I read a great article online about Decision Making in the New York Times Magazine this morning. It led me to today’s drawing and topic. I will link to the magazine at the bottom of the page.
It’s All Your Fault
If you only had more willpower. If you only learned to discipline yourself. If you only weren’t so spoiled, gluttonous, slothful, lazy, indulgent, selfish, stupid, immature and short-sighted. If only you had more glucose. WHAT? Glucose?
Well ok, it’s Your Brain’s Fault
Once again, science is making progress in understanding who we are, how we work and what we can do to improve. There has been a number of studies in recent years that go under the heading of Decision Fatigue and Ego Depletion. What do those terms mean? Decision fatigue is the phenomenon whereby each decision you make in a day diminishes your willpower and ability to make subsequent decisions. Your brain acts like a muscle in the sense that it gets tired after so much exercise that it really can’t work that well anymore. Ego Depletion is when your ability to retain your decision making skills at your ego’s normal level is diminished. That is why we tend to make bad decisions (or can’t make one at all) in the afternoon or evening, after a long day of decision making. But why is this? Well, research seems to be indicating that the reason is a depletion of glucose in the brain. Sugar basically. it doesn’t stop the brain from working, it just stunts the decision making areas of the brain.
Parole in the Afternoon
In a study of Israeli parole boards they found that being brought up for parole in the early morning, right after breakfast, the convict had a much better chance of recieving parole than a criminal with the same sentence for the same crime had if he came before the parole board late in the morning, before lunch, or late in the afternoon. In all these cases the difference was the board members inability to decide, not the individual merits of the cases. Why was that? Because they had already made so many decisions that the best, easiest decision was to make none at all. Leave the decision for another day was the best choice in their decision fatigued mind. And what made their mind fatigued in this way? Lack of glucose.
The Dieting Catch 22
So, how does this apply to dieting? Dieting is all about will power, right? It’s all about deciding again and again and again, not to eat certain foods. What does that insistent decision making do? It depletes one’s ego, the person’s ability to make decisions in their best interest. So, what is needed to restore that ability to make the right choice in dieting? Eating is what is needed. What to eat? Sugar. How is that for a catch 22?
1. In order not to eat, a dieter needs willpower.
2. In order to have willpower, a dieter needs to eat. *
Moral failure vs Brain Science
One of the best things about our paying attention to scientific discoveries is that it lessens judgment but increases our ability to change and grow. It is the search for the truth that can help us, and the old, simplistic moral condemnation is ineffective (and alway have been) because it doesn’t help us understand and act on what the real truth is. And the real truth is that we must pay attention to our biology, our chemistry, our cultural and social behaviors and analyse them not with ignorant condemnation but with neutral and effective judgment.
Judgment of self is not condemnation of self. It is realizing that you are doing this one thing and, without condemning yourself, that can decide that you will change doing that one thing into doing another thing. The truth is you won’t be more effective (and more likely will be less effective) by dumping a truckload of guilt on yourself in the process. It’s not an excuse and it’s not a license to do something bad. It is just a more effective and positive way to pursue the change you want to see in your life.
Let me know what you think of this.
Drawing and commentary by Marty Coleman
Quote by Mae West