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Is Your Willpower Running Out Due to Decision Fatigue

Is Your Willpower Running Out Due to Decision Fatigue?

Some days, it feels like I need to borrow my husband’s willpower, and even though he would happily give some of his to me, I have to rely on my limited supply. 

Luckily, if you cannot change something, you can always try and build systems around it like just outsourcing your willpower and telling your partner or roommate that you do not want to eat the chocolate in the cupboard that day and that you bought it for the next day, so that they can check that it is still there in the morning and keep you accountable. 

They can even hide it for you. Jonathan is a great outsource partner when it comes to willpower – he will count the low-carb cookies in the cookie jar if I ask him to make sure I do not eat more than a believable healthy portion. He will hide the dried fruit in the house when I can’t stop eating it and he will weigh out my food portions when dishing up for me. Now that’s love.

What about those containers that you put your food in that lock and then only allow you to get your food out once a set amount of time has passed? It might seem silly to have to lock your food in a food safe because you don’t have enough willpower, but hey, if it works, it works.

When Your Willpower Runs Out from Decision Fatigue

I do not find it hard to believe that your willpower can run out, which I link to decision fatigue. Decision fatigue is real. The quality of your decisions starts to decline the more decisions you make daily.

You need to reduce the number of decisions that you make in a day. While I won’t wear the same outfit every day as Steve Jobs did (so he wouldn’t have to spend time deciding what to wear in the morning), I love the idea of challenging myself to automate as much of my life as possible.

Tips to Reduce Decision Fatigue and Increase Willpower

Here are some tips to prevent decision fatigue from leading to self-sabotaging and impulsive behaviour around food:

  •  Meal prep is your best friend when you get decision fatigue when it comes to food. I cannot stress enough how great it is to always have healthy dessert in the fridge, freezer, or cupboard. If your meals are prepped beforehand, you won’t have to decide what to eat.
  •  Shop once a week or once every two weeks, and make sure you have everything you need. There are waaay too many decisions to make when I go to the store. I have to tell myself no at least fifty times in one shopping trip. If people could hear the conversation in my head, it would sound like a mom taking her toddler to the store.
  • Outsource decisions. I have found great freedom in just letting people make decisions around things that I do not care about.
  • A good idea is to make your most important decisions early in the day, which is why I recommend planning out your meals and setting intentions for how you want to eat. It is okay if things change throughout the day when there’s a surprise dinner with your in-laws or a colleague surprises you with something they bought for you when out buying lunch, but it is better to start the day off with at least half of your food decisions already made. And if having a sugary dessert at a restaurant during a friend’s birthday party is part of the original plan for the day, that is fine.

Reducing decision fatigue can help greatly when it comes to your willpower. If you have to resist temptation and make 200 decisions around food before dinner, by the time evening arrives, you are more likely to drop your guard and give in to food. Besides, the more complicated your diet is, the harder it will become for you to stick to it.

What strategies could you put in place to reduce the number of decisions you make in a day and reduce decision fatigue? Is there someone who can become your willpower outsource partner?