Deciding what to eat meal after meal, day after day can be exhausting. So many options. The choices can be overwhelming. Add to that considerations about portion size and amount. Then add to that the planning, shopping, preparation, cooking, serving actual eating time. For each meal!
Everything about food from start to finish takes up a lion’s share of our thought time. And if weight loss is on your agenda, it’s fraught with a constant running stream of will this make me lose weight or gain weight calculations.
Now, add all that on top of the myriad decisions you’re making about work, family, health, even relaxation, throughout the day. All these decision, even tiny decisions which don’t seem to be of any particular significance, add up to one big decision fatigue headache.
AAGGGGH! Does just thinking about all this bring on the overwhelm? Is that smoke I see curling up from the top of your head?
Too many decisions create decision fatigue by day’s end.
Whether we’re talking big decisions like which house or car to buy, or micro-decisions like whether to buy organic broccoli in a bag already chopped versus the whole head which costs less but requires more prep time, our brains are deep in the decision making process 24/7.
By the end of the day, decision fatigue easily diminishes and over-rides willpower. Willpower, like an over-used muscle, weakens and performs poorly.
When decision fatigue sets in, it’s almost a given that you will fall prey to your old, well grooved thoughts and habits about eating and food. It’s those very same thoughts and habits which don’t support your weight loss goal that landed you where you are today.
Because our ancestral brain was designed to keep us alive so we could procreate and perpetuate the human species, it’s only natural for us to seek pleasure, avoid pain and make things easy.
In that regard, here’s something to think about:
Decision fatigue often leads to poor purchasing choices.
Think about all the sweet temptations loading the checkout counter isles at every store from Target to Trader Joe’s. How easy it is to grab and add to our pile purchases.
After making all those shopping decisions during the course of your errand, you’re more likely to impulsively reach for “goodies” at check-out. Two things are going on here. Easy access and availability intersecting with decision fatigue which sabotages any last vestiges of willpower.
We all know how hard it is to ignore the siren call of highly processed foods when they’re presented at eye-level or just a quick reach away as you move through the check-out line.
But, with some awareness, forethought and planning, you can make waning willpower a non-issue altogether.
How to over come decision fatigue and boost willpower.
James Clear, author of the international bestselling book, Atomic Habits, explains 5 Ways to Overcome Decision Fatigue and Boost Willpower.
And I’m on board with all of them!
1. Plan daily decisions the night before.
There will always be decisions that pop up each day that you can’t plan for. That’s fine. It’s just part of life.
But for most of us, the decisions that drain us are the ones that we make over and over and over again. Wasting precious willpower these decisions — which could be automated or planned in advance — is one reason why many people feel so drained at the end of the day.
For example, decisions like…
What am I going to wear to work? What should I eat for breakfast? Should I go to the dry cleaner before or after work? And so on.
All of those examples above, can be decided in 3 minutes or less the night before, which means you won’t be wasting your willpower on those choices the next day. Taking time to plan out, simplify, and design the repeated daily decisions will give you more mental space to make the important choices each day.
2. Do the most important thing first.
If there was the most important court case in the world, when would you want the judge to hear it?
Based on the research above, first thing in the morning. You’d want their best attention, energy, and focus to go toward the decisions that were most important.
The same thing goes for your work and life. What’s the most important thing for you right now?
Is it getting in shape? Is it building your business? Is it writing that book you have inside of you? Is it learning to eliminate stress and relax?
Whatever it is for you, put your best energy toward it. If you have to wake up 30 minutes earlier, then do that. Start your day by working on the most important thing in your life.
3. Stop making decisions. Start making commitments.
I think advice like, “you just need to decide to do it” gets dished around too much.
Yes, of course you need to decide to do the things that are important to you, but more than that you need to schedule them into your life.
We all have things that we say are important to us.
“I really want to scale my business.”
“I really want to lose 40 pounds.”
“I really want to get started on XYZ.”
Unfortunately, most of us simply hope that we’ll have the willpower and motivation to make the right decisions each day.
Rather than hoping that I’ll make the right choice each day, I’ve found much more success by scheduling the things that are important to me.
For example, my schedule for writing is Monday and Thursday. My schedule for weightlifting is Monday, Wednesday, Friday. On any given Monday, I don’t have to decide whether I’m going to write. It’s already on the schedule. And I’m not hoping that I’ll have enough willpower to make it to the gym. It’s just where I go on Mondays at 6pm.
If you sit back and hope that you’ll be able to make the right decisions each day, then you will certainly fall victim to decision fatigue and a lack of willpower.
4. If you have to make good decisions later in the day, then eat something first.
It’s no coincidence that the judges became better decision makers after eating. Now, if you cram french fries into your veins every day, then I doubt that you’ll enjoy the same results. But taking a break to feed your brain is a wonderful way to boost willpower.
This is especially important because although it’s great to do the most important thing first, it’s not always possible to organize your day like that.
When you want to get better decisions from your mind, put better food into your body.
Whether you are trying to reach the highest level of performance or just want to start eating a healthy diet, the biggest frustration for most people is the feeling that you need to use willpower on an hourly basis.
Find ways to simplify your life. If something isn’t important to you, eliminate it. Making decisions about unimportant things, even if you have the time to do so, isn’t a benign task. It’s pulling precious energy and willpower from the things that matter.
Willpower is one area of life where you can most certainly improve your output by reducing the number of inputs.
Are you ready to make it easier to lose weight by using Advance Planning techniques and skills I can teach you?
Weight loss willpower isn’t something you have or something you lack.
It ebbs and flows depending on the demands you are putting on it throughout the day.It rises and falls. You can make a few changes to your day and your routine so that you can get the most of your decisions that you do need to make about food and eating.
The one sure fire strategy to avoid decision fatigue when it comes to sticking with your weight loss journey: Advance Planning.
Let me know you’re ready to figure out how to streamline decision-making, maximize willpower and lose weight you want right here.