Body positive psychologist Glenn Mackintosh interviews Director of “Embrace” & Founder of the Body Image Movement, Taryn Brumfitt. In Part 2 of this 3 Part Series, Taryn and Glenn discuss:
✔︎ How to become AUTHENTICALLY body positive.
✔︎ How Glenn “channels” Taryn when he wants to express himself!
✔︎ Why it’s important NOT to play by the rules.
✔︎ Becoming curious about how you can be true to yourself.
✔︎ Judging less, loving more.
✔︎ How we connect to co-create the body-positive community.
✔︎ Having conversations with people we DON’T agree with!
✔︎ How we can make room for everyone’s experiences of body-positivity.
✔︎ Why it’s important to be vulnerable.
✔︎ How anyone can make the commitment to Embrace at any time.
✔︎ How to “find your tribe” (of friends and health professionals!)
✔︎ The importance of sharing stories and elevating conversations.
✔︎ How to find time for activities that bring you joy, fun, & a sense of adventure.
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Glenn: Taryn, I’m so excited to have this conversation with you because I think that the world is ready to become body-positive, but psychologists, we often believe that the most powerful question is how. In the Freudian days, we used to think why was a really important question. It’s like, “Why am I this way,” but psychologists, we tend to be more focused on solutions these days. I think the most powerful question is how do I actually change? I think as well as all of your public work, you’ve had a personal experience with this. You’ve gotten through to the other side yourself, and your book is really a how-to, and that’s what I love about that. It’s the, “I’ve got the idea. I know why, but how do I actually do it?”
A big thing for me that comes out in all of your work is your level of self-expression. You are a very self-expressed person. I even find that I would consider myself generally pretty self-expressed, but I think as I’ve gotten a little bit older, maybe gotten some negative feedback at times. I’m in a public space now as a professional. I sometimes shrink back into myself.
Taryn: Oh, please, stop. Don’t do that, Glenn. That’s a crime.
Glenn: Well, I actually, you were helping me realise this. Remember it, and I find myself asking, “What would Taryn do?”
Taryn: Oh, nice.
Glenn: My favourite example of this, so this is just a really weird little situation was, you might remember a few weeks ago, I posted on my Instagram. I was getting up, and I was going to the gym. It was really early, and I’ve got this ridiculous tiger-striped dressing gown. My hair was all messy, and I thought, “This is a good message to share with people. Sometimes, it’s important to get up even if it’s early, even if you don’t want to go and move your body. I found myself debating whether I should post it or not because I looked like rubbish. I decided, “What would Taryn do?” I had your little spirit inside my head, and I posted it, and the first person to get back to me was you saying, “Glenn, I look like that in the morning.”
Taryn: Yeah, I was like, “Hmm, fellow spirit animal in the morning.”
Glenn: We should say, you and I both do wear more than our fair share of leopard.
Taryn: We do.
Glenn: Tell me why it’s so important for us to be self-expressed.
Taryn: Well, I think the opposite of it is living by rules because that’s what we’re defining when you think, “Oh, I shouldn’t do this because I’m a professional now, and I have a public personality.” By saying, “No, I won’t express myself in these ways,” whatever they mean to you, whether it’s wearing a crazy suit or colourful clothes or leopard print or wearing your hair in pigtails, whatever it is.
Glenn: Have you been through my Instagram again?
Taryn: I have. It’s my favourite. The one with the pigtails is great, but if you stop doing that, then you are just … You’re playing by someone else’s rules. Who says how you should behave? You are free to express yourself just like I am. I brought my crimper along to Brisbane. Crimping my hair or putting blue eyeliner on or wearing the clothes I want to wear. There is such a senses of freedom and joy that it brings me to do those things. It doesn’t mean it has to be always loud and crazy. It’s just how do I feel? It’s that whole conversation around even just make-up with women going, “Well, you wear make-up.” I’m like, “Yeah, sometimes I do, but sometimes, I don’t.” I just don’t play by anyone’s rules. I’ve walked on a red carpet before in LA, no make-up.
Taryn: Just because I just didn’t feel like wearing make-up, so why should I conform to someone’s rules by saying, “I have to wear make-up to go on a red carpet,” so I didn’t on that occasion, but I’ve been to the shops before, and I’ve done a bit of orange lipstick. I mean just …
Glenn: Because that’s what you want to do-
Glenn: At the time.
