I'm starting to see more shades of gray, and it's good.
There is a difference between emotional eating, emotional overeating, mindful emotional eating, non-emotional overeating, and binge eating. I haven't binged since reading "Brain Over Binge", but I have done all of these other things.
Last night is the first time I ever experimented with mindful emotional eating. It's a concept I read about in Pavel Somov's book, "Eating the Moment", over a year ago. (There is an excellent little article by Somov about this concept *here*. I'm a big fan of his work!) I had the worst evening I've had in a long time due to a relationship meltdown; several long-standing problems surfaced and I was confronted with them all at once. After hours of crying had produced a pounding headache, I sat on the couch and thought "a couple of chocolate chip cookie dough balls from the freezer would make me feel better. That is simple fact. They would soothe the tension in my head and body like medicine. They wouldn't solve my problems, but they would bring me some immediate physical and emotional relief."
I didn't act on this thought right away. But it kept resurfacing as I went about other activities. And then I decided I was going to slowly, calmly, and mindfully carry out a clear episode of emotional eating. I knew I wasn't going to overeat or binge. I knew I was going to eat exactly two cookies, make them last, and give them all of my attention. And that's exactly what I did. I brought them to the couch, wrapped myself up in a blanket, and savored them for somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes.
When I was done, I felt better. And I had learned something: when a crisis hits, it IS possible to self-soothe with food and yet NOT OVEREAT OR BINGE. I didn't feel guilty or sick when I was done, and I didn't regret my choice the next day. Not one bit. It's not that I want eating--even mindful eating--to be my default response to emotional stress. But this was a very important lesson for me; I needed to see that everything is not so black and white. Even if I turn to food in the worst of times, I don't have to do it according to my old ways of doing it.
Over time, I will work on eliminating all emotional and "regular" overeating (the latter happens when you are fine emotionally, but the food you're eating tastes so damn good that it's hard to stop at a sensible portion, and everyone I know experiences this from time to time). And perhaps after that, I will be stricter about all emotional eating--even the kind that is mindful and only leads to 2 cookies. I simply don't know at this point.
What I do know right now is that I'm committed to NOT BINGING, and I'm alright with the gray areas in this long process of learning to eat, think, and cope differently. Perfectionism and impatience brought me all the way up the scale, so I don't believe they can bring me back down. I have to try a different way.