5-star Fitness

Is Decision Fatigue Making You Fat?

Written By Joni Hargrave • 6 min read

Should I hit the snooze or wake up? Workout now or later? If so, what time and what workout? What should I have for breakfast, order for lunch? Do I need the arched supported shoes or neutral? Is that gluten free? Wait, am I gluten free?
Sound familiar?

The average adult makes about 35,000 (226.7 on food alone!) decisions each day vs a child that makes about 3,000. The relentless list of decisions goes on, and on, and on from the moment you wake up, resulting in what is known as Decision Fatigue—and it may be the reason you can’t lose weight.

This means that the more decisions you have to make throughout the day, the weaker your decision making process will become—even more-so when faced with making healthy choices. Do you crave a lovely green salad after a stressful meeting? Neither do I, but if I have a clear head, I’m likely to skip whatever salty, sugary, fatty stress relief might be waiting for me in the break room.

As humans, our capacity to consistently make well thought out decisions is finite. Without the space for mental clarity, your ability to make rational, non-impulsive decisions dwindles throughout the day.

John Tierney, coauthor of the New York Times bestselling book “Willpower,” says,

“Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue – you’re not consciously aware of being tired – but you’re low on mental energy.”

Weight loss alone is flooded with decisions that drain your mental energy, from which diet, what workout, and how many calories, to selecting fitness apps and wondering what in sam hill a macro is! It’s overwhelming, exhausting, and enough to make you want to just grab a donut and say forget it. I’ll try again tomorrow.

The Solution? Do less. Make less decisions. Simplify your life by automating health choices you address every day so that you don’t have to constantly think about them. It sounds crazy and way too easy, but believe it or not, fewer choices lead to greater weight loss success.

Soooo, just to give you one less thing to think about, here is your 5-Step Habit Hack to streamline decisions and start losing weight TODAY.


1. Simplify Your Morning Routine
Wake up at the same time every day, set out your work and workout attire the night before and eat the same thing for breakfast. Hey, you just eliminated 4 decisions, saving time and reserving crucial mental clarity for any difficult decisions or unhealthy temptations you face later in the day.
Fun fact, many successful individuals like Barack Obama, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg adopted the same concept, simplifying their morning decisions by choosing to wear the same wardrobe everyday, leaving just enough room for more important decisions—you knowlike leading the country or revolutionizing technology.


2. Schedule: Stop making decisions and start making comitments 
Rather than thinking about when would be a good time to workout or contemplating what type of workout, schedule it in, just as you would an important business meeting. For example, my schedule for resistance training is Monday and Wednesday. Cardio is Tuesday and Thursday—all of which are scheduled at a set time on my google calendar. So, on any given Monday or Wednesday, I don’t have to decide whether I’m going to lift weights or run the stairs at Stone Steps. It’s like brushing your teeth. You don’t have to think about brushing in the morning and at night. You just do it because It’s in the routine.


3. Meal Prep
I know, I know, you’ve heard this one before. Well, sorry to beat the hammer over the head, but it’s for good reason because meal prep is a major time and brain saver. Consider breakfast, lunch, dinner and couple of snacks throughout the day, every day. That’s a lot of choices to make! Simplify your weekly menu by taking a day to prepare a few meals that you have every day the same, yielding enough for the week. This eliminates the worry of what to make, which ingredients to use and what the nutritional value of each meal is. It also combats the quick fix temptation of take-out.
My husband and I make the same smoothie every day for breakfast. For dinner, we make bowls consisting of quinoa, some roasted potatoes, super greens and usually something fermented (all of which is made in bulk on Sunday), and eat whatever is leftover from dinner for lunch the following day. While some of our meals are not all instagram-worthy masterpieces, they are fuel, they are simple and they save us both from making way too many mundane decisions.


4. Do your grocery shopping on the same day once per week
Pick a day. Pick a time. Make a list. Since you already have meal prep dialed, you’ll know what items you need to queue up your grocery list. The easiest plan for my family is to do our grocery shopping for the week on Saturday morning. This eliminates those last-minute-run-to-the-store-post-work pitstops, tired, hungry and wandering aimlessly with a hodge podge of middle aisle snacks, one of which has already been opened and consumed as you continue to shop for what you don’t know you need.Unfortunately, I’ve done this one too many times. When you have a list and dedicated time, you’ll spend less time roaming, leave with a smaller bill, and find your kitchen filled with healthy, nutrient-dense food.


5. Stop wasting hours on social media or the internet for weight loss tips
Instagram, twitter, Facebook, blogs—there are thousands of “health experts” floating around the inner webs, all with their own fit tips and weight loss philosophies. The result is a time suck of conflicting articles—high protein, low fat, high fat, low carb, paleo, vegetarian, yoga, HIIT, weight lifting—It’s overwhelming and impossible to process all the information! Not to mention, you are spending more time sedentary on your phone or computer reading about how to lose weight, when you could be actively doing something that will aid in weight loss and your overall health (ie. a walk outside, social hour with friends, sleep). Stick to one health expert to follow and incorporate their philosophy into your health routine for 30 days, and see how your body reacts. After 30 days, if you need to change it up, change it up! Every human’s bio-makeup is unique and favors different foods and physical activity. There is no one-size-fits-all for weight loss. It’s like taking parental advice for how to get your baby to sleep. Trust me, I’ve read all the books! No one, how-to book or expert is necessarily right or wrong, the success depends your parenting style and your baby’s individual needs.

Now, rather than wasting time and much needed brain power thinking about what to do next after reading this article, just start with Habit Hack #1. Right this second, take 2 minutes to write down what your morning routine will be, so tomorrow when your alarm buzz’s GOOD MORNING, you’re day is already off to a great start. It’s that simple.

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