You may have heard this sometime in your weight loss journey, “You just need more willpower!” Or maybe, if you’re like me, a lack of willpower is a weakness you already know you have and you wish there was something you could do to improve it. Making the difficult decision to be healthy is something you have to work at every day, and it’s not something that comes easy to most of us. How many times have you been starving at the end of the day and just said, “screw it,” and made your way to the quickest drive thru fast food. Trying to have the willpower to do the right thing is hard enough, and we all know how much harder it is to make good decisions when we are tired and hungry. Well, I just found this article in the New York Times about some interesting research about willpower. Here’s the link if you want to read it yourself! article
I learned that we can suffer from something called “decision fatigue.” The more often we have to make decisions during the day, the more fatigued our brain becomes, and when we are exhausted, we tend to do one of two things. Some people become impulsive. Two doughnuts? Why not! That $500 pair of shoes? Let’s do it! Other people tend to avoid the decision altogether by either putting the decision off until later, picking the safest option, or just going with the status quo. So how does this affect your diet and exercise life? If you know you have a difficult day ahead of you with lots of decisions to make, more than likely you will be decision-fatigued by the end of the day, and a lot of us leave our healthy habits for the end of the day as well. We have to make the decision to exercise and we have to decide what to eat for dinner. If you are impulsive, you’re more likely to be too tired to cook and you’ll order out chinese. Or, if you are more the status quo type, you may find yourself parked on the couch for the evening rather than make the decision to get up and go to the gym. So, what to do?
First, make things easy for yourself and make the decisions first thing in the morning. Put dinner in the crock pot before you go to work and pack yourself a lunch. You can make all your weekly dinners on Sunday and just put them in the over when you get home. That way, all the food decisions for the day (or week!) are already made and you won’t be so decision-fatigued.
Second, make exercise a regular part of your routine that is unavoidable. You won’t have to agonize over whether you should go to the gym if you go first thing in the morning. Try to walk on your lunch break or take gym clothes with you and go right after work, before you go home. Once you’re home at the end of the day, you’ll have to choose to get back up and exercise, but if it’s already built into your day, you won’t have to make the decision to go. If you get a good routine going, just don’t’ let yourself off the hook! Once you start making exceptions, then it becomes a decision you have to make again.
Have you found other ways to beat “decision-fatigue?” Let me know if any of these tips work for you!