I think this is an important concept when applied to weightloss and healthy living.. or just living. I’ve explored it before, and TONS of you deal with it EVERY DAY (as far as I can tell from my Ask). The article below REALLY provides the science behind the phenomenon. This can explain why you spend all day as an A+ Health Star then BUCKLE come dinner time.
Decision fatigue is based on the concept of ego-depletion: the more we deny ourselves and the more decisions we have to make in a day, the worse we are at maintaining will power.
It applies to ANY and ALL decisions, big or small, important or non-important, life changing or inconsequential. Everything from deciding what to put on your sandwich to what shoes to wear: the more choices we have & the more choices we have to make can ACTUALLY exhausts our brains.
Excerpt from NY Times
These experiments demonstrated that there is a finite store of mental energy for exerting self-control. When people fended off the temptation to scarf down M&M’s or freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies, they were then less able to resist other temptations. When they forced themselves to remain stoic during a tearjerker movie, afterward they gave up more quickly on lab tasks requiring self-discipline, like working on a geometry puzzle or squeezing a hand-grip exerciser. Willpower turned out to be more than a folk concept or a metaphor. It really was a form of mental energy that could be exhausted. 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. To study the process of ego depletion, researchers concentrated initially on acts involving self-control — the kind of self-discipline popularly associated with willpower, like resisting a bowl of ice cream. They weren’t concerned with routine decision-making, like choosing between chocolate and vanilla, a mental process that they assumed was quite distinct and much less strenuous. Intuitively, the chocolate-vanilla choice didn’t appear to require willpower.
When it comes to weight loss or healthy living, it’s ALL in the planning. Planning helps take some of those on-the-spot daily decisions OUT (hmmmm…. taking the thinking out… sounds like something Ive said before, no? :)
The more you plan & limit the decisions you have to make on the fly, the more likely you are to stick to your goals AND have enough mental energy left over to make smarter decisions during UNPLANNED moments. Planning has more benefit than just knowing what you’re having for lunch: it can actually change how you react to temptation at snack time. :)
For more info about decision fatigue, click on the NY Times article here.
Pssst - If you get a chance to listen to it, I HIGHLY recommend streaming or downloading the ‘Stuff To Blow Your Mind’ Decision Fatigue episode. It will… well… blow your mind. :) Search for it in iTunes, worth it. :)