Social media is an amazing thing. It allows us to connect with colleagues and distant relatives and it gives us the opportunity to reconnect with old friends. But there is more to social media than pet, party and baby photos and, every now and then, something comes up which changes the cultural lexicon and how we think about the world. Enter #WomenEatingFood, the Instagram hashtag which is redefining how women see themselves — and their bodies.
The hashtag, which was the brainchild of registered dietician Alissa Rumsey and body coach Linda Tucker, came about in response to #WomenEating: a similar hashtag which shows very few women actually eating. That bothered Rumsey and Tucker, so the pair decided to start a conversation. Rumsey posted a picture of her chowing down on a super yummy looking sandwich. She then explained the importance of enjoying food: “When I saw these photos, I thought of something a client said to me after watching @ciaosamin in @saltfatacidheat. She commented on how rare it is in the media to see women just enjoying food, all sorts of food, without any commentary on how “good” or “bad” the food is (or they are, for eating said food), and without any remarks or criticism of their bodies. Just simple, pure enjoyment of delicious food ❤️ I’d love to see more of that – if you have any examples of women in tv, movies or here on IG that share that pure food enjoyment, please share below 🙋🏻♀️”
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That first bite of my first-ever @publix sub 😍 Swipe right to see the progression, documented so beautifully by @pete3 🤣 When I saw these photos, I thought of something a client said to me after watching @ciaosamin in @saltfatacidheat. She commented on how rare it is in the media to see women just enjoying food, all sorts of food, without any commentary on how “good” or “bad” the food is (or they are, for eating said food), and without any remarks or criticism of their bodies. Just simple, pure enjoyment of delicious food ❤️ I’d love to see more of that – if you have any examples of women in tv, movies or here on IG that share that pure food enjoyment, please share below 🙋🏻♀️ (And if you haven’t seen Salt Fat Acid Heat on Netflix, I highly recommend!) #womeneatingfood
And share women did. The hashtag has been used hundreds of times.
Ironically, the hashtag itself was “accidental.” According to Delish, it came about after Rumsey did a quick Google search for “women eating” and found “a bunch of thin, white, beautiful women with a salad they weren’t even touching. It was insane.” But as someone who has overcome an eating disorder, I am glad Rumsey spoke up. I am glad Rumsey spoke out and I am thankful she — and other women — are sharing their stories.
At first, my behaviors seemed normal. I would skip breakfast and eat a small lunch. I would snack on cereal, rice cakes, veggies and fruits, and I would decline meals, even when I was hungry. Before long, my mind shifted. My actions shifted and food became an enemy. My body became an enemy.
I exercised more and ate even less. I drank cold water, black coffee and — on occasion — unsweetened iced tea, and I bought baby food — small, pureed “meals.” Before long, I was struggling. I was sick and weighed just 88 measly pounds.
Officially, I was diagnosed with body dysmorphia and EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified) but the labels aren’t important. What matters is that today, I am healed. Today, I am healthy. Today, I am better. I am a runner, a writer, a wife, a mother and an advocate. I openly discuss my struggles with my physical and mental health. And yet I still have moments of criticism. Sometimes, I find myself questioning my body, and full of fear and doubt. And that is why #WomenEatingFood is so important: it is raw. It is real. It is normal.
But the movement isn’t over. Rumsey told Delish there is still a long way to go, and she wants to make there’s room for everyone in this discussion.
“The [photos] that have stuck out to me so far are the ones from women in larger bodies who’ve been posting and sharing because I know how much harder that is,” Rumsey said. “I think it’s important to address that it’s easy for me, someone who is in a ‘socially acceptable body,’ to post a photo of myself eating, because, yeah, I do get praise. It’s a scarier thing for someone who isn’t because they might not get comments like that or even have it be perceived as positive.”
So she and Tucker are continuing to ask women of all “shapes, sizes, color, identities, and abilities” to post pictures of themselves enjoying food because it matters.