How to raise girls who love their bodies

By the time the average Aussie child starts kindergarten, many are convinced they’re fat and need to lose weight.

So how can we raise children who don’t hate themselves? It’s a question that has plagued body image campaigner Taryn Brumfitt for years.

“I’ve felt the pain of body shame for most of my life and I don’t want that for my daughter,” she tells aww.com.au. “It’s not easy to raise a child without body issues but the good news is, it’s up to us. It starts at home and it’s as easy as getting off the scales.

“Ban diet talk. Move your body because you want to and not as a punishment – not because ‘mummy is on a diet’ or ‘mummy needs to lose weight’. Those comments can be very damaging.”

Instead of focussing on how people look or whether they have a thigh gap, Taryn advises switching the focus to who people are and what they are doing.

“There should be no commentary on how people look,” she says. “Praise your girls for who they are and what they do, not what they look like.

“Teach your children that beauty is something you can’t actually see. It’s charisma, humour, humility, kindness and compassion.

“If my daughter comes to me and asks ‘Do I look pretty in this dress?’ I tell her ‘I don’t care about that, I want to know what you’re going to DO in this dress’. It’s a subtle difference but it makes a huge difference.”

Taryn shot to fame in 2013 when she posted a “before and after” picture that quickly went viral. In the “before” image, Taryn was showing off her “perfect” bikini body in a fitness model competition, while in the “after” she was proudly displaying her post-baby body, lumps, bumps and all.

Taryn's viral "before and after" image.

She posted it to mark her decision to stop subscribing to society’s ideas about how women should look and just be happy with body it was.

It struck a nerve and kicked off an international body image revolution documented in Taryn’s new film Embrace but more importantly, it has changed the way her daughter views her body.

“Since I’ve changed the way I feel about my body, it’s changed how my daughter feels about hers,” Taryn says. “She has such a fabulous body image because of how I’ve changed.

“There’s no body talk in our house and body image is not even on her radar. She’s just happy her body lets her run and play which is exactly how it should be.

“Your body is not an ornament. It’s a vehicle for life and it we can all learn to embrace it, this body love will flow down to our daughters and our sons and free them from a life lived hating themselves, which is surely the greatest gift we can give.”

Taryn Brumfitt’s documentary film Embrace will be in cinemas nationally from August 4. Watch the trailer below.