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.

2015-01-29 07.27.35-2

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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(Run) Refueling: What’s with the time window?

I recently signed on to hone my Sports Nutritionist skills by working one-on-one with Team Amazing Day athletes and friends (open to anyone!). Sports and exercise present a world of opportunities for dietitians and nutritionists alike, one that has always interested me as a former ‘athlete’ (if we count high-school soccer and the 18-yr-old- identity-crises of no group sport experiences that happens after graduation –> endurance running!) and now aspiring runner. I’ve learned both by coursework and trial and error as an endurance runner in training (est. 2008), and continue to be fascinated by the peculiarities of fueling and refueling – unique to individuals, but the bones of which are essentially the same no matter what your sport of choice.

Nancy Clark reigns as the Sports expert in our dietetic world, and apparently travels around the States with her wealth of knowledge. Lucky for me, she stopped by San Jose, CA with Dr. Jon Ivy last weekend. She was once featured on a box of Wheatie’s, which is indisputably the sign you’ve “made it” in Sports, no?

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A “recap” could be 10+ pages long, and potentially mind-numbing for some. Instead, for today, let’s talk Timing + Refueling – one of the most important nutritional considerations for any runner, swimmer, cyclist, triathlete, {insert endurance sport}. It’s how you recover; how you adapt your muscles to the stresses of training so that the next workout can be harder, faster or longer. The foods and drinks that enter your system immediately after any given workout decide whether you prolong the inflammation and muscle breakdown, or whether you reverse it.

Run Refuel Recovery Brunch DOTR

No matter what level you’re training at – for health, sanity, elite competition or somewhere in-between – you’ll hear at one point or another that it’s important to get “Carbs and Protein!” pretty quickly after a hard workout. Specifically, you may have also heard that “after” should be within a 30-60 minute window.

WHY?

Why refuel within 30-60 minutes? Right after (any type of) exercise the body is more sensitive to nutrients, specifically carbohydrates and protein. We burn through carbohydrates for fuel while exercising; it comes from the blood stream (if you’ve had a meal) and the muscles (which we store up). However, this “increased sensitivity”, readiness / whatever you’d like to call it, ONLY LASTS for about one hour.

What happens after one hour? You’ve missed the golden window. You’re no longer as sensitive to the hormones and little cells running around hoping to grab onto carbohydrates and protein to fix all the “damage” (see: training stress) you just did! They become discouraged, we’ll say. They start looking around anxiously for other ways to fill the gaps. They deplete internal sources, and, here’s the kicker: begin to break down muscle tissue for protein.

….and that will result in the exact OPPOSITE of what you’re probably hoping to gain from your exercise / training.

But when you do it right, consuming a substantial meal or snack within 30-60 minutes after a workout* (run, bike, swim, etc), here’s what happens:

  • Carbohydrates go through the expressway to the muscles, replacing the energy you just spent. This means the next time you head out for another workout (which will probably be soon), you’ll have a full tank! Cells all plumped up with sugar (glycogen) and ready to go.
  • Carbohydrate intake turns on insulin release (a hormone that moves digested carbohydrates (glucose) around the blood to muscles and organs). Insulin HELPS ACTIVATE protein synthesis. I.e. Carbs help speed up the process that will repair your broken-down (thanks to exercise) muscle tissue.
  • Muscles have their hands out waiting for protein. They want to fix the damage you’ve done, and quickly! Protein provides the building blocks (amino acids) necessary to help you do that. It goes straight to work repairing tissues and fibers and building strength. So, guess what? Next time you workout, you’ll be just a little bit stronger!
  • Your muscles are happy, healthy and ready for the next adventure. Read: they’re recovered. And adapting to the hurdles you keep throwing their way.

*The amount of fuel you need after a workout depends on your fitness level, the exercise length and intensity.

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Next up: what’s a “substantial” meal or snack? Why are we shouting  about CARBS AND PROTEIN so specifically??

Any other questions I can help answer? Throw ‘em my way in the comments.

