This week I saw the documentary “Embrace”. It was profound and shocking, and sadly, all too familiar. The documentary looks closely at women’s relationship with their bodies and why the predominant response is self-loathing.
The vox-pops were full of clips of women of all shapes and sizes describing their bodies: revolting, disgusting, droopy, I hate my hips/thighs/boobs (insert any body part you like right here).
Not one clip showed a woman saying strong, beautiful, curvy, functional, reliable… there was nothing positive.
What was shocking is that I believe there are very few women who actually have a completely peaceful relationship with their body. Taryn Brumfitt is the woman behind the film and she had an incredible experience that prompted her to investigate womens’ relationships with their bodies.
After having three children Taryn wanted to shift the baby weight and change the shape of her body. She briefly toyed with the idea of cosmetic surgery, but couldn’t go through with it, so she signed up for a body building competition. She performed on stage, she looked incredible, but when she was up on stage she still didn’t love her body. The women who she shared the stage with also didn’t love their bodies. The general conversation backstage was all about what they wanted to change, what they wanted to work on.
It was a lightbulb moment for Taryn. She let it all go. She enjoyed her food, recognised how strong her body was, revelled in the amazing job it did growing and feeding three babies. Then she posted a before and after shot on social media. The before shot was her on stage at her body building competition, the after shot was her natural body shape, what she looked like after she’s stopped the punishing weights regime and the hugely restrictive eating plan.
The image went viral.
It received more than 100 million views, and prompted over 7000 emails to her.
And so began her journey to discover why women are stuck in this damaging cycle of self-loathing. It’s quite confronting. I don’t consider myself someone with body image issues, but after seeing the documentary I recognised that this self-loathing narrative penetrates even the thickest skinned woman.
Without too much commitment, I often think I’d love to shed a few kilos.
But, for what? I’m not unhealthy. It’s only so I can look a bit better in my jeans. I say this is for me, but is it?
I’d like to think so, but the body-beautiful narrative (translate: you are not skinny or pretty enough) is so pervasive, it’s hard not to be affected.
I have tried, I guess, in some ways to buck the trend; to rebel against the body shaming by wearing my bikini proudly on the beach last Summer, with a good layer of that third-baby fat still well and truly in tact.
I did it, I will do it again this Summer. But it was a challenge.
I don’t really have any answers. The ground needs to shift, the narrative needs to change. Taryn Brumfitt has put a call out to ‘Embrace’: embrace who you are, embrace your body shape, embrace the amazingness of your body for all it does for you every day.
It’s a noble call to action and definitely one worth working towards.
Body image, and people’s relationship with their bodies is complex stuff that often involves trauma, history, emotional hurdles from times long past.
Perhaps making a promise to go a little easy on yourself is a good place to start. Working towards embracing our whole selves – inside and out, is a worthwhile endeavour, and one where the benefits well and truly trump losing a few kilos just to look better in jeans.
We need to start somewhere, we need to hold up a mirror to our own internal dialogue and question our default response to our bodies.