Do Nothing But Eat

Posted by on April 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

Nothing but eat!

Thrilling words for the food lovers among us.

While this may appear to relate to dieting, what I’m actually talking about is our brains ability to make decisions.  How many times in our lives are we overwhelmed by the decisions we make on a daily basis?

And we end up feeling like this little guy.

It turns out that the decision-making center of our brain is wired to exhaust itself when overwrought with choices.

As the day wears on, so too does our ability to engage in the decision making process.

This is called decision fatigue.  I first read about it in the article: Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue? in the New York Times.

The gist of the article is that we are inundated with choices throughout the day.  Our brains become overwhelmed with making decisions to the point that we 1. make rash choices or 2. do nothing.

By the time we get to the middle of the day, we’re so shot that we literally can’t think straight.

We've all been there. Yikes.

My quest over the years has been to figure out the most efficient, practical, and enjoyable methods for things I do everyday – from running style, to workout routine to choosing a book to read.  I have done this by solidifying my routines, experimenting with suggestions that I’ve read, and always being open to a different way of doing something.

While I know that my physical or tangible processes have drastically improved or changed over the years resulting in a simpler lifestyle, more gratitude, and overall joi de vivre, my decision making muscle could still use a few months at the gym.

As Cary kindly helped me see on Monday, I am an optimizer which is probably why I find it difficult to KISS – keep it simple, stupid.

How to combat the need to optimize and satiate my decision fatigue?

First anf foremost, eat regularly.  Literally.  Studies indicate that our brains require glucose to make better decisions.  Hence when you get to the checkout line at the supermarket and you can’t resist the candy bar.

To keep decision fatigue at bay, create as many routines in your life as possible.  Think of this as a vacation for your brain without having to pay a cent.

Some ideas:

–       Write out your weekly appointments (or put them in your phone) and review the week ahead on Sunday.  Do not schedule appointments that require you to make decisions back-to-back.  You will most likely not be happy with the outcomes.

–       Eat the same thing for breakfast every day. The number one way to get your metabolism and brain moving in the morning is with breakfast.  Not only will your body thank you, but your decision making muscle will as well.

–       Create a weekly meal plan aside from breakfast.  How many of us get to the end of the day and think – I’m beat, why not just pick up something fast to eat?  While I would love to revert back to college and head to the dining hall every evening (yes, really), it’s just not so.

–       Do a few things at the same time every day. For example, I’m happiest when I exercise first thing in the morning. I know I will not have to make decision to exercise later which is an automatic relief.  That decision is done and my endorphins are flowing so it’s a double whammy of goodness.


Along the way as I’ve tried to outsmart decision fatigue, I’ve realized that sometimes the best way to keep myself from jumping off the decision deep end is calling it a day. 

Sometimes this may literally look like packing in my work for the day and retreating into a book.  And while it may appear to be enabling procrastination, I prefer to think of these sojourns as a little bit of TLC for myself.

Some may call this decision paralysis, but I call it centering.

When decision fatigue hits, there are a few techniques I use to begin doing nothing:

1. Close my eyes.  It’s nice to be able to turn off the visual stimuli on a whim.  Why not indulge? Try it now.  You’ll see how great it is. (ha)

2. Take at least five deep breaths in through my nose and out through my mouth.  In yoga, I would do some ujjayi breathing and if I’m not surrounded by hearing people, I will often do this in public.  I feel a rush of calm through my body and this is a signal to myself to slow down.  It’s a cue to get present.

3. Ask myself: what’s important now. I refer to this as WIN.  What must I absolutely complete or my world will collapse?  What’s the worst thing that will happen by throwing in the towel for a short time? If I honestly assess where I am, then the answer I receive will be the exact right one at the moment. And I often see that WIN is quite different than I originally thought.

4. Let it be.  Throw the to-do list out the window and r-e-l-a-x.  Accept that a nice walk, the couch and my book, or a glass of wine and anchat with my friend are the only things on my to-do list.

5. Have a snack.  I’m so happy that my natural impulse to eat every couple hours is backed so sternly in science!


A few of the beautiful realizations doing nothing has given me:

Permission.  To slow down. Take a deep breath. And pay attention.

Acknowledgment.  That I’m not super woman.  That I don’t need to be.  And that I’m a pretty super anyway.

Presence.  Where am I? Where do I want to be? And why am I running so hard to get there?

Feel yourself getting close to your edge and not liking the results? Give yourself a decision making break and do nothing except eat.  Your brain will thank you for it.

How do you handle decision fatigue?  Do you give yourself permission to do nothing? What are your favorite tools for slowing down?  We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!






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