We’re all used to the conventional before-and-after body image photographs depicting a heavier version of a person for the before and a slimmed-down version representing the after. Well, Body-Image Activist, Taryn Brumfitt has a different take on such comparison photos. In 2013, the Australian mother posted shots of her physique to Facebook, but notably in the reverse order. Her personal message was clear: she was choosing to appreciate and embrace body instead of loathing it. She was not only heavier in the after photo; indeed, she was happier. The pictures ended up being seen by over 100 million people across the globe, and Taryn’s story continues to inspire multitudes as well as stir up controversy.

Taryn is open about her struggles with accepting her body particularly after she’d had three children. “I was going to have a tummy tuck and breast augmentation,” she says. Concerned about the message these surgeries would send to her daughter, she instead opted to train for a bodybuilding competition. Brumfitt adopted a vigorous exercise program and restricted her diet. “I lost all this weight and toned up, got the ‘bikini body’–the body so many women fight to have.” But once she found herself strutting across the stage in front of 1,000 people, Brumfitt had a realization: “I’m standing there with my perfect body, and I’m not happy. Too much sacrifice, too much time, too much obsession, and it’s just not worth it.”

After the competition, when Taryn eased up on the extreme conditioning, she naturally put on weight. But she came to appreciate her body for what it could do rather than placing too much attention on how it appeared. Indeed, she was learning to love her body and lead a more balance life. When she heard her girlfriends complaining about their bodies, she felt compelled to post her unconventional photos to Facebook.

Upon discovering all the media buzz the post caused, Brumfitt says, “I was so surprised. I just wanted to help people.” Another thing she did not expect was the onslaught of emails she received from people relaying their painful struggles with their body image.

In turn, Brumfitt authored her book “Embrace,” and thereafter produced the documentary of the same title exploring the global issue of body loathing and why poor body image has become a global epidemic. “This issue was much bigger than I ever realized,” she asserts. The movie is available on iTunes and other online, cable and satellite platforms including Brumfitt’s website, bodyimagemovement.com. Taryn hopes to inspire others to change how they feel about themselves and how they think about their bodies. She says, “We’re on a quest to redefine and rewrite the ideals of beauty” which includes using positive self-talk and prioritizing health over beauty. She advocates that people move their bodies for pleasure, and encourages others to become more fit if they want to–but emphasizes it’s possible to both love your body and want to change it at the same time. She encourages everybody: “Don’t waste a single day in your life being at war with your body. Just embrace it.”

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