Eat a Similar Diet Every Day
If you're busy and struggling to stick to your diet, it could be that your diet is too varied. While the typical advice is to include as much variety as possible, from a practical perspective it might be the worst piece of advice.
When you wake up in the morning, you shouldn't have to think through which one of twenty options you're going to have for breakfast. Same for dinner. It's a waste of time and only causes you to burn through energy that could otherwise be spent on your more creative and demanding pursuits. If you're wasting mental energy on breakfast or lunch, you're setting yourself up for diet failure later in the day.
There's been research on willpower and two things are clear:
- We use willpower to make decisions, focus, and be creative.
- We only have a limited amount of daily willpower. If you use too much early on, your decision-making becomes skewed and lazy by the end of the day. It essentially cripples your performance.
Now think about when you're most likely to cheat on your diet. It's probably after dinner, right? That's because you've depleted your willpower and cognitive capacity. You've spent all day making decisions at work and handling regular life issues, and now your ability to make quality decisions has diminished.
But what if you already know what you're going to eat? Now there's no risk of choosing something that'll derail your goals. You can just execute the plan. If you can standardize all the "non-creative" components of your day (like meals), you can save all your thinking for other things.
For at least 80% of the time, eat a habitual, standard diet. Use the remaining 20% to be a little more adventurous with recipes, social meals, or dining out. Save this for the weekends though, or periods when you have more time and mental capacity.