Taryn: I reckon if we can just tap into that a little bit more, there’s a real sense of joy and freedom in doing that. It might be, I had someone say to me once, “I changed the colour of my bedspread. It’s been brown and beige forever.” I think it was the blue eyeliner, and she thought, “Well, if you can wear blue eyeliner like from the ’80s, I’m going to change my bedspread.” I was like, “Go, you. Amazing.” Now, she’s done that one little thing. Now, she’s curious. What other ways am I stopping myself from being authentically me in life? How do I express myself? It feels good.
Glenn: Because you talk about it in your book too that we get, before breakfast, hundreds of messages telling us what we should do, what we shouldn’t do. I’ll leave it for people to read the book, but there is so many messages that we get to behave in a certain way.
Taryn: Yeah, that’s right, and I guess no one has that right to tell me how to live my life or what clothes to wear. It’s like when fashion designers are on TV saying, “This season, the must-wear, what you should have in your wardrobe.” It’s like, what? Who are you telling me what I should have in my wardrobe? We are not sheep. We should never be following. We just do what feels good for us. That, for me, really is living. It’s really one of the biggest embraced philosophies.
Glenn: That’s a great take-home message. If you’re ever struggling, forget the rules and just listen to yourself, because it can get a bit confusing for people, can it?
Taryn: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Glenn: I know you had an argument with somebody who said that you weren’t embracing because you waxed your legs?
Taryn: Well, she assumed I waxed my legs.
Glenn: She assumed you waxed your legs.
Taryn: I’m sure that we hear it when she said that, but I had a Q&A screening of Embrace, and this woman was so angry. She just had so much venom in her. It was quite embarrassing, in fact, because it was a 300-audience filled with people who’s just seen Embrace, and we’re all in this happy space except for one person.
Taryn: There’s always one. You’re so right, buzzkill. Yeah, she just couldn’t get the message of Embrace that it means you can wear make-up or you don’t wear make-up. You can do your hair, not wear your hair. You can wear what you like. It’s like surgery. I just think that we live in a world that judges people so harshly, and we just … It sounds woo-woo, but simply, we need to love more and just judge less. Judging just doesn’t feel good. When you said comments about other people, I haven’t done it for years as in that’s not just part of who I am anymore, but I remember when I hated my body the amount of times I would say to my girl friends, say, down at the beach. I’d be justifying my own body like, “Oh, look at her body. I bet she hasn’t had three kids in three and a half years.”
Glenn: You go judging?
Taryn: Completely, to try and make myself almost feel better.
Glenn: What you’re saying is, that didn’t work.
Taryn: Of course, it didn’t work. It doesn’t feel nice, yeah.
Glenn: That’s a wonderful message because I think that there are … I feel like sometimes, in the Body Positive Movement, we run a risk of replacing old diet culture rules with new body-positive rules that now everyone has to adhere to. That almost … It’s probably better, but it limits your self-expression in just a different way.
Taryn: Absolutely, and I think this is one of the reasons why in the book, I asked a bunch of different contributors to write a few words. A few of those people in the body image, positive body image space have different views and opinions from one another. I think that’s a beautiful thing because we’re also different. You can learn many things from many different people. I spoke about Lorna Jane in my book. That was quite controversial, right, where I had a photograph taken with her, and a lot of people in my community were really upset with me for doing that. I had to explain to them to say we can talk amongst ourselves about these issues, and we’re probably not going to get anywhere. The real work, the real way forward is talking to people with different opinions from ours and allowing that space to open up in that dialogue, to learn from one another. There are no rules.
Glenn: You’re so right, Taryn. As a psychologist, we know that people don’t necessarily respond very well when they feel threatened, when they feel judged. Our conversation, if you, like some people in the fad activism movement we do it, point then finger at Lorna Jane and say, “You’re wrong.” It’s probably not going to change that much.
Taryn: No. It doesn’t mean that you can’t say, “You know what, Lorna? I don’t like the fact that you talk about inclusivity and diversity, and you don’t show it.” That’s a bit annoying. You can have that dialogue. It doesn’t have to turn into a shit fight, you know?
Glenn: It can be a respectful dialogue.
Taryn: Of course, it can be.
Taryn: You can learn from one another.
