Thursday, October 16, 2014

Decision Fatigue- Make Choices Easier!

Studies show that it is exhausting to make decisions all day.  The greater the number of decisions, and the more complex they are, the more ‘worn out’ we become - we become mentally fatigued. By the end of the day (or even the end of a tough morning) the mental fatigue leads to lower willpower, and poor decision-making. We tend to take ‘the easy decision’ when we’re tired, and if tempted by ‘junk food’ we find ourselves falling for it, with little power to step back and make the healthy choice.  What to do?  Try to simplify choices throughout the day, conserving energy (and willpower.)   Read these interesting excerpts from a New York Times article:

“...studies show that people with the best self-control are the ones who structure their lives so as to conserve willpower. They don’t schedule endless back-to-back meetings. They avoid temptations like all-you-can-eat buffets, and they establish habits that eliminate the mental effort of making choices. Instead of deciding every morning whether or not to force themselves to exercise, they set up regular appointments to work out with a friend. Instead of counting on willpower to remain robust all day, they conserve it so that it’s available for emergencies and important decisions”...

We’ve heard that willpower gets stronger the more we use it - but actually, the opposite is true! From the article: “The experiments confirmed the 19th-century notion of willpower being like a muscle that was fatigued with use, a force that could be conserved by avoiding temptation.”.. What gets stronger (easier) with use is not willpower, but instead GOOD HABITS.   What we do NOT want to do is constantly throw off or challenge our good habits - instead, we want to reinforce them, not weaken them with temptations.    Planning ahead to make ‘the good choice the easy choice”, and then practicing the good routine, makes it easier to stay on track.
More from the article:  “The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences…. The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing.”...Neither of these outcomes are good for weight management! This concept is crucial: we will do BEST when we decide IN ADVANCE exactly what we’re going to eat throughout the day, and when we’re going to exercise.  This ‘saves’ our mental energy and willpower, so we’ll feel stronger in the evening - and find it easier to make better choices.  We’ll also feel less fatigued at the end of the day - and wouldn’t it be nice to have a little more energy, and feel more relaxed?
Another issue is "blood sugar”:  “Even the wisest people won’t make good choices when they’re not rested and their glucose is low,” Baumeister points out.”  Eating a balanced meal or snack which contains protein, every three to four hours during the day, will help keep blood sugar at an optimal range - and help sustain your mental as well as physical energy.  You’ll also find that evening eating is more in control, when you’ve eaten properly all day.
How to implement a plan?  Work with us to help you get over the toughest part - weighing the options (for food and exercise) and MAKING the choices, in advance.  It’s MUCH easier to implement a plan that is ALREADY DECIDED in advance, with specifics.  We can help!  Stock up on healthy choices, so that the healthy choice is the easy choice- both during the day, and when you get home at night.

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