Avoiding Decision Fatigue: Why I eat eggs for breakfast everyday

There’s something to be said for food habits. I once survived on the following: oatmeal for breakfast, turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread for lunch (with lettuce, cucumbers & salsa) – possibly a chocolate pudding or just chocolate, yogurt somewhere for a snack, carrots/chips+salsa while cooking, some version of “grilled” chicken + veggies/pasta for dinner. Maybe an Oreo or small bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats for dessert. Every day.

I’m not kidding at all. And this was during and probably for a while shortly after my college days (studying Nutrition Sciences). Take that as you will…

Usually no mind was paid to the fact that I very often ate the same thing, or some very slight variation of it (depending on dining hall, apartment grocery stash, or internship funds availability), for every meal, every day. If I was questioned, my only justification was “it’s what I like…”. I thought that was true. If I look back on it now, I think two things: 1) it kept my grocery shopping and bills simple & consistent (you know, no-income days!) and 2) it kept decision-making to a minimum. (Brain space was free to learn and have college / no-FT-job-days fun!)

Let’s talk about the latter – Decision Fatigue.

Research suggests we pull from a pool of will-power and decision-making power every day, which like most pools, can be drained. Depleted. Donezo. In a similar thread, the hypotheses suggest our brain fatigues, just like any other muscle. We can make up to X tough decisions per day, feeling strong and in control, until we aren’t. By the time the choice between Y & Z comes up, we’re at a loss. The easy, well-paved path, is taken – with a side of light remorse and defeat for dessert.

There may be more to stress eating, to the gravitational pull of comfort foods, and to giving into cravings in a brief moment of weakness. Maybe not always, but maybe sometimes those moments happen because the hours leading up to them have exhausted you in some way or another. You’ve had to pull from that will-power bucket too many times in one day; your decision-making muscle has been lifting 20-lb weights all day when it’s so used to the 10 pounders.

Remember Steve Jobs in his outfit of choice? Black turtleneck and jeans. Recognize Mark Zuckerberg by his signature hoodie + t-shirt look?

From Business Insider’s article on the latter:

He said even small decisions like choosing what to wear or what to eat for breakfast could be tiring and consume energy, and he didn’t want to waste any time on that.

I may not have nailed this down until more recently, but it’s so clear now. Decision Fatigue: the struggle is real. It’s been years since I had the same exact thing for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks every day. (It’s also been a long time since chocolate pudding or Oreos saw the inside of my grocery cart.) But even recently,  for a long time, I had oatmeal + peanut butter every single morning. Last year I switched to a more protein-based breakfast: 2 eggs scrambled with kale and chopped veggies (peppers, onions, tomatoes / whatever we have leftover), 1/2 avocado and a banana.  And Sriracha.

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It feels good to have breakfast habits. I like having the same thing most days. Now I know why: because it feels good to start your day without having to make decisions! I like what I like. I get variety during the rest of the day, and my brain is ready and happy to make those choices.

Other ways to avoid decision fatigue:

– Minimize your wardrobe. Throw out half of that stuff you haven’t worn in months, or years, anyway.

– Develop a few healthy food habits/staples and you’ll make grocery shopping easier, minimizing impulse buys. See also: meal planning!

– Have an exercise routine or work with a coach. Take the guesswork out of the day and you’ll be more likely to not only go workout, but also to stick to it. (This is easily one of the best choices I’ve made in the past year.)

– Recognize the days where it may set in, and make things easier on yourself by making a few choices ahead of time (pack lunches & snacks on stressful work days; have a go-to outfit for presentations or VIP meetings; set up a training plan for a “crazy week”).

Perhaps more importantly, get to know yourself. Recognize those times where you “give in” and take a few steps back. Do a mental rewind through your day – what made your brain tired? What was different about today vs. yesterday? What choices have you had to make that depleted your buckets? Every time you do this, your buckets get deeper. Your brain can take on more ‘weight’. You’ll make better decisions.
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Additional Reading:

Slate.com – Drowning in Jam: How to conquer decision fatigue

NYT WellBeing Blog  – Do you suffer from decision fatigue?

