Have you ever played poker?
I love to play. My dad taught me at a young age, and I grew up playing cards with uncles and cousins.
In the game of poker, there’s a term called “pot committed.” All things considered, between the hand you’re holding, the other players you’re betting against, the stack of chips in front of you, and the amount of your stack you’ve already pushed into the pot, “pot committed” means one thing.
You HAVE to play.
Pot committed means that you’ve already bet SO MUCH into the pot, to fold would mean you’re done. It would mean the same as quitting, giving up, handing over the rest of your chips to the rest of the players, and leaving the table.
Pot committed means you just do the thing and play the odds, because the only alternative is to bleed out slowly.
Today I stopped for lunch at my favorite deli pasta place. (I know, “pasta.” Totally Paleo, right?) I don’t eat there often, maybe once every six months or so, but I drool and fantasize every time I drive by. I ordered takeout. When I got to the counter, I looked at the five sizes they sold.
Depressingly small. Inadequately adequate. Moderately medium. Better bigger. EXCITING LARGE.
I’m only about 4% kidding.
Hi, my name is Erin. I have emotional reactions to portion sizes. Supersize fries really do make me authentically happy. I know there are about a thousand things wrong with that reality, but still. I feel things. BIG FEELS FOR FOOD.
…I’m working on it. I want to learn to eat intuitively, and I want my intuition to be intelligent and cognitive and health-minded, so I’m working on it.
Because I know I feel things for food, I have learned to think before I choose what or how much I’m going to eat. Standing at the counter, I asked myself one question. I ask only one question, and always the same question.
[“Mkay, Erin. What size container will feed you intuitively, and what size will feed the feels?]”
The one gallon, buffet size dish felt right. That would feed me emotionally.
The quart size dish thought right. That would feed me physically.
And, because I was super, super hungry, I knew I was thinking feral. I knew my brain wasn’t necessarily to be trusted; it had the perspective of a wild, starving dog.
I ordered a pint. Inadequately adequate.
I paid and brought it home.
As I recover from Anorexia and Bulimia, I have learned some things. I’ve learned that there are no bad foods. I can eat pasta. It’s not a bad food. I’ve learned that restraint is important. Eat some, not all. I’ve also learned that when I eat not-so-on-point foods, I need to cut them with something that’s actually good for me.
For lunch, I cut up some vegetables. I reheated salmon from dinner the other night, and chicken from the night before. Then I pulled out my pasta.
I don’t know if you have ever stuffed a pint size container full of pasta, but holy crap. You can fit a lot of food in there. The guy behind the counter was 19, (I assume) doesn’t get much positive attention from girls, liked it that I was polite to him, and dug my purple hair, so he stuffed the container tight. I popped open the bulging dish of pasta, scooped about half onto my plate, then clicked the lid shut and put the rest in the fridge.
Yum. I was starving.
When I’m super hungry, lunch goes fast. There may have been some scarfing involved. I hogged down my pasta and protein and vegetables. The kids were at school, so I didn’t have to share, I had no interruptions, and my food was hot. It was great. Wham, bam, thanks for lunch, Ma’am.
I cleaned my plate, a sufficient (generous) amount of food, then I ran into trouble.
As a bulimic, eating fast can be a problem. The behavior itself is a special kind of muscle memory, and it brings to mind the frantic pace of The Binge.
For me, eating fast is a good way to ensure I’ll eat the whole world.
I finished my lunch. I drank some water. I drank more water, then took my plate to the sink.
The Binge Monster inside of me was screaming. “I don’t want water, Fatty. I want FOOOOOOOOD.”
Over the rim of my stupid glass full of stupid water, I eyeballed the fridge.
The pasta salad was right in there.
Just right inside, in its little container. Just RIGHT THERE.
I put down my cup. I grabbed the fork off my dirty plate, walked to the fridge, opened the door, pulled out the pasta, flipped the lid open.
[“Let’s DO THIS SHIT.]
