‘Embrace’ showing spurs conversation on body image

Hannahjoy Mcneal

Students gathered in Marston 2155 on Tuesday for a showing of the the documentary film, “Embrace,” followed by a panel to discuss the film and its topics, in honor of national Body Image and Eating Disorder Awareness Week. 

The film, which came out in September of 2016, centers around Taryn Brumfitt, Founder of The Body Image Movement, who recently came into the international spotlight after taking to Facebook with a “before and after” body image post.

What was so shocking to the world, however, was not a miraculous body change, but rather the order that the images were posted. Instead of posting an “unfit” before-photo followed by an image of a more fit and happier version of oneself, Brumfitt used her social media platform to swap the two.

Her first photo featured her at her prime in body fitness, at a bodybuilding competition. The second portrayed her and her body, after giving birth to her third child.

And while this photo presented her as weighing more, it was her message of self-love, newfound happiness and acceptance that really had a profound effect on the world.

“It broke people’s brains that a woman could love herself afterwards,” Brumfitt said.

As the likes, shares and comments rolled in, so did the messages, emails and pleas from people hoping for help and guidance in finding the same sense of peace for themselves and loved ones.

“How did you learn to love your body?” was a question that struck Brumfitt.

How could this woman transform from feeling devastation in her perceived “ugliness” to triumphantly posing nude for the world to see?

What the film revealed was that Brumfitt, along with many others, struggled to reach this sense of self-worth and tranquility in view of her own body image.

“I felt like my body was broken,” said Brumfitt, “I ended up hating myself.”

But it was by hitting rock bottom that launched this new sense of worth and love for herself, along with realizing that she wanted nothing more than for her young daughter to grow up loving her body, regardless of physical “flaws” she may feel.

The documentary continued to show Brumfitt as she traveled the world. Meeting many different people and hearing their personal stories of hardships and victory dealing with issues of body image. 

It talked about excessive “photoshopping” of body images in the media, and thus the programming of unrealistic body images in girls all over, as well as the sexualization of girls in the media and modern culture and how this leads to objectification of women.

According to the film, this expectation can and often does lead to negative ideas and views of oneself, as well as presenting the notion that a woman’s physical appearance is the most important, if not the only, way to find a sense of worth in society.

This is exactly what the documentary, Brumfitt and Iowa State’s BEDA (Body Image and Eating Disorder Awareness group) are fighting against. The group focuses on creating and promoting events around campus that spread awareness application of their message of self-acceptance.

Alison St. Germain, who works with dietetic interns at Iowa State, is also one of the advisors for the body image program.

“There are so many different bodies, and so many different shapes, and you can find beauty in all bodies and all shapes,” says St. Germain. “We are so programmed that there is only one certain way to look, and [we need to] really appreciate what our bodies can do rather than what they look like.”

She expressed the importance of being accepting and nonjudgmental not only towards others, but towards yourself.

The panel included a psychologist, student wellness advisor, former ISU students who struggled with eating disorders, a parent of a student that struggled with eating disorders and St. Germain.

It presented a platform for students to ask and hear about issues that can be really difficult to deal with considering the stigma around them. They touched on topics such as different and specific disorders, how to deal with and help people you may know struggling with these things, as well as personal experiences, insight and conversations on the matter.

But as emotional and tough as starting a conversation about these things might have been, it was a conversation and a step that needed to be taken, and definitely one in the right direction.