Making the rounds of social media recently is the campaign from Taryn Brumfitt of The Body Image Movement to raise money in order to make a documentary encouraging women to embrace their body. She posted before and after pictures of herself, saying that she is much happier with the after picture – and that caused controversy.
Contrary to what you’d expect, Taryn’s before picture was taken when she entered a body building competition so her body is slim and strong, defined and bikini-clad – the very picture of the modern ideal. Her after picture shows the (discretely nude) body of a mom of three. The big smile on her face invites you to share in her joy at the life it has born and the love those children have brought into her life. There are plenty of decriers who accuse her of promoting obesity, or at the very least acceptance of obesity, which is so ridiculous when you see she is a very healthy looking woman beyond the first flush of youth with three children to her credit.
Child bearing aside – and a big aside it is for we know the wages exacted on a woman’s body when she carries and delivers a child – Taryn’s point with the Body Image Movement is that every person, every body has a story, and that health encompasses more than just appearance or even just the body. Her before picture would seem to be of a fit and healthy woman and yet at that point in her life she was very unhappy with how she looked, was considering plastic surgery, and obsessed about food and exercise. Her after picture is one of a woman who is happy, content with who she is and how she looks. A woman who has found balance between healthy practices and enjoying life.
She advocates for a balanced life. She aims to counter the pressure we get through advertising and celebrity culture (the average person is exposed to 4-600 ads a day, many of them along the lines of “be thinner to be happier” “whiter teeth will solve your problems” “you must be miserable right now if your hair doesn’t look like this” and stories of celebrity moms who adore being pregnant, whose children never cause a fuss, and who lost the baby weight within six weeks of giving birth) Her Body Image Movement seeks to promote real health over those media driven ideals of beauty, and to refute the claims that everyone else has got it all figured out.
Taryn makes these suggestions:
Suck it up. You’ve got what you’ve got: be realistic about what you can change about yourself and what you can’t.
Change your language. Be kind to yourself. She asked 100 women to describe their body in one word, and many of the replies were along the lines of: frumpy, wobbly, not nice to look at, disgusting, less than perfect. It was heartbreaking to see a lovely young girl shamefacedly admit to the camera she thought her body was disgusting.
Put health before beauty – the body is a vehicle, not an ornament.
I once read an interview with Cindy Crawford during the height of her supermodel days in which she said what she liked best about her body was that it was strong. She talked about moving furniture around her apartment and being grateful her body was capable to doing that work. That has stayed with me all these years because it was gratifying to me to realize that no matter what a woman’s body looks like, they’re meant for the same purposes: to carry us through life.
A friend of mine told me she hopes to die with rough hands, because they would be a sign she had worked hard and served others rather than being pampered. Work, service, love – they are offered through our bodies. We also experience the wonderful gifts of being human through our bodies – good food, beautiful music, laughter, the smell of pine trees heated by the sun, the sound of crickets at the end of a summer day, Monet's Field of Poppies….
Whether you’re Cindy Crawford or Betty Sue Smith you live your life in your body, and it’s how you live rather than how you look that is most important – so don’t let how you feel about your body keep you from living, from being content, vibrant, creative, and loving.
Today’s post comes with a caveat. Having a balanced life is important in every aspect of health: physical, mental and spiritual – a point Taryn makes several times. However, it is important for our readers to know that The Body Image Movement is not Catholic and so we are not promoting it as a new life style regimen for you to take on. We found Taryn’s story and mission to be worth knowing about and for that reason chose to share it with you here. For readers who are interested in learning more about Taryn and The Body Image Movement, click here. Be advised that she is very frank in her writing and speaking – there may be language or photos that some readers might find difficult.