Stop making decisions – decision fatigue is making you fat

I’m a personal trainer and primal health coach and deal mostly with clients who want to lose weight. Too  many of them have bought into the idea that it’s all willpower and they’re weak. This thought relies on the calories-in-calories-out (CICO) theory being true. It really isn’t. Not exactly. It IS true that if you eat fewer calories than your body uses for fuel and building, your body will consume itself for the extra it needs. It will consume muscle before fat, and going hungry will increase inflammation through chronic cortisol release. Is that the weight loss you wanted?

When you do CICO, you cut calories across all macronutrients. This has two effects:

  1. You likely don’t get enough fat and protein
  2. You definitely get more carbohydrates than you need

Why? Because you don’t need ANY carbohydrates, and you can live on fat and protein. Natural fats and proteins provide fuel, vitamins, and building material. Your liver can make the glucose that you need for a few processes, so you don’t need carbohydrates. Even the vitamins you’re told you get from fruit are found in animal products.

Instead, cut only the carbohydrates.

The best part of changing your food rather than simply reducing your food is that you won’t be hungry. It’s tough to overeat when you consume whole nutrient-dense foods. Carbohydrates, such as grains, sweeteners, and fruit, provide lots of calories and minimal nutrients. They’ll keep you alive…and keep you hungry as your body continues to crave what it needs and your brain craves what gets it high.

All these thoughts came about because of this article I read on ego depletion.

The difficulty with calorie restriction is having to always say no to more while allowing only some: it’s the constant decision-making of how much with each meal. When you make the one-time 100% decision that certain things are no longer food, you have made one decision. It is easier to go paleo 100% of the time than to do CICO 80% of the time. Just keep plenty of whole foods you can eat around and never let yourself go hungry.

You can save your decision-making energy for the next important life change: exercise. I’ll tackle that another day.

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. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences. (Sure, tweet that photo! What could go wrong?) The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing. Instead of agonizing over decisions, avoid any choice. Ducking a decision often creates bigger problems in the long run, but for the moment, it eases the mental strain. You start to resist any change, any potentially risky move — like releasing a prisoner who might commit a crime. So the fatigued judge on a parole board takes the easy way out, and the prisoner keeps doing time.

Ego depletion manifests itself not as one feeling but rather as a propensity to experience everything more intensely. When the brain’s regulatory powers weaken, frustrations seem more irritating than usual. Impulses to eat, drink, spend and say stupid things feel more powerful (and alcohol causes self-control to decline further). Like those dogs in the experiment, ego-depleted humans become more likely to get into needless fights over turf. In making decisions, they take illogical shortcuts and tend to favor short-term gains and delayed costs. Like the depleted parole judges, they become inclined to take the safer, easier option even when that option hurts someone else.
(NYTimes: Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?)