BusinessInsider.com – Here’s the Real Reason Mark Zuckerberg Wears the Same T-shirt Every Day

The Strength Model of Self-Control – Baumeister, Vohs & Tice (FSU & Univ of Minnesota)

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YTT: What do you do that’s not true to you?

“My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God. Non-violence is the means of realizing him”  – Mahatma Ghandi

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Moving right along with Yoga Teacher Training (YTT): We’re one week into a one month “Living” meditation. It’s not all about sitting cross-legged on a colorful pillow in a quiet room for 1-10 minutes per day – as meditation rarely is – but rather taking a concept to live with all day, every day. It’s meditation through your thoughts, which turn into actions and behaviors, concentrating on different topics/ideas every few days.

A lot more a-ha moments, not as much quietness.

Refuse Spa Carmel Valley_Silence

On Friday we got our second prompt: Truth. Satya: from the root “to be” (sat). To be truthful; to be true to yourself. To realize that sometimes we block the truth with an iron no-thank-you-ma’am shield. We try to hide the things we most want to reveal, admit or accept about ourselves. We suppress things we want to ignore; we ignore things we really want to chase.

Things to think about this week…

How often do you find yourself rationalizing things that you’ve said or done that don’t really feel “true” to you? How many times per day do your wishes have one thing in mind, while your actions (almost unconsciously) express another? When was the last time you felt like a shadow of yourself because you’re not entirely sure what truth you’re chasing (or not) + why?

If you can’t tell the truth to someone else, what makes you think you’re telling it to yourself? Call the bluffs, yo.

“It seems so simple, yet it can sometimes be quite complicated.”

It’s almost unnerving how often you can catch your mind sprinting to justifications or excuses for why/not you do or say something. There are probably quite a few ingredients in this self-preservation recipe, but Ego and Fear tend to dominate the flavor.

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A few random moments in the past week have made a few things very clear to me, and I won’t chalk it up to coincidence. Spend even 5 minutes (or 24 hours) focusing on these little things, and your mind will bust out the obnoxiously huge spotlight and shine it right on whatever it is you’re struggling with, ignoring or wishing-to-be-different (but probably not doing much about). It gets easier and easier to separate the important truths from everything else.

What are you doing that’s not true to you? Why?

Back to regularly scheduled light-hearted eats and running anecdotes after this break, brought to you by a yoga teacher-in-training with a busy mind!

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10 ‘Tips’ for Trail Running & Racing [Newbies]

For my first ‘race’ of the year, he found a group of distances happening on a trail conveniently close to our Monterey Bay digs (led by Inside Trail Racing). Contrary to most of the trail runs we’ve done in the past seven months, this wouldn’t require a 6am departure, or even more than 25 minutes in the car. We’d even get a view of the wilderness not-so-hidden in the backyard of our quaint city. Win!

10 tips for trail running_DOTR

He went for the 25K, while I kept it safer with the 10k option. And after a 3+ month hiatus from the trails, I had to remind myself that this trail-running game reads from a very different playbook! So far, this is how I get by, with a little help from the aid stations & color-coded flags:

1) LOOK AT THE ELEVATION CHART

If you’re a poor race planner, like myself, this one really needs to be in all caps. It’s almost a given that you’ll have to walk up/down at some point, but strategize and be ready for those moments. Know what’s coming and when– it will matter.  For example, this particular 10k course looked like this:

image

Thankfully he plans ahead, and handed this to me for review on Saturday morning as I munched on my pre-race banana. Well…that’ll be interesting. It’s the total opposite of how 99% of trail races’ elevation rides, but it allowed me to just barrel down those first 3 miles, because I knew there’d be some walking in the last 3 miles, either way.

On that note…

2) Be humble with your distance of choice

My first soiree into this world was a 10-miler (the first sentence of that post is basically this lesson learned). The course wasn’t too challenging, so we lucked out. But those 10 miles felt like 13. And the half we did last Fall? That felt like 20. If you’re just starting out, note that your road-racing PRs mean nothing on the dirt!

3) Bring Hydration. ALWAYS

Would I normally carry water for a 10K race? Nope. But you never know how long those trail miles will take – they seem about twice as long as a road mile, and the aid stations usually seem way too far apart. You will need hydration, either way, so make sure you bring your own.

