In this episode of The Feel Good Effect, we’re talking about how to go on a decision diet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – in other words, how to feel good effect your meals!
We’ll dive into how to overcome decision fatigue and share some easy examples of decision templates you can use. Listen in to the episode or keep reading for all my made-for-real-life tips.
a decision diet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (FGE meals)
Decision fatigue is the destroyer of willpower. It’s the reason we’re all exhausted at the end of the day, so often rearing its ugly head around meals.
A solution: go on a decision diet. No, not a diet that doesn’t work. I’m talking about a way to reduce decision fatigue for every meal, every day.
“research has shown that we make about 267 decisions just about food per day”
what is a decision diet?
We all have to eat and we have to eat every day. Especially right now, in the midst of everything going on, decision fatigue is real. To counter that, I’ve come up with a solution, called a decision diet. I talk about this in my book. The Feel Good Effect: Reclaim Your Wellness by Finding Small Shifts That Create Big Change.
A decision diet is one of those small shifts. It’s a different way of thinking as well as a system to help you manage life a little easier.
A decision diet is part of our entire FGE approach, philosophy, and one of the aspects of our upcoming coaching certification (sign up here to stay in the loop).
“decision fatigue drains willpower”
decision fatigue & the fatigue formula
Decision fatigue is the outcome when you make a lot of decisions. And the struggle of decision fatigue is real.
What we’ve been able to see from the research is that decision fatigue drains willpower. In my book, I call this the fatigue formula (fatigue formula = the total number of decisions you make in a day + the number of times you task-switch).
For now, just think about the number of decisions you’ve made today, maybe even in the last hour. Now think about the number of decisions you’ve made related to food. Take a guess: how many decisions do you think you make about food in a day? It might be surprising, but research has shown that we make about 267 decisions just about food per day. If you’re a caregiver, it’s more. And if you’re living below the poverty line, it’s more.
Let’s think about dinner, for example. The questions to answer quickly pile up: What are we having for dinner? What time should I start it? Should I start it now? Do I have the ingredients on hand? Do I need a recipe? Which recipe do I want? Will everyone in the home eat it? Do I need to make any adaptations? What am I going to do about leftovers?
All those decisions happen in a matter of seconds, you might not even notice them. As that decision load builds up over the day, it actually drains our willpower. It’s a big reason why around late afternoon or dinnertime you might feel like you “have no willpower”; it’s really a result of this fatigue formula that drains you.
“Decision templates are just deciding ahead of time what you’re going to do”
decision templates + how to use them
So what do we do about it? Reduce the number of decisions using a decision template.
Decision templates are just deciding ahead of time what you’re going to do so that decision is then made. In this case, we’re going to apply this to meals.
A decision template is a lot like a capsule wardrobe. With a capsule wardrobe, you’ll spend some time making outfit decisions ahead of time: Do I like these clothes? Do they fit? Do they go together? And so on. Then you pull stuff out that doesn’t work and spend some time curating. You do a little work and spend the mental energy one time, ahead of time, for vastly reduced decisions moving forward. We’re applying the same concept now, but for meals, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Start by thinking about the what, what, when, and how.
Specifically, it’s getting at: What am I going to have? What do I need to make it? When am I going to eat during the day? How am I going to make it?
This template is especially helpful for the meals you find yourself skipping, missing, or feeling like you just can’t handle.
“For breakfast and lunch, I always recommend having one to three fallback meals that you know you like and that you will always have on hand”
applying decision templates to breakfast, lunch, and dinner
For breakfast and lunch, I always recommend having one to three fallback meals that you know you like and that you will always have on hand (the number really depends on how much variety you feel you need). Just having ingredients in the house can be a huge challenge for people. And if you do have a little time for meal prep, it’s something you can get ready ahead of time.
Note: What I eat is not necessarily what you need to eat. My good is not necessarily your good, in fact, it could be your should. Individualize based on what you like and what your body needs. Use the feel good effect and ask yourself, “does this work for me?” “does this help me feel good or help me get to where I want to go?”
my breakfast decision template
Below are examples of my three fallbacks for breakfast:
- Smoothies: I even use a decision template for smoothies from Kelly LeVeque, which includes fat, fiber, protein, and greens in every smoothie. I also add fruit to mine.
- Eggs, avocado, and greens (which you see a lot if you follow me on Instagram @realfoodwholelife)
- Pancakes: My husband usually makes a batch of a Real Food Whole Life pancakehttps://realfoodwholelife.com/pancakes/ variety, which we freeze, and I can pull out during the week for a quick breakfast. Warm, top with nut butter and berries, and I’m all set.
I know that I usually don’t get hungry in the morning until around 10:00 am, which works perfectly with my daughter’s break in her online school. Even before my daughter was doing school from home, I made my ‘when’ decision based on when I knew I would be hungry and when I would probably need to take a break and get up from my desk. Now breakfast is an automatic habit that allows me to start my day feeling good and nourished in a way that I enjoy.
When shifting to this mindset, it helps to have a mental checklist of ingredients to make these fallback breakfasts with when grocery shopping so you know you have something on hand. If you want more ideas premade for you, grab the ingredient list and recipes from the Simplified Reset. Remember that when you add something new it will take a little more mental energy, but once you get into an automatic habit, you’ll find that it all becomes easier.
“I do believe that eating lunch is a radical form of self-care and that you deserve to take a pause and nourish yourself with food”.
my lunch decision template
It doesn’t have to be grand or elaborate, but using the decision template will help you reduce decision fatigue. What’s working for me right now with lunches include:
- Chicken or tuna salad, with my favorite mayo, celery, dill, and lemon, that I eat with almond flour crackers or something else (try this smashed chickpea salad for a vegetarian alternative)
- Sausage sauteed with veggies
- Leftover Real Food Whole Life soups or stews that I’ve made ahead of time and frozen in mason jars.
“You can even create a decision template for meal mapping – which is deciding ahead of time of meal types for each night of the week”
meal mapping resources + done-for-you program
There are more recipes in the Real Food Simplified program, which has shopping lists and recipes for a full month of breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a full month. You can find another great, free example on the FGE episode How to Feel Good Effect Your Meal Plan: How to Create a Fall Capsule Meal Plan.
You can even create a decision template for meal mapping, which is deciding ahead of time of meal types for each night of the week. (e.g. a crockpot meal on Mondays night that rotates each week, tacos on Tuesdays, etc.). This way, you’re holding one variable constant, which reduces the number of decisions you have to make during the week. Using a meal map, you can decide what, what, when, how within that template using any recipe out there. I’ve taught this in other ways, too, like the essential six components of a meal and how to combine them.
Simplify it by focusing on one thing first. You could just do a decision template by meal mapping your week, or just focusing on breakfast. At each level, you reduce so many decisions. Thinking about the 80/20 rule and getting brilliant at the basics, nourishing your body with food is really part of that 20%.
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