Glenn: Well, Taryn, it even comes down to like, I really appreciate you coming to talk to me today. There are a lot of people in the Body Positive Movement and Health In Every Size community that would criticise, and I totally understand their opinion, my work on the Biggest Loser. I had some reasons for going on there, and I feel like we’re able to share an introduction to some body-positive messages to a community that’s never heard them. Right or wrong, I appreciate you coming, not saying, “No. Glenn has done this work,” and I’m learning from you already today. I did a talk at Dietitians Unite, which is the big dietitians’ day run by Dietitian Connection. That’s what I spoke about there. The need for, especially with health professionals, but to move from competing to collaboration. I think in my words, that’s what you’re talking about. It’s about judging less and loving more.
Taryn: Yeah, absolutely. Look, I think if you live your life like that where it’s good or bad and it’s black and white, and you’ve done Biggest Loser. Therefore, you can’t speak positively in the body. I mean it’s crazy to even think like that. It’s not the world we live in. Us, human beings, are so incredibly complex. I feel like sometimes, I think I wrote about it in the book about being a walking contradiction about moving my body for pleasure, and yet I’ll go and run a marathon. I’ll go and run, and that’s not my favourite thing to do, but I can. That’s still okay. It still works for me.
Glenn: Yeah, because the blanket rules and the absolutism doesn’t make room for the nuances and the complexities. That is one of the things I love you sharing in your book. You’re talking about the principles of intuitive eating, body positivity and enjoyable movement. Then, you’re also sharing your real personal experience, which helps people understand the nuances. Just because you do enjoyable movement doesn’t mean that at times, you don’t smash yourself.
Taryn: Yeah, correct. Yeah, that’s right. I love that. I love what you just said about the nuances because when I talk about the complexity of being a human being, it is those little nuances that make us, us. I think that’s why we just need to share all of our opinions, and I think take what we want to take from some people, and take the things from other people. It doesn’t have to be hard and fast.
Glenn: It’s not a one-size-fits-all.
Taryn: Of course it’s not.
Glenn: Of course, it changes-
Taryn: Yeah, it does.
Glenn: For different people at different times. I think it’s interesting. We sometimes, and we say this in psychology. We get in camps. You do this. I do this. The funny thing is, we have these leaders of the camp that are like, “This is the only way.” They’re often quite adversarial towards the other kids. Then, you get all of these health practitioners who just do a bit of this, exactly like you said, and a bit of that, and of course, our clients, all the people you’re working with are the same.
Taryn: It makes sense, right? It just makes sense.
Glenn: It just makes sense.
Glenn: It just absolutely … It’s just so heartening to hear you say that. I am 100% sure that part of the reason why the Body Image Movement is gaining so much momentum because it is inclusive. You’re ready to meet people and accept people where they are and just have conversations.
Glenn: Yeah. We were talking about before, about [Melinda Baker 00:13:00], and I love that Linda and I can have a warm, friendly, professional relationship. I agree with 90% of what Linda thinks, and then on 10%, I’m like, “Linda, that’s way off. You shouldn’t have done that.” She agrees with a fair bit of what I say, but there’s a few things. She’s like, “Glenn, you cannot do this,” and that’s okay. We can have … I think us being able to have those types of conversations really leads to us actually learning because this Body Positive Movement is, it’s young, and so we need to co-create the best body-positive movement that we can.
Taryn: Yeah, absolutely.
Glenn: At the end of the day, I think a lot of this comes down to the individual, and your book is really speaking to the individual. Something that I really love about it is, you’re encouraging people to be vulnerable. Tell me why that’s such an important message, because I feel like sometimes, things are sold to us as it’s going to be simple. Just love your body, or just stop emotionally eating. Just get out there and go to the gym, and it disempowers us from creating the real change, because this is … I think you’ve had the ability to make such a heavy topic light and still keep it real, but at the end of the day, people, if they want to develop a real, authentic body positivity, it is work, isn’t it?
Taryn: Of course, it is. I always say that speaking to audience. Once they’ve seen Embrace, and I say, “Don’t expect to walk out those doors and be like, ‘Right. That’s it. I now embrace. I want to run down the street naked.'” I mean I would love that. It would be amazing. That would be my KPI. Mm-hmm (affirmative), yep.
Glenn: How many naked people did we have?
Taryn: 80% of the audience ran out naked. Excellent, I’ve done my job, but it is … We always hate this word, but it’s a journey.
Glenn: It’s a journey.
Taryn: It is a journey, right?
Taryn: You don’t just wake up one day and decide, “That’s it. I embrace my body,” but I’ll tell you what everyone can do in any given moment. That is make the commitment to embrace. That, anyone can do.
Glenn: What does that mean, making the commitment?
