Make Dieting Easier By Limiting Choices

By Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am — Filed under:

The Starling Fitness Yearly JournalI’ve heard it time and time again from other people. They don’t want to journal because it’s too much work. I have felt the same thing. The idea of writing down everything I put into my mouth just feels like such a burden.

Honestly, it EASY. Keeping a food journal is the EASY part. It’s the constant deciding what to eat that will be healthy that is the taxing part of keeping a food journal. It’s the decision-making process that makes it difficult. According to this article by On Amir from Scientific American, they have studied this phenomenon.

They say that making decisions is tiring and a burden.

These experimental insights suggest that the brain works like a muscle: when depleted, it becomes less effective.

That’s all well and good, but what do we do with this knowledge. According to Mr. Amir,

[W]e should take this knowledge into account when making decisions. If we’ve just spent lots of time focusing on a particular task, exercising self-control or even if we’ve just made lots of seemingly minor choices, then we probably shouldn’t try to make a major decision. These deleterious carryover effects from a tired brain may have a strong shaping effect on our lives.

So, how can we make dieting easier for ourselves? We are bombarded with choices every day that deplete our decision-making abilities. Here are a couple of tips:

  • Limit your choices: When you go grocery shopping, shop at a smaller store. Instead of choosing between seven brands of canned tomatoes, you will only have two. You can choose to buy only a certain brand of canned food. You can choose to only shop within a certain radius of your home. That’s why people who eat the Subway diet, The Flavor Point diet, and even the grapefruit diet can be successful. Any arbitrary limitation will help you make decisions easier and save your brain power for the most important decisions.

  • Make the decision now: Group all your decision-making into one session and then rest afterward. That’s why menu planning can be helpful. Instead of an endless stream of decisions all day long, you can make all of your food decisions once a week and then follow the plan religiously. This might be taxing the one day of the week when you plan your menu, but the rest of the week leaves your decision-making skills for the really important things like work and family. If you would like a weekly planning spreadsheet, you can download one here: Weekly Meal Planning Spreadsheet

  • Make rules set in stone: If you set up rules for yourself that you are NEVER allowed to break, then there is no decision to be made. That’s why a lot of people have success with diets that have “good” foods and “bad” foods. It’s the whole reason The Core Plan on Weight Watchers and veganism works. When you have a strict limitation on your food, you don’t have many decisions to make. You just follow the rules and eat from your small selection of food. If, however, you are constantly deciding whether to eat from your good list or bad list, then you’ve lost all benefits of this one. The rules have to be set in stone.

  • Limit other decisions in your life: If you are unwilling to make a weekly plan for your food or limit your food choices, you can limit the OTHER choices in your life. Make the rest of your life simple and dieting will be easier.

In the end, the constant barrage of decisions is tiring. When you limit your decisions, food journaling and eating healthy won’t seem like such a chore.

If you have decided that you are willing to journal your food every day, here is a form to get you started: Weight Watchers Weekly Tracking 5 1/2″ X 8 1/2″ – Requires Microsoft Excel


One Response to “Make Dieting Easier By Limiting Choices”

  1. Edene Says:

    I don’t keep a food journal, but I find that I can remember every single thing I eat within a day anyway. It certainly is easier to lose and maintain weight when you have a “daily menu” planned out and set in stone. I always take a few minutes to think about what I’m going to eat before I go out for lunch or into the kitchen for a snack, making up pro and con lists in my head as I go through all the possible choices. It’s quite mentally taxing, actually.

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