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Why It's Impossible to Just Eat Less

Why It s Impossible to Just Eat Less The Outside Fitness Center OutsideOnline com

Why It's Impossible to Just Eat LessThe formula to weight loss is simple: eat less and exercise more. So why are these simple things so impossibly hard to do? Source:

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Fatigue Makes Slobs of Us AllMost people live in a low-activity, high-food “obesogenic” world, and it takes constant effort to stay active and eat smart. But why is it so easy to make the wrong decisions? One explanation cites something calleddecision fatigue. According to this concept, we are confronted with countless choices all day long, but we can only make a certain number of reasoned decisions before our judgment becomes lax.

Many people’s hyper-busy lives have them juggling constantly. As a result, they run out of the psychic energy to consistently generate enough self-discipline to exercise, watch what they eat, and follow health guidelines. 

Roy Baumeister, one of the gurus of decision fatigue research and a professor of psychology at Florida State University, describes the results of a simple experiment involving, of all things, cookies and geometry:

Many studies have found that people perform relatively poorly on tests of self-control when they have engaged in a previous, seemingly unrelated act of self-control. For instance, in a study in my lab, we invited some students to eat fresh-baked chocolate-chip cookies, and asked others to resist the cookies and munch on radishes instead. Then we gave them impossible geometry puzzles to solve. The students who ate the cookies worked on the puzzles for 20 minutes, on average. But the students who had resisted the tempting cookies gave up after an average of eight minutes.  Such studies suggest that some willpower was used up by the first task, leaving less for the second.

This test helps explain why fatigue from sleep deprivation and shift work are associated with weight gain. In a study using brain imaging to understand what sleep deprivation does to appetite control, those who didn't sleep tended to eat even when they weren't hungry.

Life automation is supposed to remove decision fatigue.

Don't think about what you will eat; choose in advance and automate the process.

In practice, automating food decisions is much harder than it should be. 


Managing Decision Fatigue

Here are some tips to help you navigate the decision fatigue minefield we all live in:

  1. Work out first thing in the morning before the day catches up with you. Many habitual exercisers do this. They may be inadvertently managing decision fatigue.
  2. Get the junk food out of your environment. Fewer decisions will mean less decision fatigue. My wife and I did this in early 2013, and I have now lost 12–14 pounds with minimal effort. Avoid putting the candy in the cart so you don’t have to struggle keeping it in the pantry.
  3. Work physical activity into daily tasks. If possible, use active commuting to and from work.
  4. Reduce decision making. Think about the routine things that can be made automatic—from what you eat for lunch to where you live. Football coach Nick Saban eats the same thing every day to limit the number of trivial decisions he makes. And I choose to remain in a small city to avoid wasting time driving.
  5. Manage your electronic world. For many of us, the day is artificially extended, and sleep time is squeezed by the friend in another time zone or the buddy who’s always online. Most communication can wait. Getting an extra 30 minutes of sleep will help you make the right choices.

#2 -- adjusting your environment -- is critical to life automation. Context matters.

i love the concept that willpower has its limits!  the students who indulged in cookies were willing to work on impossible geometry for twice as long as those who had to resist the cookies!!  amazing.

Amazing, and it makes a lot of sense that real-life decision fatigue gets in the way of good decisions.

true datt!  i experience decision fatigue every day, starting around noon!!

Has two years made a difference?

yes!!  i have systemized my morning tasks, like getting my boys ready for school, eating breakfast, getting dressed, and checking email so that i am following a routine rather than making choices.  by the time noon rolls around, i am well into my work and feeling fine!

Emily that's excellent. What a difference a few years can make!

This whole thread has made me think about energy and flow and imperatives.  Imperatives are have-to's, no decisions required, and I seem to attain flow most easily in an environment with a lot of imperatives.  I need to learn to make more enjoyable activities feel like an imperative.  It's all in the head, man!

Can you schedule them or would that make them less special?

I need to elevate the activity to life saving, not just life enhancing.  Because age.  :)

Yes. That's the right attitude! Life saving for the win, Geege!

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