Australian of the Year Taryn Brumfitt takes body positivity message to kids

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Australian of the Year for 2023 Taryn Brumfitt is on a mission to stop growing kids from hating their bodies.

The South Australian body image activist and documentary filmmaker was named Australian of the Year at a ceremony in Canberra last night for her decade-long campaign to encourage women and children to embrace their bodies.

She said children started to believe their bodies were strong and powerful before they changed their minds.

“It’s getting younger and younger I have to say, I just recently spoke to a six-year-old who was on a diet,” she told ABC Radio host Sarah Macdonald on Thursday morning.

“I call this a pediatric health emergency.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese named Taryn Brumfitt Australian of the Year 2023 in Canberra on Wednesday night.(ABC News: Georgia Roberts)

“We really need to help our children across Australia and around the world because rates of suicide, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, steroid use, are all increasingly linked to body dissatisfaction.”

The 45-year-old mother of four wants to give children a “armour” to protect themselves against messages from the diet and cosmetics industry and social media.

“We can prevent any child from growing up with a dysfunctional relationship with their body because we weren’t born into the world hating our bodies,” she said.

Not all the blame was on social media, she said, but rather on the choices people made about the accounts they followed.

She urged young people to follow accounts that inspired them to become better people, rather than focusing on looks.

Ms Brumfitt said parents should lead by example, even if they sometimes felt unhappy about how they looked.

“Even if you have to pretend until you make it, or just say nothing about your body in front of your kids, we really need to help them move and nurture and enjoy and respect their bodies by being a role model. are of positive body image behavior,” she said.

Taryn Brumfitt
These reversed before and after images were viewed by over 100 million people.(Supplied: Taryn Brumfitt)

The photo that started the movement

It’s been ten years since Ms. Brumfitt’s unconventional ‘before and after’ photo gained worldwide attention.

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In the “before” photo, she’s on stage in a bikini for a bodybuilding competition. She smiles, but Ms. Brumfitt said it was then that she realized that the hours of daily exercise and limited eating had not made her happy.

“My ‘after’ is as I am now, cellulite, stretch marks, folds, rolling, everything,” she said Thursday.

The inverted before and after photos were seen by millions.

“Which is crazy in itself, right? A woman learns to embrace her body, and it becomes headline news in most countries around the world,” she said.

She used the attention to launch her body image movement and make the documentary Embrace to encourage women to be positive about their bodies.

She has since turned her focus to children, last year she released the documentary Embrace Kids and co-authored a guide for parents.

‘Not about promoting obesity’

Brumfitt ran a marathon to fight off trolls who confiscated her photos and called her lazy and fat. She then ran another one to raise money to make her second documentary.

What critics of the body positivity movement misunderstood was that shame and self-loathing are not motivational, she said.

A woman in swimwear smiling on the beach
Taryn Brumfitt lives in Adelaide and has four children.(Supplied: Meg Hansen Photography)

She believed that people with a better appreciation for their bodies were more likely to take care of them by being physically active, eating nutritious foods, and even wearing sunscreen.

“This is not about promoting obesity. Keeping weight and that number on the scale out of our minds will do us good,” she said.

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Listen to Australian of the Year Taryn Brumfitt’s full interview with Sarah Macdonald from ABC Radio Sydney.

Mrs. Brumfitt doesn’t use the word exercise when talking about her weekly chores.

“I move my body every day because it makes me a better person…but there are no rules around it. Some days I go to the gym, some days I do yoga, some days I walk, some days I swim,” she said.

Then embrace men

Men are not immune to dysfunctional relationships with their bodies.

In Ms. Brumfitt’s conversations with men and school-age boys, they have told her about their concerns about going bald or not having enough muscle.

A woman in the middle of 7 primary school students with bookshelves behind them.
Taryn Brumfitt is on a mission to help kids love who they are, inside and out.(Instagram: @bodyimagemovement)

“It’s often suppressed. They don’t share their thoughts, but there’s also a lot holding them back,” she said.

“I think we should all be part of this conversation when it comes to body image. It’s not just for women, it’s for everyone.”

After the success of the documentaries for women and children, she now plans to make one aimed at men.

However, as Australian of the Year, she said her focus would be on children.

She has accelerated her plans to reach children in schools from one million in three years to one million this year.

“It’s going to be the kids saying, ‘Hey mom and dad, don’t talk about your body like that,'” she said.

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