Taryn Brumfitt named Australian of the Year for founding Body Image Movement trends now
Australian of the Year for 2023 Tanya Brumfitt could never have expected her simple 'before and after' photo would be seen by 100 million people and spark a global body positivity movement.
But her pictures smashed a social stereotype of what women should look like and what constitutes health and happiness - the before; a toned and taut Brumfitt at her bodybuilding peak and the after; a bigger, imperfect but clearly happier woman.
The moment would lead the now 44-year-old - crowned as our top Aussie at a glittering ceremony in Canberra on Wednesday night - to become an activist, writer, director and public speaker on a decade-long mission to change how we perceive ourselves.
Tarryn Brumfitt (pictured), 44, has been named as the 2023 Australian of the Year
A 'reverse' before and after photo by Ms Brumfitt sparked a global movement towards embracing body positivity (pictured)
Aussie of the Year Ms Brumfitt has become an internationally recognised public speaker and her 'Embrace' series of books and films are a global phenomenon.
The Body Image Movement, which she founded in 2012, teaches people - young women in particular - to love and appreciate their bodies and has taken her to a global audience from her humble hometown of Adelaide.
But she says her mission over the next 12-months as Australia of the year will be dubbed Embrace Men and focus on helping young men cope with many of the same struggles.
'Men have been left out of the discussion and, like a lot of subjects, they haven't been asked to explore the feelings that they're feeling,' she told the Australian.
'For a long time we were focused on women and how women feel about their bodies and we ignored men. But men have a lot to say … about how they feel about their bodies.
'My biggest concern is around young boys and steroid use, which is on the rise and comes with a whole raft of issues including toxic masculinity and how they treat women.'
She was presented with the award by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at a ceremony in Canberra on Wednesday night (pictured)
In her acceptance speech on Wednesday night, Ms Brumfitt said body image shaming had become an epidemic.
'Australia, it is not our life's purpose to be at war with our body,' she said.
'Collectively we are facing some of the most challenging environmental, humanitarian and social issues of our time.
'What if, instead of spending our days consumed by hating our bodies, we could invest our time together to solve these challenges?
'What if instead of spending their precious time and energy at war with their bodies our young people were free to become the leaders, big thinkers and game changers the world needs more of right now?
'It is not our bodies that need to change, it is our perspective.'
The body acceptance campaigner said in her winner's speech Australian's could achieve so much more if we weren't consumed with body image
Ms Brumfitt with her partner Tim Pearson (pictured) a nurse who was by her side at the awards on Wednesday
Ms Brumfitt said we as a society have been 'bullied and shamed into thinking our bodies are the problem'.
'It's working because 70 per cent of Australian school children consider body image to be their number one concern,' she said.
'We're facing a paediatric health emergency with rates of suicide, depression, eating disorders, anxiety and steroid use related to body dissatisfaction soaring.'
She added that data shows young people with poor body image are 24 times more likely to be depressed and suffer from anxiety.
'This is not about encouraging obesity, this is not what I do,' she said.
'This is not simply about weight or size, it's about the way that we feel about all of ourselves - our skin colour, our height, our age, our gender, our unique selves and it is learning to move, nourish, respect and enjoy our bodies because you can't look after something you don't love.'
Ms Brumfitt told Daily Mail Australia fitness influencers were building a multi-billion dollar industry from exploiting women's insecurities
The former body builder and mother-of-three (pictured) founded the Embrace Body Image Movement in 2012 which has gone global reaching more than 200million people
A 2016 documentary she directed, titled Embrace, followed Ms Brumfitt's own path to body acceptance and was picked up by Netflix and seen by millions of people in 190 countries.
The mother-of-three followed that up with Embrace Kids in 2022 which is aimed at teaching children between nine and 14-years-old to respect, move, appreciate and nourish their bodies.
She has also written four best-selling books and created Embrace Hub, which offers parents, children, teachers and communities free research-based information about fostering body positivity.
Reaction to the Australian of the Year winners was overwhelmingly positive on Wednesday night.
'This is a pretty bloody great list, I reckon. For all of the controversy about the date, these are people we should all be able to get behind,' one person wrote.
'Well done Taryn, as someone who has a history of eating disorders, this is pretty important to me!' another said.
'What an honor to know and work with you. A wonderful speech with a powerful message,' former Senator Natasha Stott Despoja said.
Though not everyone was on board with her message of positivity.
'Aussie of the Year all about body image? Very important issue in third world countries. Great leadership from Australia,' one sarcastic commenter wrote.
The movement has attracted the attention of Hollywood superstars such as Drew Barrymore (pictured) and Rebel Wilson along with talk show host Ricki Lake
Ms Brumfitt previously wrote for Daily Mail Australia that every young girl should see her mother naked to learn what normal bodies look like and that perfection does not equal happiness.
'A mother is a girl's very first and strongest role model - if she sees her embracing her body, seeing its imperfections as the marks left by life's experiences rather than things to despair about, then she'll stand a much better chance of having a positive relationship with her own,' she said.
'This is a message I feel deeply about, not least because I used to loathe my body, so much so that at my lowest ebb, I considered surgery, in the desperate hope it would make me happy.
She said that after her daughter Mikaela's birth in 2009 she became obsessed with getting back to how she had looked before she became a mum.
'I was struggling psychologically to live comfortably with my saggy tummy and droopy boobs. My husband kept telling me that he loved me for who I was rather than the body I was in, but I couldn't feel that way about myself. He found me beautiful, but I didn't,' she said.
Ms Brumfitt said being healthy was not about images of perfection fed to woman and