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My drink of choice: OSMO, for always.

4) Assume you’ll Overheat

I have started many a trail-race in long sleeves, only to curse the decision with gusto as I climb my way up the first major incline. Yes, you can usually count on some tree cover to cool you off here n’ there. But you can also count on some bare, uber-sun-exposed, sections. And your cardio system working overtime to help you climb. Also see: hydration!

trailhoghalf_H_13mi

No shade. No water left. Not close enough to finish line. So hot right now.

5) Protect your precious skin

Sunscreen and a hat = must-haves! Take it from the girl who just doesn’t think January weather warrants sunscreen (unless you’re on the slopes – in which case, of course you have sunscreen! Why does this logic not translate??), and didn’t have a lick of SPF on Saturday. But I did have a visor! 1 for 2.

6) Invest in trail shoes

I run in the Mizuno Hayates, but prior to that would just destroy my road-running shoes (and feet) on my inconsistent adventures. Trail shoes aren’t all stiff and unrelenting; the Hayates move and shake similar to my Wave Riders, but they’re ready for more challenges. See: rocks, (slippery) dirt, creeks and climbs.

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7) Embrace the downs

In road races, you run a fine line between barreling down hill to gather some speed and gain some cushion on a goal time, and/or destroying your quads. But out in the woods, muscles pretty much get destroyed anyway. You have dramatic ups and downs, you will probably walk (unless you operate in full-on beast mode), and when you do get a downhill? You will want to fly.  

This does go back to point #1 – know what’s coming and when! I’ve even had a few down-hills so steep that I walked, because otherwise gravity would have wreaked havoc.

On the downhill: shorten your stride to avoid killing your knees; stay light on your feet (as much as you can…); don’t fight it; know your (speed) limits. (Of note: this tip comes from someone who hasn’t run more than 13.5 miles on a trails – any full / ultra runners out there? Chime in!)

8) Walk…but not for long

As I’ve now mentioned multiple times, the likelihood of walk ‘break’ is 10x higher on the trails vs. the road. A few reasons for this: the inclines are so steep that you’ll waste too much energy trying to run them all, you heart may explode if you do, and sometimes you just flat out cannot run certain sections (for various reasons of nature’s choice).

BUT! Don’t walk for too long. It’s just as dangerous out here as it is on a road – you give yourself too long a break, and it becomes exponentially more difficult to get going again.

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Photos never do justice to the up, up, UP.

My rule: if I’m walking uphill, I have to start running the very inch in which the incline starts to flatten out or give.

9) Leave the tunes (mostly) behind

Again, I can’t speak to the experience of running anything over 13 miles here – maybe after 3+ hours you’re just flat-out done with absorbing nature’s magic – but I am strongly in the no-trail-tunes camp. For safety, and for bliss. There is so much to take in, no matter what trail you’re running.

10) Wipe your PR (expectation) slate clean

Have no expectations. Just as with road races, every trail is oh-so-different and the challenges you’ll face will never be the same twice (even on the same trail). You never fully know what you’re in for, and there’s a lot of fun to be had with that.

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BONUS!  ENJOY ALL THE FOODS.

Seriously. The post-race spread is unbeatable. They really know how to feed a runner’s appetite.

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For Californian’s in the Bay area looking to branch out to enjoy one of these many adventures, check out:

Inside Trail Racing

Brazen Racing

West Coast Trail Runs

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Calling all trail experts and enthusiasts: anything you’d add to the list?

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Changing Habits: Flossing is not hard

I think about habits a lot – how and why they form, why I do some things that someone else never would, why I don’t do other things. What motivates our habits? How do our personalities influence our habits?

The list goes on. My brain spins.

Most of my day-to-day {wellness} coaching focuses on helping people change their habits. It’s relatively easy to find information on nutrition, exercise and stress management around the internets. You could do your research and know what to do. The how is the stump – sometimes the mountain. Plenty of people will start a conversation with, “I know what I’m supposed to do…”.  This is typically followed by something they feel they “should” be doing, but, “it’s hard”.

Nope.

