News flash: Women like to eat. Women need to eat. But if you look online or at movies or on your social media feeds, the chances are slim you’ll find evidence of them doing it — unless you search Instagram for the hashtag #WomenEatingFood. There, two intuitive eating coaches, Alissa Rumsey and Linda Tucker, hope to get people comfortable seeing women eating any and all types of foods. Regularly.
It all began in April, when Rumsey was on vacation in Florida. Her boyfriend snapped a progression of not-so-glamorous shots of her going to town on a Publix deli sandwich. “You can see how much I’m just savoring and loving it,” Rumsey told The Daily Meal over the phone. “I have food in my face, I mean, I’m just really into the sandwich.” Not surprising — Pub Subs are famous for being that good. She was also in a bikini; not only was she eating food, but she wasn’t hiding her body while doing so.
Something so essential as eating food and having a body may seem like it shouldn’t spark any shame, but for women, the media tells a different story. Both Rumsey and Tucker see the effects of this every day with their clients, who they help to repair and rebuild healthy relationships with food after chronic dieting or eating disorders. It’s rare to see footage of a woman in the media eating food without talking about how “good” or “bad” she is being or expressing guilt.
When Rumsey posted the photos, Tucker commented, “I think this is a good idea for a new hashtag campaign #womeneatingfood.” Rumsey clicked the hashtag and saw that just three photos had been posted — and later, when she Googled “women eating,” the results were even more dismal. Not only were the women not actually eating the food they held, they were also all thin, white, and often just holding a salad.
Out to right this wrong, they both posted calls to their followers to start posting. “We wanted to normalize the fact that women can be seen eating and there doesn’t have to be any justification for that,” said Rumsey, who is also a registered dietitian. “Not just thin women, either — all shapes and sizes of women. Society thinks women don’t eat messy, or get food on our faces, that we have to be so apologetic or justify what we’re doing. But that’s just not true.”
The movement is already having an impact. “I’ve gotten messages from women saying that it’s helped so much to see women just eating,” she said. Imagery is powerful — and social media has a longstanding, messy relationship with food.
Looking at photos of primarily thin bodies can make you think that’s how the majority of people look. And following influencers who post photos of what they eat can make you think that if you ate that way, you too could have their body type, though Rumsey says that’s not the case. “The constant comparison game can lead people down that disordered eating path,” Rumsey explained.
Rumsey tells people there are ways to turn social media into something positive. She guides all of her clients through a social media “clear-out,” which means they unfollow anyone who makes them feel bad about themselves, compare themselves or change their eating. “Fill your feed with things that are positive and size-diverse,” she advised. “Follow people that are sharing non-diet messages and who are in differently shaped bodies.”
Rumsey hopes to see an uptick in the body diversity of future #WomenEatingFood posts, too. But she acknowledges that there’s a lot of size privilege at play. “It’s easy for me, in a more socially acceptable body, to post,” she said. “I want women to feel safe and empowered posting these photos. But there is a risk of receiving hateful comments if you’re someone posting a photo eating in a larger body.”
Both Tucker and Rumsey call for women of all shapes, sizes, color, identities and abilities to participate. They want to see photos of women unapologetically eating burgers, ramen, milkshakes, fries, popcorn and, yes, even salads.
So if you’re a woman and want to join in, you’re more than welcome. Grab yourself some of the best food in your state and go to town — and don’t apologize or try to justify it.