Taryn: Well, it means to get to, arrive at a point where you say, “What I’ve been experienced, what I’ve been feeling about my body is not serving me. It doesn’t feel great. I want to make a choice to do something different from what I’ve done.” It all comes …
Glenn: Yeah, having intention.
Taryn: Absolutely. Here I go. Then, I guess it’s about exploring for yourself. What do you need to learn to love your body? Do you want to move your body in a way that feels more pleasurable as opposed to punishment? Movement is a big part of Embrace for me because I think we’ve been given these bodies. We’ve been given them to move and enjoy. These body of ours, I talk about them being magical, but we’re here to enjoy these bodies. Is it movement? Is it eating more intuitively and more mindfully? Is it surrounding yourself with people who hold you up and make you feel? There are practical things people can do like we talked about. Unfollow, follow on social media, but I think it just starts with the commitment. It’s almost like a bit of an education. There is a thousand books out there to read. I always get everyone to start with Dr. Linda Bacon’s Health At Every Size. Start there. Just get curious about what’s out there. Find your tribe. I really think that’s a big part of it.
Taryn: The people I hang out with these days are so different from maybe 10 years ago. Gosh, I feel so loved and seen, and I think that’s a really beautiful part of this as well, is just real heart-felt connections with people that get it.
Glenn: Because it’s not … The reality is that we’re social beings. We live together. We eat together. We sleep together. We work together, and it’s a nice idea that you can develop acceptance in yourself, but it also does happen in the context of other people, doesn’t it?
Taryn: Absolutely. I think the story telling is really important.
Taryn: It’s really important to sit down with your girl friends and create a space and say, “Hey, I just want to talk about something that’s really important to me and my development as a human being. I’ve been really struggling with how I feel about my body.” Share the stories, and this is where I would like to go. How do you guys feel? Everyone could do that. You can go to a park. You can go to a café. You can go to a friend’s house and just sit down with a couple of people you trust and love, that trust and love you and just open up that dialogue. Then, at some stage, it will turn to, “Okay. This has been great, but I need some professional help.”
Taryn: Then, you find your people. We were talking earlier about doctors that aren’t serving people, that are saying really harmful and getting harmful messages across to the patient. Find a different doctor. I think we really need to just empower ourselves to change the way that we’ve been doing things because change never happens if you just continue doing the same thing over and over again, right?
Taryn: Draw a line in the sand and map out a bit of a plan. Here’s what I’m going to do.
Glenn: I love that. Making the commitment. No matter where you are, you can make the commitment to embrace, and I love that question. What do I, for me as a unique individual, what do I need to embrace? I think that’s a really powerful question that the people watching and listening can ask themselves, and then surrounding yourself personally and professionally with people who are on the same page because it is. You can’t have health professionals or people supporting you that are coming from this old paradigm.
Taryn: No, that’s right.
Glenn: You need everyone. Like you said, people have different opinions, and I talk about it in my health professionals workshops is, not everyone has to be on exactly the same page to support you, but we all have to be in the same book.
Glenn: For example, we get a lot of dietitians who follow weight loss approach, but they like the ideas of body positivity and intuitive eating and enjoyable movement. What we find is that, if people are still in that weight focus paradigm, we can’t really work with them.
Glenn: The clients just get confused. You’re telling me not to focus on the scales, but then, I come in there and they’re weighing myself. I suppose that’s an important message for people too. Find your tribe of professionals. If I had a dollar for every client who told me about a negative experience they had with their GP, then find another GP.
Taryn: This is where we need to really empower ourselves. We’re the master. We’re driving this ship. This is us. This is our life, right?
Glenn: You’re right, because it’s just like it’s easier to say, “Well, other people are affecting me,” and so, well, yeah, but what you’re doing, and there’s a lot of … In your book and in your message, there’s a lot of personal responsibility.
Glenn: It’s you that need to empower yourself to get the right tribe around you.
Taryn: Absolutely, and I think we also need to remember that no one knows us like we know us. No one knows me or knows my needs better on this planet than I do. I think that’s a connection that’s developed for me personally over the last few years because I wasn’t even connected to that person when I was hating my body. That does take some time. I find that happens through meditation or getting into nature. That’s when I’m feeling really most connected. I think the other thing I want to remember to say is about when we talk about moving our bodies, it’s finding the sparkle, the magic. I just love it when people have got … Let me start again. People are busy, right? We use the B word so often. Busy, busy, busy, we’reall bloddy busy, right?
Glenn: Yeah, we are busy.
