Let’s talk fatigue. I’m not going to get into physical fatigue but it does play a part in what fatigue I am going to talk about. What I really want to discuss with you is …
It is real and it is happening to you.
Do you know what decision fatigue is?
You know when you’ve had a very physically demanding day. Maybe you have been working in the yard all day or maybe you did a very strenuous workout. By the end of the day, your muscles are sore and you can barely lift the water glass to your mouth. You then realize your physical abilities are exhausted.
The same goes mentally.
Your ability, mentally, to make good decisions deteriorates through out the day when you are forced to make choices. What does this create? Bad decisions near the end of the day.
I have so many women tell me that they eat well all day until after work or after they put their kids to bed. Then they overeat and snack.
Decision fatigue is why this happens.
One study found that parole judges were less likely to release prisoners if they were seen later in the day compared to an earlier time slot.
This is real my friend.
So, you may ask the question then, “How do I combat decision fatigue? Does that mean I don’t have any willpower in the evening and I’m just destined to overeat every night forever?”
Let’s look at why you overeat due to decision fatigue in the first place. When our brains are fatigued they look for shortcuts in decision making. The best short cut is to utilize a habit, or a well worn pathway in our brain. When our brain has a habit to fall back on (whether it is bad or good) it will employ that habit to take over.
I like to think of them as a well beaten paths through the woods. It is much easier and faster to take the well beaten path rather than cutting a new trail. What you may not realize is that the well-worn trail may take you in the opposite direction of where you want to go.
That is what happens with habits. If for the last year you have been snacking the whole time while making supper after work, that is exactly what your brain will default to when it is fatigued. If you are always looking for a little dopamine rush after you put the kids to bed and use a snack to get it, a snack is what you will turn to after putting your toddler back in bed for the sixteenth time that night.
What do you do about these habits? How do we change the habits we don't want any more?
Well, you have to make a plan ahead of time and commit.
I like to start with the 1% rule and plan out the time of day that is the hardest. I ask myself, “How can I make a decision that is 1% better tonight?” Then I take the time to write out a plan 24 hours in advance.
Why so far ahead? Because, when we make decisions that far ahead we use a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. I like to think of it as the adult part of the brain. We make good, future focused decisions with our prefrontal cortex. If we wait and plan later, or even worse, don’t plan, we use our lower part of our brain. This part I like to call our toddler brain. It wants what it wants and it wants it NOW. It will throw a tantrum if you don’t give in to it and it could care less about the future.
Want a few examples?
If eating while making supper is your down fall, maybe your plan is to start out only having fresh veggies out while you cook. 24 hours in advance you write out what you will have out and what you are cooking. You’ll make a plan for exactly how that dinner will be made and how many of those veggies you will eat.
Or another plan could include a freezer meal so that you are not in the kitchen after work and you plan what you will do with your time while dinner is in the oven.
Now, lets look at the snacking after bedtime routine. You could write down 24 hours in advance maybe only 1 scoop of ice cream instead of two (remember 1% better). Or maybe you want to read instead of sitting down in front of the TV with a bag of chips.
There are endless possibilities as to how you can use to solve by planning. The point is, you PLAN and you start SLOW. Make it the plan doable. Something you can stick with. Once you feel like you’ve mastered the new, one-percent better routine, make the new routine 1% better.
I’m sure some of you are saying, “That sounds so slow. Why wouldn’t I just go cold turkey?”
It won’t stick. That's why. You’ll have a really hard day at work and you’ll fall back into old habits.
You need to start building new habits and routines slowly. That is how they LAST.
When you find yourself struggling with decision fatigue, remember, PLAN first. Use that adult part of your brain ahead of time so you don’t have to make a toddler decision in the moment. And for goodness sake, slow down. You'll thank yourself later if you do.
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