Embrace - Body Image Movement
What would you say if I asked you to describe your body in three words? Just think about that for a moment. It might be a confronting question. The three words that come to mind, whether or not you’re willing to utter them aloud, are probably a pretty good indication of your body image. And I would hazard a guess that for most of us - in a world constantly telling us that the only kind of beautiful is someone who is thin, clear and fair-skinned, toned and classically beautiful - cultivating a positive body image is a daily struggle.
Even as I was writing this, nestled on a chair at the restaurant in our hotel in Vanuatu, the people behind me were discussing the positioning of pockets on men’s and women’s clothing, such that women’s pockets are positioned to avoid phones adding “extra hips” to the side of their bodies… It is hard to go one day without hearing, seeing or actively participating in some kind of body criticism or scrutiny.
The point here is that body image, especially for women but also for men, constitutes a huge issue in our modern society. It is this issue that is tackled by Taryn Brumfitt in her documentary called Embrace. Taryn is a mum of 3 beautiful children who struggled with her body image throughout her life, until one day she posted an unconventional ‘before-and-after’ photo (see below), which went viral. The visceral reactions – both positive and negative – that she received prompted her to go on a 9-week, round-the-world trip in order to better understand where this body image issue has come from, how it is affecting people and what we can do about it. Her trip forms the basis of the documentary, which in short is shocking, thought-provoking and life changing.
Whilst in Vanuatu, Peta and I watched Embrace and we were both struck by how relevant and important the message in the film was for both of us. We were immediately converted to the #ihaveembraced way of life, which encourages women (and men) to embrace their bodies exactly as they are and drop the constant criticism and worry so that they can live their lives in freedom. We thought in addition to recommending that everyone watch Embrace, we would share some of our thoughts and stories around body image.
My Body Image Story – Peta
My 'body image' journey has been long, at some points torturous, but all the while worth every up and down! I can happily say that I do believe I have embraced my body for a little while now, give or take those few moments of negativity. It has definitely not been a cruisy path, that’s for sure!
As a child, like many other children, I could not have cared less about how I looked. It was more about how fast you could run or how many flips you could do on the trampoline. But with age came awareness and, unfortunately, the weight of societal pressures and these body ‘expectations’. To cut a long story short essentially I decided one night I was sick of not feeling my best and hating my body everyday, so I committed myself to clean eating and exercise (I means, that’s all it takes to be happy right?). Well, being me, I don’t do things by halves, especially when I set my mind to it. So, like so many young women these days (if you have ever ventured onto Instagram), I took it too far. My idea of health was warped and I ran myself into a dark ditch, which I, of course, saw no problem with.
The biggest lesson I learnt from this part of my short history, which I want every person on the planet to know, is that you will NEVER reach that ‘perfect’ body. This might seem harsh and you can believe you are different etc, but I found that no matter how much weight I lost, how much I ran or how little I ate, I would just keep adjusting this unattainable idea of the perfect body I wanted. It was like putting a carrot on a string in front of a horse, the horse can keep running, but no matter what it will never reach that carrot. So instead I ripped that carrot down off the string and enjoyed every mouthful – and since I have never felt so free in my life!
Once you embrace your body and realise that everybody is built differently, which means all those photos stuck on your wall for ‘inspo’ are literally physically impossible… yet we will push ourselves to the end of the earth trying to get it.
Once this became apparent to me, I learnt the biggest lesson of all – balance. This means exercising most days – because I enjoy it! Eating healthy foods when I feel like it (which is most of the time because they are just so damn yum) and listening to my body when I really do want gelato for the third day in a row, all the while accepting that everything in balance will not negatively affect my body.
My story with body image is definitely not finished just yet, but I am so grateful for the journey I have had so far, because it has truly taught me things that no matter how many times I read I would have never have believed it.
Believe me, it is still not the perfect relationship, but I have a respect for my body, how it changes by the days and weeks, but most of all I appreciate its ability to put up with everything I throw at it and only demand a little nourishing and some soul filling love every now and then!
My Body Image Story – Erica
As a kid and even as a teenager I never really had any concept of body image. My first awareness of my body’s “imperfections” occurred when I had quite bad hormonal acne and I became incredibly self-conscious of my skin. As for my body, I was a pretty active kid and so I never struggled with weight or tried dieting. However, somewhere along the line, I guess around the age of 16 or 17, a combination of puberty, some fairly significant lifestyle changes and an increase in stress meant that my body started to change. It matured and, naturally, got larger. I also found myself in a social environment that placed a great emphasis on appearance, which included being thin, pretty and wearing the right clothes/brands.
I think my body image issues grew insidiously from then on, to the point where I found myself avoiding mirrors, photos, and with a very disordered relationship with food and exercise. Although I always ate quite well and focussed on eating whole foods, I would binge eat when I was unhappy with my body (which was often) and then try to “burn off” all the excess food by using exercise as punishment (which I hated). This kind of thinking and cyclical behaviour led me down a pretty dark and unhealthy path, which culminated in the low point I wrote about in my post Confessions.
Fortunately, over the past six months or so I’ve been working on cultivating a healthier, more balanced approach to health and my body, although I have to admit even up until I watched Embrace I was still struggling with some pretty horrible thoughts about my body (as well as dreams of having the “perfect” body, which FYI doesn’t exist for any of us). I’d wanted to watch the film for some time and now I know why, it was exactly the message that I, and many others, so desperately need to hear. Of course, one 90-minute documentary doesn’t eradicate a body image that has been several years in the making, but I can say that I experienced a real ‘turning point’ after watching Embrace and I’m not looking back.
Put simply, when you choose to embrace you say no more to hours of agonising over your body, your weight and the way you look. And when you let go of all those thoughts there is a whole lot more space for productive, creative and inspiring thinking. Plus, you will be a more present, confident and generally happier person when you are not worrying about your body all the time.
Importantly, embracing doesn’t mean you give up on your body. On the contrary, in loving and embracing your body, and treating it more kindly, you can make it healthier and more functional from a place of love. Imagine exercising because it makes you feel good, is great for your health and longevity, rather than because you feel you need to burn calories. Imagine eating nourishing, wholesome food because it gives you the energy to achieve all that you want to, and savouring your favourite ‘treat’ foods without any guilt at all. You can still take care of your body and even change it all whilst embracing where it is right now. Sounds pretty good, right?
All you have to do is Embrace!
Have you seen Embrace, or do you want to? Let us know your thoughts on the Body Image Movement, or even share your body image story with us!
Erica & Peta x