Taryn: We’re all busy people, but I don’t want to say I’m [inaudible 00:20:59], but I have a saying and I think about it all the time. That is every breath that I take is one step closer to my last. You can spring that in a really … It actually really motivates me-
Glenn: Yeah, I totally get that.
Taryn: To go, “Oh my God. How am I almost 41 because I still feel 20.” There’s all these things I want to do. I think in our current situation in our lives, we’ve got to fin the time for fun and to do activities that just give us joy, that just reconnect us with our sense of adventure. Look, for me that just might be taking a hike with my dog in the sunshine. Sometimes, I see the world in this beautiful lens where it’s almost like I’m tripping, not that I’d know what that’s like, but I’m looking at leaves going, “Oh my gosh. The colours of those leaves on that tree is like magic.” It’s like a state of being that is … You can’t live like that all the time. I got shit to do. There’s laundry to do. I don’t want these people to be seeing it, but I can create that space in my life.
Glenn: You have those moments.
Taryn: They’re delicious.
Glenn: You have a name for these moments.
Taryn: Sparkle activities.
Glenn: Sparkle activities. I totally love that, and it’s one of the things that I think that your book is about body positivity, but this is really, for me reading it, I’m a guy. Guys tend to have less body image than girls, as you know. I’ve also done a bit of work on my body image and been exposed to some great body-positive advocates. I have a pretty positive body image. I’m reading a lot of this, and I’m thinking, “This is my client. It’s going to be so great for my clients. I get to this bit about being busy and too busy for these sparkle activities. I’m like, “Taryn is therapizing me. You’re doing” … It goes beyond body image, and your book is about that. It’s about moving into just living a great life.
Taryn: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah, having fun.
Taryn: I think we do take things way too seriously.
Glenn: Way too seriously.
Taryn: Just have a bit of fun with it. I think the more that you just go, “Ah, there are no rules. I’m just going to live life today like the way I want to. Yeah, adventure does find you too.
Glenn: It really does. Sometimes, I’ve heard you talk about this before. Sometimes, it’s really big things. “I’m going to go overseas. I’m going to buy this really expensive dress.” Sometimes, it’s a small thing like, “I’m going to pick a flower.”
Taryn: Yes. You know, I’m glad you said that because I was walking the other day, and there was these roses bouncing over this fence. I actually had such a giggle to myself because I stopped to smell the rose. I’m like-
Taryn: Taking my human being -like awesome tip today. I’ve stopped to smell the roses.
Glenn: You’re eat the apex, not that I’ve done something that the metaphor is based on. I’ve literally gone and smelled the rose.
Taryn: Correct, but it was such a small little moment. I’m like, “Wow. How simple is that?” Often, these activities that I talk about, they are free. I’m a bit fan of nature. We have access to all this radical, free, awesome things to do like climbing a mountain or go for a walk on the beach or just take your shoes off, and just walk on grass in the park. Oh, gosh, that feels delicious. Sitting under a tree. I’ll often pull my beanbag out from home, put it in the back on my car, go to a park and put my beanbag under a tree and just lie there reading a book.
Glenn: Love it.
Taryn: It feels like heaven.
Taryn: Anyone could do it anytime.
Glenn: It’s free.
Taryn: It’s free.
Glenn: Yeah. I absolutely love that. Look, there’s some beautiful take home messages, and we’re going to post this on our social media. What we want to hear is, we want to hear your sparkle activities.
Glenn: Everyone will want to hear what your sparkle activities are. Post them in the comments because like Taryn said, you’re not too busy. I’m here talking to Taryn Brumfitt, the things that she does in a day, a week, a year would almost literally blow your mind. If she can do it, we can do it.
Taryn: I can’t wait to read them. I’m going to stalk all of you, listeners. I’m going to read all your comments. I love it. You know what you’ll se in the comments, is everyone’s idea of what a sparkle activity might be. They’re so rich and diverse. It doesn’t have to be big and loud. It could be, my goodness, learning how to knit. That could feel sparkly.
Glenn: I remember knitting was in your book. I think knit, yeah, fantastic.
Taryn: Yeah, so anyway, yay.
Glenn: Love it, love it. Well, okay, some take home messages from this. I’m getting be yourself, forget the rules, just be yourself. Take the time fro the sparkle moments, and let’s all judge a little less and love a little more. Let’s get onto now a topic that’s really important for almost everyone that I see. How this affects, how body positivity relates to weight, eating and physical activity.