Image Movement seeks to question this ideology, open up a dialogue and inspire women to think independently about body image.

“People, and in particular women, really need to understand that they have access to change and can control their destiny. We live in a completely beauty- and body-obsessed world and I want to change the conversation and the currency of how we value people, or at least get a little more balance back,” says Brumfitt.

“Women are told to fight and defy ageing, for goodness sake! I can think of a million things to defy and fight — and ageing isn’t one of them. How about human trafficking, the sexualisation of young girls or the objectification of women: those are things to fight about, not the very natural and beautiful effect of growing old.

“The exciting news, though, is that we all have access to a life filled with positive and beautiful thoughts about our bodies. It just doesn’t come in the form of a pill, lotion or potion; it comes from within. The lines on my face only serve to remind me that life is short and the bucket-list is long.”

Altering our self-perceptions of ageing and change as a negative creates more room for the potential of fulfilment, self-nurture and ultimately growth, says Brumfitt.

“You, in this moment, are breathing, you are capable, you are able, you are living. Tap into some perspective and gratitude and recognise the power and joy that come from loving your body from the inside out.”

From personal journey to public awareness

What started out as a deeply personal and private struggle for Brumfitt has turned into a global mission to help people discover the value and power of a positive body image.

“Helping others is what inspires me on a daily basis, it’s all about the people,” she says. “The second I learnt to love my body, all I wanted to do was share my story and strategies with other women. That is why I am so pumped about my book Embrace — it is 70,000 words that I hope will help women to reconnect with their bodies and start living life!”

Brumfitt has now travelled the world speaking on how to facilitate a global movement that teaches women and men the power of loving their bodies. She is currently delivering her Developing Daughters, Supporting Sons seminars across Australia and has just launched BIMGAP: Body Image Movement Global Ambassador Program.

Another example of turning thought into action is the documentary Brumfitt has filmed, called Embrace, which has allowed her to speak and connect to thousands of women across the world.

As part of the documentary, she asked tens of thousands of women worldwide who struggle with the relationship they have with their body an interesting question: what thoughts will you be thinking during your final days on this earth?

“And guess what?” says Brumfitt. “No one has ever replied my stretchmarks, my wobbly thighs, my bottom, my arms, my belly or my cellulite!”

Getting how you feel about your appearance into perspective and looking at it in a different light seems to be a key component to Brumfitt’s overall message. Looking beyond what you’ve always seen in the mirror and seeing yourself for what you are, not what you think you should be. Not judging your body but acknowledging it for all it has done and can do.

Imagine what is possible if your mind and body work together as friends instead of foes? Brumfitt sums it up nicely: “Your body is not an ornament — it is the vehicle to your dreams.”

Embrace the documentary is screening across Australia now. See where it’s showing in your local area.

Kate McKee

Kate McKee

Kate McKee is a freelance writer and editor who is passionate about natural health and lifestyle. She enjoys writing for a variety of lifestyle publications on topics ranging from health and beauty to outdoor living and sustainable garden design.

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