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March 24, 2022

The Physical Toll of Decision Fatigue—& How Food can Help us Recover. {Partner}

This article is written in partnership with Reset, a weight loss program, based on intermittent calorie restriction, that reduces decision fatigue so we can reach a healthier-for-us weight without feeling tired, frustrated, or ready to give up. We’re honored to work with them. ~ Ed.

~

Take a guess just how many decisions you make every day.

I mean, think about your food choices alone. Already seems like a lot, right?

The average person makes 35,000 decisions a day (1), 200 of which pertain specifically to food (2).

So, if you’ve ever found yourself making healthy choices most of the morning and afternoon, but after an exhausting day at the office, find you’ve run out of willpower to keep up the trend, it’s not your fault.

It’s decision fatigue—a scientific term for the cumulative overload of decisions that snowball in our brains (3) until—pow!—we just can’t decision anymore!

Limit decision fatigue & get healthier—without feeling tired, or ready to give up >>

Decision Fatigue and the Dinner Problem

As an editor here at Elephant, my job is all decision making, all day. At the end of the evening, my brain. shuts. down.

Rather than decide what to eat for dinner, which grocery store to go to, what pants and shoes to put on for the rare occasion of actually going out in public on a weeknight, yada yada, I throw on whatever, jump in my car, and file myself into the drive-thru line for my tried-and-true usual.

Result: borderline high cholesterol (nothing too serious, though) and the heaviest weight I’ve ever been.

The truth is, making healthy choices throughout the day is tiring—especially when those choices entail exerting the willpower to say “no” to foods we really want to say “yes” to throughout the day.

No to the sugary latte! No to the break room Krispy Kremes! No to the office party pizza! No, no, no!

That’s when decision fatigue strikes, and we’re most likely to give in to:

>> Procrastination
>> Impulsivity
>> Avoidant behavior, and
>> Indecisiveness (3)

So we end our days tired and frustrated. We give in and eat that Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food pint staring at us longingly as we reach past it toward the bag of frozen edamame. We can’t keep up our healthy plan.

That’s where Reset’s 5:2 weight loss program, based on intermittent calorie restriction, comes in.

Is the 5:2 diet for you? Take this quiz and see if it might be >>

Reset is an app-based eating program that helps us better nourish our bodies so that we can live lighter and healthier, and its key psychological principle is that if we have to follow strict rules and log every food for every meal, seven days a week, we will all eventually grow fatigued and give up.

But, when we reduce the number of decisions we need to make surrounding our food, we’ll have an easier time making better choices to fuel our bodies, and thus experience more sustainable health-restoring or weight loss results.

It’s like Intermittent Fasting, but with a Tasty Twist.

If you battle with your weight, chances are that you’re familiar with intermittent fasting.

Reset’s kinda like that, but instead of restricting eating to a certain time frame or certain days, you restrict calories and create a calorie deficit—but only two days a week. The rest of the time, you eat without restriction and without logging calories.

This frees us from the constant and overwhelming pressure to always “choose the right food” that we might have felt with other eating programs. But it’s just as, or in some cases, more effective.

According to the International Journal of Obesity (5), participants in one study stuck to their diet program and continued to experience weight loss six months after the start of their program, and compared to daily calorie restriction, showed greater decline in waist measurements.

That’s great and all. And I can attest; I’m on a regular downward trend, and I’m pulling up my freshly washed jeans a lot more often than I have in a long time. But here’s what’s been my favorite part of the Reset program, and where the decision fatigue has been reduced on a psychological level as well as a physical one:

I love cooking; the kitchen is my Zen space (just not the dishes). But I haven’t recently been prioritizing my chef duties—hence, the fast food.

Lose weight & gain f(l)avor: How to make “diet food” your friends will want to eat with you >>

Reset has a bunch of recipes they include in their app subscription, each geared to pack protein into a lower-calorie meal. The recipes are often quite simple and can be made during a one-hour, work-from-home lunch break, which, for me, has been a mental recalibration of its own.

When I first started the program, I was encouraged to select my weekly Reset days, and then told that most users find it helpful to look ahead for the week and meal plan to fill the allotted daily calories and protein requirements.

You see what they did there? They set up a routine without you even knowing it: choose a day of the week to meal plan and log those meals into your Reset days.

That means all decision-making for what I’ll eat on my Reset days is made in a single day, and that all the thinking about what I’ll eat and when is already done.

Poor decisions canceled, food-related indecision eliminated, impulsive eating averted!

And one thing’s for sure: there’s zero chance I’m going to avoid my Reset days because the food is freaking delicious (and surprisingly filling—thanks, caloric density!) and also because they’re super flexible:

Experience a diet with as much stretch power as your favorite leggings >>

>> Bestie got that raise and you want to celebrate? Move your Reset day wherever within the week.
>> On the run and need something quick? Reset lists popular restaurant options that can help you stick to your goals without rearranging.

Otherwise, just stick to the homemade deliciousness of your Reset days (I promise you’ll actually do this happily). Here are three of my personal favorite Reset recipes—a.k.a what a Reset day might look like for me:

Breakfast:

Lunch:

Dinner:

Those are three of my favorite and most satisfying recipes. And while, at first, I thought there was no way that the app-recommended chicken and broccoli stir-fry lunch could possibly get anywhere near filling my belly, nonetheless flavorfully, I can tell you, I was blown away.

I very quickly began to believe and agree with one Reset review I’d read before signing on to try the program, who said they actually look forward to their Reset days. Tcheah, right, I thought. But it’s so true!

Diet’s shouldn’t be torture; they should be something you look forward to lasting. Test out the Reset experience >>

Even my partner, who is not following a Reset regimen, joyfully takes part in eating my extra portion of food (many recipes serve 2 or more), and has asked on my non-Reset days if we could make “Reset chili.” (For the record, my answer has been yes.)

Go On, Disarm your Decision Fatigue.

In a society full of endless (and frankly excessive) options and opportunities that require our evaluation and decision-making, we don’t need to let our food choices weigh(t) us down.

We can take a couple of days a week to pause and remind ourselves that we don’t need to take advantage of all the junk (food) thrown at us every day.

When we touch in with routine and eliminate an overload of choices right off the bat, we reduce the taxation on our minds. This is no exception when it comes to our diet. When we have the capacity to make healthier, more nutritious decisions, we will.

Give yourself the gift of exploring that ability.

It’s time to press your body-mind’s Reset button, and give it a taste of what it needs. >>

~

Resources:

  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/stretching-theory/201809/how-many-decisions-do-we-make-each-day
  2. https://sooma.ca/why-you-cant-stop-thinking-about-food/
  3. https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/what-doctors-wish-patients-knew-about-decision-fatigue
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3017674/
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