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This Running Week: Mid-Training Edition

The injury of late 2014 is almost nothing but a wincing memory now (knocks FIRMLY on wood), a story that finally allows me to empathize with and relate to fellow injured runners. You’re going CRAZY, I know! Endorphins should be bottled up and sold OTC, amiright?!

Now: my Training Peaks calendar just reminded me that we’re only SIX weeks out from the Canyonlands Half Marathon. Say what?! Here I am running throughout the weeks thinking this ‘comeback’ feels pretty good.

But the comeback is donezo. Easy days aren’t as dominant. This  is actually half-marathon training.

Team Amazing Day Trail Race_Jan 2015

I had my first double-day on Sunday and it was just fine. There’s a long run on deck for this weekend that will require some practice with hydration and calories. Ah, the big stuff! My OSMO recovery tube is finally getting some fresh air and action again. (Side-note: Do NOT drink this with water. I repeat. Restock almond milk, STAT.)

This is my third cycle training with Katie & Team Amazing Day, but not the third time doing the same workouts over and over. My schedule now looks pretty different than one year ago, when she not-so-delicately whipped my butt into MAF shape, or tried to, despite my resistance, happy hours and African travels. I know what to expect to some extent, but every week’s new schedule is still a fun read – what’s next?!

For now, this week, my half-marathon training is this:

Easy Run | Strength* + XT | Hill Repeats | Double Run | Strength + XT

Weekend: Shake-out | Long Run (relative term, always)

*Strength varies by athlete and sport of choice. She gives me a lot of functional fitness exercises. I work on the major groups that will hold me up when fatigue sets in, and that will power me forward like a jet when I want them to. Strength is just like running – what you put in is what you get out. Are those 10 reps easy? Up the weight! Or stay comfortable and plateau with your strength. Runner’s choice. It’s not a CrossFit-style all-out routine that leaves me high at the end, but it does the trick. After making some progress with a few simple things yesterday, I left the gym with this little nugget of wisdom:

 

All because I upped my goblet squat weight for 2 x 10 reps, and damn, that felt really good. (Just don’t expect me to do anything with that weight but squat it. Legs: beast-mode. Arms: still getting there.)

Goblet Squat Weight_DOTR

And then I hit-up the gym with Jacqueline to walk her through some rehab strength exercises (for her healing hip!), which included ab-basketball. And that’s all that needs to be said about that.

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So that’s where we are. Training, loving the fact that I’m not paranoid on every run, and feeling stronger by the week because I have a coach telling me to up the ante. It feels really freakin’ good to be here.

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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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Lemon Basil Miso Dressing

Never have I ever…cooked with, or purchased, Miso! Truth. So I picked up a container of the “Mild Yellow  Miso” at Trader Joe’s last week because buying new things means making new things! Then it sat in our fridge for about 5 days unnoticed, because I’m a novice.

Fear of letting yet another cauliflower spoil (see: things we buy but forget to use) meant I could double-up! Two foods, one saving sauce.

Lemon Basil Miso Dressing DOTR

Lemon Basil Miso Dressing

2 Tbsp Miso paste
2 Tbsp water
1 lemon, juiced
5-7 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 Tbsp minced garlic

I’ve read through the blogvine that Miso is a base for sauces, so that settles that. We had some fresh basil that needed using (seeing a theme here?) and a lemon tree in the backyard that never fails me.

Combine all of the above and blend. (I used an immersion blender.) Voila! Miso sauce magic.

Lemon Basil Miso Dressing DOTR 2

I roasted one head of cauliflower at 350* for about 25-30 minutes (stirring twice), with a drizzle of olive oil + black pepper. Then tossed in this dressing. Served along side some steamed kale & sable fish – or your protein + green veggie of choice!
Lemon Basil Miso Dressing Dinner | dietitian on the run

Now…any suggestions on how to use the remaining ~10 tablespoons of mild yellow miso?

**And, if you want some free chocolate-strawberry LOVE Os,
checks it. Leave some love!**

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