As I stabbed a forkful of yum and started to bring it to my face, my brain screamed at me. In truth, my brain had been screaming at me the whole time, from the first compulsion to eat more food, but I was too busy pastaurbating to listen.
(yes. toying mentally with the urge to pasta, because it feels good. it’s a real thing.)
Intuitive Self: “YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO THIS, YOU CAN STOP ANY TIME. JUST STOP. LEAVE IT FOR LATER. Sit for a bit and wait, just wait. BREATHE, DAMNIT.”
The Binge Monster: “Ggggrroooooowlllllglghhrhrrmmmmmmmmmfoooooooooooood….”
Mia Self: “FUCK YOU, Intuition. I’m eating this now. I already ate half, there’s barely any left. I’m pot committed. It’ll be gone quick, then we can throw the container away, no one will know I ate it, and I won’t have to share. JUST SHUSH AND HOLD STILL, I’LL BE FAST.”
Intuitive Self: “Okay, then what?”
Mia Self: **crickets**
She shut up for a second, and I had time to think.
Intuitive Self: “Seriously, then what. What will you eat next? Because you know you will, not “if.”
I thought about it. I thought about the road I was headed down. I turned and looked at the kids’ bucket of candy from Christmas. I thought about the cookies in the cabinet. I thought about the potato chips I just bought for the kids’ lunches, and the cereal box on top of the fridge.
Then I thought about the phrase that had screeched through my head.
“I’m pot committed.”
Then, from the back of my head, The Sheriff spoke up.
“No, you’re not.”
WE NEVER ARE.
With a feeling of calm, decisive, peaceful freedom, I closed that container, licked the fork clean (because duh, it was yummy), put the pasta in the fridge, and walked away.
As a bulimic and compulsive overeater, the idea of “pot committed” comes to mind a lot. Often.
During a binge (I bet every single binge), we think of it at least once.
When we’ve made a food choice that’s not on point, even a small one.
When we’re on plan, then we’re not.
One bite of cake. “FUCK, I just fucked it up. Just finish the piece. Hell, why not have two, plus ice cream.”
One cookie, after two days of clean eating. “SONOFABITCH. Might as well have five.”
A donut at breakfast, six days into a new diet plan. “THE WHOLE DAY IS RUINED. I’m going to McDonald’s for lunch.”
Here’s what I want you to understand, and what *I* did not understand fully until just today:
WE ARE NEVER POT COMMITTED.
When it comes to our food, we are never pot committed. We never have to push into it. We never have to scrape all of our chips into the center of the table, praying for the odds in our favor to avoid suicide.
We do not have to be food kamikazes. We do not have to hara-kiri ourselves over our dietary choices, no matter how far into the choice we are, no matter how good the choice is, no matter what.
One bite of the wrong thing does not pot commit you to failure.
One piece of cake after six days of good eating does not pot commit you to failure.
One work-related event with (what feels like) mandatory junk food eating does not pot commit you to failure.
Failure is what we do when we scrape all of our diet choices into the center of the table, then eat all the chips, then eat the table.
Bulimia and compulsive overeating are cyclic behaviors.
Feel good. Treat yourself. Feel bad. Treat becomes pot commitment. Food turns into self-abuse, eat the whole world, feel horrible, need repentance and retribution, punish yourself with purge or restriction, get back on track, feel good.
Recovery from bulimia and compulsive overeating happens when we break that cycle. A crack in the cycle of bulimic behavior allows the light in. It leaves us room to think and breathe, space to consider life outside the cycle of our addiction, and time to maybe make a different choice.
No matter how far down the path you are, you are never, ever pot committed. EVER. Never, ever. Life is not a game of poker. There are people and industries and culture that would like you to think so, but they’re lying.
Your life is yours. It is not a game, it is YOUR game. You make the rules. You hold the cards. You manage the chips.
At any point, you can reach your hand into the center of that table, choose to take back every single chip you bet, and start over.
“I don’t like how this is turning out. Let’s try again.”
And then we do.
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Live every day like it’s your last one. Find yourself, own your truth, and change your whole world. Forge Depth, and never stop digging.