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Enhance In-the-Moment Decision Making

Why is changing our behavior so difficult?

Our big, beautiful brain wants to make as few decisions as possible during the day. Not because we’re lazy, but because our brain likes efficiencies. We have only so much bandwidth we can dedicate active thinking. Our brain seeks to create automaticity for daily tasks so that more attention span is left over for the bigger things in life.

Unfortunately, changing our routine or automatic behaviors means taking up some of that limited bandwidth. This is temporary; eventually our new behaviors will become an ingrained part of life. In the meantime, we need to set ourselves up for success by limiting the number of decisions we have to make about food or exercise in the moment. Planning ahead is everything.

Sitting down on Friday to map out breakfast, lunches, snacks, and dinners for the following Monday through Sunday means less attention-hogging decision-making during the week. Scheduling your workouts on your calendar means you won't have to scramble to find time to fit it in the day of. (I cannot stress this enough: Calendar scheduling is not simply looking at your calendar and noticing when a good time might be to exercise on a given day. This is blocking off time and writing down when you will get up and move during the day.)

In addition to having a plan A, make a plan B, and maybe even a plan C, in case something goes awry. When the perfect plan doesn’t come to fruition, you still have something to fall back on--without having to spend brain space figuring out what to do. Did the amazing dinner you were going to cook get away from you? Consult a list of back-up meals* and still get dinner on the table. If something that can’t be helped infringes on your perfect hour-long workout, you have an alternative 20- or 30-minute plan ready to go. (Seriously limit your definition of “can’t be helped.” So many people let any little thing take over their workout time. Your health and wellbeing ARE important.)

It will take time to plan ahead. I have my calendar blocked off for planning sessions, and I set all sorts of alerts so I won’t forget. If you put in the mental work up front, eventually making decisions in the moment that help you meet your goals will become more automatic.

Action Steps:

  • Set a weekly appointment(s) in your calendar to plan out meals and workouts. Set an alert.

  • Write down all your meals for the week (protein, veggie, fruit, grain/starch), making sure to put all necessary food items on your grocery list.

  • Create a list of back-up meals.*

    • Make sure the list is visible in the house.

    • Make sure back-up meal ingredients are on hand every week.

  • Set appointments/block off time for exercise in your calendar for the week.


*Any cook in the family should be able to make the backup meal. It should take 20 minutes or fewer to make. (In fact, add a 10 min meal to your list.)

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