In the age of photoshop and fad diets, it is not uncommon to see beautiful women comforting themselves with food because of a bad break up, a loss of a job, unrealistic beauty expectations, or some other life event.

 

Think about “No Strings Attached” where Natalie Portman is eating two boxes of donut holes after Ashton Kutcher turns her down.  How about when Reese Witherspoon in “Legally Blonde” throwing a box of chocolates at the television yelling “Liar!”? Or in “How I Met Your Mother” where Robin is drinking wine and eating under her desk while crying when Barney leaves for lunch with Patrice?

 

Emotional eating, however, is not all that comical. Artist Lee Price has taken a stand on this issue and has created a series of paintings that convey the secrecy, shame, and compulsive factors attributable to emotional eating, also known as eating to satisfy one’s feelings. From her studio in Beacon, New York, Price produces incredible, photo-realistic oil paintings “exploring food’s role as liberator, crutch, drug, and nourishment.”

 

Lee Price’s work (Refinery29.com)

“Much of my work looks at compulsivity,” Price explains. “The aerial view evokes the feeling of an out of body experience: The subject is watching herself engage in compulsive behavior but is unable to stop. There is an absurdity to the repetition of this act of compulsion. At the same time it is an attempt to find real nourishment.”

 

Price also suggested that the privacy of the setting is important; she chose to paint women in bed and in the bathtub because these are stereotypically private and personal spaces.

 

 

To date, Price’s work has enabled insightful discussions about the relationship between women and food.   Some, however, argue that her paintings are of a thin woman eating clearly unhealthy food, and since the model is thin it has no real merit: women that are thin do not eat that way, only large women do, so her paintings are biased.

 

This viewpoint is a flagrant contradiction to what emotional eating is, and to a larger extent, what Price’s inspirational work is all about.  The argument that a thin woman binging on unhealthy food is not believable can be construed as saying that if one looks a certain way it is OK to give into their feelings of lack of control. Ask yourself: why anyone would think that? Or perhaps, why one would think that issues with emotional eating only apply if there are outward signs of it?

 

Happy Meal (Refinery29.com)

Emotional eating has also become a female trait that is not only strangely expected and laughed at, but it is also, simultaneously, shameful. Women tend not to post videos of themselves crying and binging on donuts. These, generally, are activities done alone and in private places; for some it can become ritualized. Yet, if they are truly hilarious, then why do women tend to feed their feelings in secret?

 

Combine emotional eating with feelings of control and you have an even more complicated issue. In the end, the relationship between women and food boils down to control. On the one hand, there are anorexic women who some might wish they had their control. On the other hand, a binge eater might be perceived as someone who feels out of control or, is giving in to lack of control.  Emotions from women are (overly) expected; therefore, emotional eating might be perceived as girls being girls.

 

Generally speaking, the reality is quite different. If anyone–male or female–deals with life’s problems such as a break up, loss of a job, or anything else for that matter, by consuming an exorbitant amount of food, one could argue that they are not actually dealing with the problem.

 

How do you interpret Price’s work? What do you think of emotional eating? What do you think of emotional eating on television? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @kateeb790!