Whole 30 quote

 

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Eating healthy isn’t hard. Low-intensity exercise a few days per week isn’t hard. Taking a deep breath instead of letting stress add another victory notch to its belt is not hard. It’s a personal challenge to change your habits, which can be humbling, frustrating and rewarding, but is it not hard.

But I’m still working on convincing people of that. Myself (sometimes) included.

I have a few personal habits that I’m constantly working on, and sometimes wonder why I can’t manage to hit that magic balance when I can help others do so all the time! Ah, the irony.

For example: every time I go to the dentist I’m reminded that I do not floss often enough. For the next few weeks I’ll do so somewhat diligently, usually half-heartedly, and then suddenly, I just don’t. Bye, floss.

Flossing is not hard. It usually takes less than 5 minutes – we only have so many teeth-gaps, the number doesn’t change (if it does..well, another day another problem). I always brush my teeth, so why don’t I remember to always floss?

The truth: I rarely forget, I just sometimes decide to skip it. I sometimes look at that unassuming box of floss and do a mental “nope”. I’d rather get into bed, or not make my gums bleed (but yes, I know they wouldn’t be as sensitive if I did it more often), or just simply don’t feel like spending the very little amount of energy it takes to pull out a string of floss, and pull it between my teeth. ….?! Oof.

I listened to an episode of “The One You Feed” a few weeks ago that mentioned common things people do that either help or hinder their habit-building intention(s). Two that resonated with me:

1) Build a streak
2) Don’t let yourself fail twice.

In relation to my seemingly insignificant flossing goal: Start noticing how many days in a row I stick to it, but if I skip one day? Don’t feel derailed – just do not skip the next day! Don’t do it. Simple as that. Get the brain & motivation in check –  like, C’mon you guys, this is simple! Do not let a thin piece of string beat you. Do. Not. Pull, cut, floss, repeat. Do it.

I’d like to proudly state that as of today, my happy (non-bleeding) gums have been flossed 27 days in a row (not a coincidence that it’s January 27th).

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There are so many unique ways to do this and we’ll all respond differently to varying techniques and strategies – add that to the challenge of coaching habit change – but I think that’s a positive for people working on habits. If you’ve tried something that just flat-out didn’t motivate or inspire you, try something else. (Insanity won’t do us any favors, yo.)

What habits are you having a “hard” time changing?
Or what type of habit seems to continuously elude you?
Any unique strategy / tips?

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More on this ish:

No Meat Athlete’s “Roadmap” for building a new habit

Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project Blog: Why Rewarding Yourself May Be a Bad Idea, For Habits

(Gretchen also has an entire book devoted to this coming out soon.)

MarieTV’s “One Simple Habit to “Fast Track” the Life You Want

 

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Out of the Woods, Into the Canyon

I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t written-while-jamming-to Tay. Converted. Not ashamed.

The MLK-weekend trip to Austin with my sister + SIL and was a grand ol’ time. It’s a quirky city with a lot to offer the outdoor enthusiast, foodie and music lover – or any combination of. We had some great recommendations for lodging, eats and walking/running trails that kept us busy for the 72-hour trip.

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The flight back to SFO on Monday afternoon marked my last airplane experience until the end of March, and my 14th flight in 15 weeks. So, yeah, I’m pretty f-ing pumped to be grounded for a little while.

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NOW, for the first time in a few months, my Training Peaks schedule is filled with 7 days of real workouts. Not every run is “easy” with a side of “see how things feel” and a large dose of mental paranoia {about my knee}. Instead, I spend those 45-60 minutes more concerned about my heart rate and the prescribed workout for the day. It’s an odd bliss, I know. My brain remembers what it’s like to just run again. Maybe not entirely, ever, but for the most part, we’re out of the woods.

I am patient.
I am okay with going slow & steady, for now. (Rinse. Repeat.)

Adios, forest de injury! You’re not so fun to navigate, but you’re extremely satisfying to leave.

Now, I’m training to get back some fitness and prep for the Canyonlands Half-Marathon. We registered because it’s an excuse to travel through southern Utah (which needs no excuse) and some of the team will be there, too. Win, win!

What spring race(s) is/are on your agenda / radar?

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