This week I was invited to join a great group of women to screen a documentary entitled Embrace. It tells the story of an extraordinary woman, Taryn Brumfitt, who – in response to listening to friends complain about their bodies one night – posted a beautiful before and after picture of herself. Within hours, the photo went viral and created an internet sensation.
So what made this photo so special and why I am writing about it? Unlike most before and after photos, her before was of a very slim and toned woman in a bikini. The after photo was a shot revealing her body after having had 3 children and many years of being a wife, mother and friend. I’m sure you can imagine this photo without even seeing it.
Throughout the documentary we listened to many women complaining about their bodies, using words such as “disgusting”, “embarrassing” and “definitely not beautiful.” Yet when I looked at these women, I saw beauty, happiness and strength in addition to the sadness and disappointment they had for themselves in not being able to juggle life, family and work while maintaining the “perfect” body. The expectations! Sadly, each of us watching this video could relate to these feelings, having had them at one time or another. I definitely know those feelings well.
I often look in the mirror and see someone that I don’t recognize. My body has changed – from my face to my thighs, and every part in between. Yet my children and husband often tell me they think I am beautiful. However, I am not sure it ever resonates as I just interpret their words as love for me, not necessarily truth.
Or…perhaps they see me the way I see others around me – from the love I give them or the effort I put forth every day to do my best. Even when I don’t succeed. Even when I haven’t showered (sometimes in more than a day…) and really do not feel my best. Even when I am stressed or short-tempered. They look beyond that and have compassion and forgiveness – and love. So why don’t we as women see that in the mirror? How did we become so hard on ourselves? As we all know, the media plays a big role in that answer but we somehow allowed that to happen, and allowed for it to be acceptable. Others can embrace me, but I cannot embrace myself.
Embrace means: an act of accepting or supporting something willingly or enthusiastically.
Sounds so simple, no? Shouldn’t we all embrace our own self? Here’s what I do know: when I was sick and suffering from Ulcerative Colitis, I was very thin. Sickly thin. My clothes wouldn’t stay on and I didn’t have any energy. I was barely able to get my kids off to school in the morning, and that often wiped me out for hours. My outings were mostly to the doctor and socializing was out completely. Thin – yes. Happy and healthy – no.
Thankfully I have recovered from UC and have been feeling great for more than 5 years. I eat very healthy foods, although a bit more than my body “needs.” Eating is one of the pleasures for me in life –I enjoy the taste and experience of eating; sitting around the table with my children or friends, talking and laughing… A night out alone with my husband at our favorite dinner spot keeps me going some weeks.
I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for Taryn. It’s not easy to bare your body and your soul. I want my daughters to break free of the expectation to have the perfect body! I believe that needs to begin at home by embracing my own self and appreciating my healthy body that I feed with foods that heal.
I built my business on eating for health and recovery from illness. Today, I eat healthy because it is good for me, and for my children and my friends. Even eating healthy every single day, I still love to indulge (and those calories, although healthy ones, tend to add up).
I encourage everyone to eat healthy for good health, to exercise for a strong body and to laugh a lot during the day for the heart and soul. I want my daughters to practice using these tools for total acceptance of who they are, and what they look like. I need to help them learn to embrace their whole being, inside and out.
So, starting today, please, embrace yourself.