What are we teaching our children about their bodies?
“Pleasure is an essential daily nutrient”
Jena la Flamme, Creator, Pleasurable Weight Loss
Two Australian women want to change the way you think about your body. Why? Because there’s fun to be had, and you can save on your children’s future therapy bills to boot.
Today even models and celebrities are Photoshopped into impossible perfection. If you want your kids to be content in their own skin, as sure as legs are hairy, you’re going to have to model how.
Taryn Brumfitt, founder of the Body Image Movement, urges us to change our thinking, not our bodies. Maven of the pleasurable weight loss movement Jena la Flamme reminds us that we are animals with a physical need for joy.
With three children under her belt, feeling depressed about her post-baby belly, Taryn Brumfitt took herself to the gym. After months of gruelling work, she strutted her buff stuff in a glittery bikini and heels on stage in a fitness competition. She achieved the kind of body most women think, well, that they should have.
Taryn was preparing for breast surgery and liposuction when she asked herself what message it sent to her daughter. That question stopped her cold and sent her in an entirely different direction. Taryn’s before-and-after pictures went viral. They turned the ideal upside-down, showing her transformation from glamazon to happy, curvy mum. Sure, if you can’t get rock-hard abs you may as well love yourself as you are, but why would anyone choose flab over fab?
“Trying to maintain a body that is not your natural body shape takes a lot of hard work — you might even say obsession,” says Taryn. “There were too many sacrifices, for me personally and for my family.”
“There was a lot of time I didn’t spend with the kids — I was going to the gym every single day for hours. I was so restrictive with what I was eating that I’d have to make two meals a night, and I was incredibly grumpy. There’s just more to life than having that body.”
Taryn could not stomach the idea of her young daughter loathing her own body. And so another of Taryn’s babies was born: the Body Image Movement.
“My Developing Daughters, Supporting Sons seminar teaches parents how to empower their children to think more about what they contribute to the world than what they look like. It’s changing how we value ourselves as parents, and we model that to our kids.”
“What language do you use at home? Little comments send a message, like when a young kid hears their mum say, ‘I don’t want to have my photo taken today. I look terrible. I’m fat.’ Parents should never underestimate the power of their words, on both sides of the scale, positive and negative. We have to take responsibility.
“My body is not an ornament. It’s a vehicle to my dreams.”
Taryn Brumfitt, Film maker, Body Image Movement
“It’s super-important that we value our own bodies. My body is not an ornament. It is the vehicle to my dreams. Get some perspective and have some gratitude. What will you be thinking about when you take you final breath on this Earth? No one has ever answered: their cellulite or their deflated breasts.”
“Get off the scales. We should strive to be healthy, but being healthy is not the same as having a bikini body. We have been given a distorted message of health. It is not just physical.”
Taryn also sees it as vital to talk with children about media and advertising.
“Growing old is a privilege. The lines on my face remind me that life is short and the bucket-list is long. So many people’s lives are cut short through illness, and the rest of us are worried about looking old?”
“It all comes back to money and trying to sell something. They’re trying to sell this idea that we should be sexy and hot, and here is a product that will help. We need to armour our children by building a foundation of values that is not based on what they look like, so these negative messages don’t infiltrate their decision-making or the relationship they have with their bodies.”
“Growing old is a privilege. The lines on my face remind me that life is short and the bucket-list is long. We are told to defy the wrinkles on our face, and it is just so absurd. So many people’s lives are cut short through illness, and the rest of us are worried about looking old? I think we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that there’s something wrong with our evolving bodies, and there simply isn’t.”
It shouldn’t be shocking for a woman to eat a packet of chips on-camera, but somehow I felt like I was watching something R-rated when I saw Jena la Flamme demonstrate her favourite way to enjoy crispy potato goodness. (Turn the packet upside-down to redistribute the salt. Genius!)
Ex-pat Jena is the creator of the Pleasurable Weight Loss movement. While her work is pitched at the lucrative and large market of women unhappy with their bodies, her approach is more philosophical. She teaches a sensual and playful approach to life.
“I was bulimic by the time I was fourteen. I would enjoy food, but feel guilty about enjoying food, over-eat and then purge in secrecy and shame. What healed me was when I said, ‘No. Pleasure is needed.’ Pleasure is healthy.”
When we talk about females feeling good about their bodies, we still kinda mean feeling good about the way we think we look to others; our self-image. It seems revolutionary to talk about feeling good about your body for the pleasure it allows you to experience. This is not something that many young people hear, and Jena was no exception.
“I was given the message that pleasure is a once-in-a-while reward. You definitely need to earn it; you’re not just entitled to it. It’s potentially dangerous. What did that result in? I was bulimic by the time I was fourteen. I would enjoy food, but feel guilty about enjoying food, over-eat and then purge in secrecy and shame. What healed me was when I said, ‘No. Pleasure is needed.’ Pleasure is healthy.”
“I realised that when I over-ate, eating stopped being pleasurable. It’s when pleasure ends that over-eating begins. When you eat for pleasure, and you really focus your attention — because that’s what pleasure requires; attention — you just eat the right amount.”
“Our culture has said for thousands of years that a woman who is really engaged in her passion and self-esteem is a dangerous thing.”
“Our culture has said for thousands of years that a woman who is really engaged in her passion and self-esteem is a dangerous thing. Why is that? When you feel good, you feel powerful, you feel free. You don’t let people push you around. All of that comes to life when you pursue your pleasure. You eat the foods that really work for you and nourish you. You choose friends that nurture you. You choose supportive partners. You are honest with yourself and with others about what you need.”
“If you’re feeling like, ‘Oh, my body’s disgusting. I’m going to love my body when I lose weight, not now,’ that is important to address, because that is the fundamental shift that needs to occur: to start loving and respecting your body as she is.”
“Realise that your body is not a possession of your mind. Not something that you and your thoughts get to judge. The truth is that if it wasn’t for your body pumping your heart, your lungs, keeping you going, there would be no mind to look in the mirror and say, ‘You need to lose ten kilos before I can love you.’ You’d be dead.”
The idea of pleasurable weight loss has shock value, because we’ve been so accustomed to thinking that punishment is the only way to lose weight.
“It is pure arrogance to be so disrespectful to your body. You may say, ‘The truth is, I don’t love how my body looks.’ Okay. Find a deeper, heartfelt gratitude that your body keeps you alive and gives you an opportunity to start afresh every day. That is basis enough for an infinite amount of love.”
The idea of pleasurable weight loss has shock value, because we’ve been so accustomed to thinking that punishment is the only way to lose weight. We have a culture that prides itself on suffering.
“We’re happy to talk about how much we’re going to punish and deny ourselves, but we’re embarrassed to say, ‘I’m gonna get a massage, sleep in, take a hot bath, really take care of myself, and that’s how I’m going to lose weight. Because when I do that, I’m not going to need to eat and drink too much because I’m going to be having such a damn good time in my body that I won’t be attracted to those things.’”
“The secret sauce of pleasurable weight loss is erotic innocence, which is your attraction toward everything that makes you feel alive.
“The secret sauce of pleasurable weight loss is erotic innocence, which is your attraction toward everything that makes you feel alive. Before you knew that there was any reason to feel guilty about pleasure, you were innocent. We can consciously create space for erotic innocence in our lives by asking, “What if I took the guilt and shame away from pleasure? What would I really enjoy? Where would that lead me?” This shifts unhealthy habits, old body images and moods, and it transforms us.”
Taryn is in the final stages of producing her Kickstarter-funded documentary Embrace. Help her spread her message across the world at www.bodyimagemovement.com.au. Explore your erotic innocence at www.pleasurableweightloss.com.