Painting makes me hungry. Really hungry. Almost as much as heavy duty yard work or aerobic exercise does. Which I found kind of surprising. While it takes a lot of concentration to think about next steps in a painting, expending mental energy normally doesn't build a large appetite. I can run a meeting, write a consulting proposal, polish off a novel, or optimize decisions from a restaurant menu (in keeping with the food theme) without feeling the need to devour everything in sight.
While the brain makes up only 2% of your body weight, it consumes 25% of your body's fuel because it is a metabolic hothouse. In other words, it's a very hungry organ, disproportionately in need of calories. And healthy calories at that – not processed carbs and sweets – because the brain is extremely sensitive to fluctuations in blood sugar.
Back to painting-induced hunger… My theory is that mental exertion plus physical activity makes the difference. And I move around a lot when I paint, stepping back and forth from my easel regularly. That provides perspective and keeps me from getting too detailed and fussy. So if there's food around the studio, I'll eat it. Even if that involves ingesting cobalt, cadmium and ochre – fortunately only in minute amounts, from hands covered in pastel dust. I was painting with friends recently and the hostess put out Girl Scouts cookies. As I scarfed up Thin Mints it was clear why I often say I can resist anything but temptation.
The explanatory phrase I coined is SeeFood Diet, because if I see it, I eat it. Astute observers may notice that some "Produce Aisle" paintings are named for what they quickly became, such as Guacamole or Fruit Smoothie. Others paintings, like this market scene from southern France, focus on food. Fortunately, the opposite is also true. If I don't see it, I don't eat it – or even bother looking for it. So I just keep junk food out of the house, eat well to fuel my brain, and continue painting!