As a journalist, Virginia Sole-Smith has reported from kitchen tables and grocery stores, graduated from beauty school, and gone swimming in a mermaid’s tail. She tells stories about women, often in overtly feminine places — nail salons, Mary Kay parties — or anywhere women are fighting to find moments of power underneath frameworks intended to disempower us.

With her new book, The Eating Instinct: Food Culture, Body Image and Guilt in America, Virginia explores how we can find that power — and reconnect to our bodies and our own innate understanding of how to eat — in a culture that’s constantly giving women so many mixed messages about both those things. Virginia began her career giving diet advice in teen and women’s magazines, and reporting on environmental health issues, including the rise of the modern alternative food movement. She spent over a decade watching that movement’s obsession with whole foods and clean eating merge with the war on obesity and the belief that women’s bodies, in particular, should always be smaller. But it wasn’t until her own daughter stopped eating as a newborn, and Virginia was faced with making food seem safe to a traumatized child, that she realized just how many of us don’t feel safe around food, because our fears about body size have spun so out of control. The Eating Instinct tells the stories of women, men, and children, all learning how to eat again, on their own terms.

Virginia’s work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Harper’sElle and many other publications. She’s also a contributing editor with Parents Magazine and co-host of Comfort Food Podcast. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, two daughters, and three cats. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @v_solesmith.