Who is Taryn Brumfitt? Here’s what you need to know about the 2023 Australian of the Year | Health

Bestselling writer, director and body image campaigner Taryn Brumfitt has been named the 2023 Australian of the Year.

The 45-year-old mother of four first came into public life in 2013, when a simple “before and after” photo on Facebook went viral showing how her body had changed.

Here’s what you need to know.

She used to be a bodybuilder

After the birth of her third child, Brumfitt was determined to regain a pre-pregnancy figure.

She considered plastic surgery but eventually took up an extensive weight-loss and exercise regime that led to a stint in bodybuilding – including competing in a bodybuilding contest.

But her strict preoccupation with having the so-called “perfect figure” only led to unhappiness.

“The lifestyle that I lived to have that perfect body felt very restrictive, and it wasn’t really very joyful,” she told Jennifer Dulski in her book, Purposeful.

Instead, Brumfitt opted to embrace her figure – leading to her first viral moment.

She’s reached more than 200 million people

Brumfitt’s move into body image advocacy started with a simple reverse “before and after” post on social media.

“Before,” Brumfitt displayed her chiseled bodybuilding image – in a bikini on stage at a competition. Her after shot showed Brumfitt after she gave up her strict regime – an image of self-acceptance.

“My ‘after’ is as I am now, cellulite, stretch marks, folds, rolls, all the things,” she told the ABC on Thursday.

It quickly spread internationally, receiving millions of views.

“Which is crazy in itself right?” Brumfitt said. “A woman learns to embrace her body, and it becomes headline news in most countries around the world.”

The several thousand emails Brumfitt received after posting the image inspired her to write her book and film her eventual documentary Embrace. Since then, she’s amassed a social media following of 500,000 and, according to her official Australian of the Year biography, her advocacy has reached hundreds of millions around the globe.

She’s inspired a movement

Brumfitt’s career-defining work is the Body Image Movement (BIM), founded with an “international mission to help people embrace their bodies” and based in her home town of Adelaide.

Via educational resources, speeches, documentaries and three bestselling books, Brumfitt aims to promote positive body image and combat toxic messaging in the media and advertising.

Its pillars are her social-change documentaries Embrace and Embrace Kids, which led to recognition from UN Women, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls and the Geena Davis Institute and have been viewed more than 45m times.

Since founding BIM, Brumfitt has become a sought-after speaker, delivering more than 100 keynote performances worldwide. Her talk in Silicon Valley was live-streamed to every Google office in the world.

She’ll be advocating for children

Brumfitt has made it clear she will be spending a lot of her time as Australian of the Year campaigning for greater resources to address body image issues among youth.

Embrace Kids, released last year, features activists Celeste Barber and Jameela Jamil and has been accompanied by educational programs and resources.

Brumfitt has already requested a meeting with the government about a “paediatric health emergency” among children battling mental health issues and eating disorders.

“It’s getting younger and younger, I have to say. I only spoke to a six-year-old recently who was dieting,” she told the ABC on Thursday.

“We really need to help our kids across Australia and the world because the rates of suicide, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, steroid use, all on the increase, related to body dissatisfaction.”