Tools For Weight Loss Success: Minimize Decision Making

I’m writing a weight loss success post with the fact that I gained 1.1 pounds this week at the top of my mind. I can tell you exactly why that happened. I let myself make too many decisions.

I didn’t plan my meals in advance.

Not a single one. I grabbed whatever was in the fridge (which wasn’t much, since I hadn’t gone grocery shopping). Dinner included beef hot sticks or a cheese plate multiple nights. Not exactly low-point choices. Lunch came from the work cafeteria more often than not. Every time I was hungry, I had to decide what I wanted to eat. I can’t leave those decisions to chance when I’m trying to lose weight. This week, every single meal has been planned out in advance.

I gave in to temptation.

When I was stressed, I ate way too many of the Dove Promises that my boss had given me, which had happily hid out in my desk drawer for the last 6 weeks. I never should have left them there, forcing me to make a decision whether or not to eat them every single time I got to my desk. They should have immediately gone into the department candy cabinet, which is two floors away from me.

While working at home, I ate three sweet & salty peanut bars in one afternoon. That is terrible. Avoid these things like the plague; they’re crack disguised as a granola bar.

When attending a cookout, I didn’t think about what I would eat ahead of time. I tried every single dessert. I had two beers, and two glasses of wine. I went out for late-night Pho after the cookout. That evening alone, I probably consumed at least 50 points. Ugh.

I probably made these decisions because I hadn’t been fueling my body with filling, healthy food. It was easy to go for the high sugar, high fat choices when I wasn’t eating correctly.

In order to be successful at weight loss, I need to make as few day-to-day decisions as possible.

Woman being wound up like a toy
Sometimes you just need to put yourself on auto pilot.

I once attended a Weight Watchers meeting that said we make at least 200 food-related decisions every day (although we may only be conscious of 10-15 of them). Every time I need to decide what to eat, my reptilian brain is telling me to eat salt, sugar, and fat. My logical brain knows better—that I need protein, fruits & vegetables, and whole grains. By removing the decision point from each moment and putting myself on auto-pilot, I’m much more likely to be successful. Here’s what this looks like when I’m firing on all cylinders:

  • I plan and pre-track a week’s worth of meals on the weekend.
  • I prepare as much food as possible during the weekend for the week ahead.
  • I grocery shop, with a list based on my planned meals.
  • I don’t keep snacks in the house that I’d regret choosing to eat.
  • I bring a morning snack, lunch, and afternoon snack to work with me (what I pre-tracked).
  • I have a pre–determined fitness schedule and stick to it (this hasn’t happened in a while, but I was extremely successful when I was doing this).
  • I include special events in my weekly planning, and plan to enjoy myself while staying within my weekly points.

Even with all of this preparation to minimize decisions, I still find myself making food choices every single day. Yesterday, in the afternoon, I really wanted chocolate even though I had my planned yogurt snack at work. I bought the chocolate … and then later ate the yogurt snack. I adjusted my dinner points to somewhat accommodate the chocolate, and dipped into my weekly points a bit. It’s ok if I cave into a decision like that once a week or so, but make it a daily habit and I’ll see my success stop very quickly. Today was better. I wanted chocolate, but stuck to my plan.

Do you have any tips to put yourself on auto pilot and avoid making daily decisions related to food? Please share in the comments.

6 thoughts on “Tools For Weight Loss Success: Minimize Decision Making

  1. I completely agree with your strategy of not buying/keeping things in the house that I would regret choosing to eat!

    A recent victory for me is avoiding decisions by keeping hunger at bay and blood sugar steady* all morning using chai that I make at home (despite LOVING Starbucks). By drinking it slowly, I don’t get hungry or shaky/nauseated and make impulsive and often terrible food choices. Although not the most nutritious breakfast, it’s extremely easy to put together and a much better alternative to my other easy options (cereal – leads to hanger, processed; fast food drive through – $, processed).

    * I’m slowly starting to realize that, for me, these are 2 very different things

    1. Good tips, Anne! I try to keep drinking something (tea, coffee, water, diet soda) all morning, so my stomach “feels” full.

  2. This really hits home for me; thanks for the post. I envision my autopilot setting looks like this: my hands are tied to the airplane control stick so I can’t take them off and make different choices even though all the planned snacks and ingredients are right in front of me. I’m only three months in to my fitness journey so my autopilot can’t be unsupervised; takes constant vigilance. But as you state, it goes a lot better when I’ve taken the time to plan. 🙂

    1. If only it were as easy as just pushing the auto-pilot button 🙂 You’re right, there’s still a minor decision to make every time you put something in your mouth, but the way I see it, if you’ve planned what you’ll eat you’re just affirming a decision you’ve already made—or consciously going against it.

  3. A little thought for the day: “The difference between try and triumph, is a little UMPH!” With the weekend coming up & a fabulous vacation in 4 short weeks, get back into your planning & exercise routine. You will feel so much better, both mentally & physically. I know you can do it!

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