The “I Don’t Feel Like It” Fallacy

by | Mar 1, 2016

bored-kitchen

Sometimes the subtlest thing can derail a habit.

Of all the Home Court Habits I maintain to keep my healthstyle on track, cooking food at home is the most important. When I cook regularly (4-5 days a week) I can eat practically anything I want, maintain my weight and energy, and almost never get sick.

I don’t love to cook, but I don’t mind it. And over the years I’ve developed a system of supporting habits to make sure I do it regularly. It works for me.

Then last week, it stopped working. Despite having attended two dinners at the homes of friends (when I notably didn’t have to cook), when Thursday rolled around I had zero interest in making dinner.

Just the thought of going to the grocery store, picking out one of the same boring meals and going home and putting it together sounded like torture. So I turned on the charm and convinced my husband to join me at a restaurant instead.

I was relieved, but the situation didn’t sit well with me. I had only cooked dinner once this week, the weekend was fast approaching, and I already had plans for the next two nights. Normally I would jump at the opportunity to control what’s on my plate for one additional meal.

Where was my resistance coming from?

The easy thing to do would be to ignore my disinclination to cook this evening or chalk it up to laziness or my general apathy toward the kitchen. But that would be a mistake.

While it’s totally fine to take a break from your habits every now and again, such a decision should be made consciously with intention. It is not a good sign when the reason is just, “I don’t feel like it.”

Yet this is the place most people stop. They tell themselves they are lazy or not motivated instead of identifying the true reason they aren’t taking action.

I gave in and took the night off of cooking, but didn’t want to let myself entirely off the hook. Instead I spent some time thinking more deeply about how I was feeling. And even before we called an Uber to go out, I had my answer.

I asked myself WHY I didn’t want to cook tonight and realized that I was bored with the options at my local grocery store.

Of course that’s understandable, I had made the same handful of dishes multiple times over the past two weeks. But it didn’t quite make sense since I’ve been cooking for nearly a decade and never lacked imagination for how to make dinner interesting.

So WHY hadn’t this bothered me in the past? What has kept me inspired to cook year after year?

This was an easy one. It was the farmers market. The seasons. There was always something new and exciting, and right when I was starting to get tired of it the seasons would change and bring something different.

The previous weekend I was out of town on Saturday and hadn’t made it to my favorite farmers market. Was that the reason?

I didn’t think so. I travel a lot and missing one trip to the market has never derailed me before. And the Whole Foods where I shop is pretty good with their seasonal veggie varieties.

So if I only missed one farmers market trip WHY was I bored? Then BOOM. It hit me. It wasn’t the vegetables that were boring me, it was the proteins.

Even though I had gone to the farmers market two weeks prior, both my favorite meat vendors were still closed for the holidays. Given my travel schedule, I had been relying exclusively on the grocery store butcher for nearly a month.

When I go to my favorite butchers there are dozens of options to choose from each week. Often they’ll even marinate the meats with different flavors and spices, which are always changing and always delicious.

But from the grocery store I always buy the same 3-4 cuts of meat/fish (I’ll only eat the pasture-raised/wild stuff so my options are limited). Apparently that is perfectly fine to supplement my normal shopping, but insufficient as a normal resource.

I had no idea.

If you had asked me two weeks ago what kept me inspired in the kitchen, I don’t think “meat variety” would have been one of my answers. I had subconsciously built a system that kept enough variety in my meals to keep me interested. It was so subtle I didn’t actually know what kept me doing it.

And it’s worth noting that I think about food and habits A LOT more than most people.

The lesson here isn’t that you need to shop at a farmers market to motivate yourself to cook. That just happened to be the scenario for me in this instance.

The real lesson is that you need to be aware of the mental barriers that keep you from doing what you know will improve your life so that you can actively find solutions.

If I had stopped at “I don’t feel like it” the logical explanation would be that I’m lazy and not motivated. Therefore the logical solution would be “summon up more willpower and do it anyway.”

And while that may work once or twice, it certainly won’t work forever. The end result would be a failed habit.

But when you take the time to think harder about WHY you do what you do (or don’t do), you come up with better reasons that have far more realistic solutions.

In my case, I actually received the very unhappy news that my favorite butchers weren’t just taking the holidays off, but decided to stop coming to market entirely and focus on their brick and mortar stores. Both stores are very inconvenient for me to get to.

To solve my issue I’ll have to either find new butcher/s that are convenient, or figure out a way to order my favorites and have them delivered. This sucks, but it’s doable. And once I figure it out the problem will be solved.

Compare this to “force myself to do something over and over again that bores me to tears.” That solution isn’t just difficult, it’s impossible for a free-living human to maintain. It also comes with the emotional burdens of failure and shame.

The critical difference is spending the extra effort to identify the true barrier to action instead of blaming yourself and giving up.

Don’t try to change your feelings, just modify your thinking process and ask better questions. Instead of “what’s wrong with me?,” ask yourself “WHY do I feel this way?”

Your first answer will likely be superficial, but keep asking WHY until you identify the external force that’s nudging you in the wrong direction. Then ask what you can do to fix it.

Your first solution might not work, but at least you will have learned something new about the problem. Maybe there’s a deeper reason yet that you still haven’t identified.

Keep asking better questions and you will keep getting better answers. And whatever you do, don’t take “I don’t feel like it” as an answer.

How often does “I don’t feel like it” cause you to make bad decisions?

Originally published Jan 19, 2015.

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31 Responses to “The “I Don’t Feel Like It” Fallacy”

  1. Irina says:

    Hi Darya! What a great post! It’s certainly something I need to work on (getting to know my true feelings). Sometimes I feel I need to pause and actually make an effort to face the problem and answer question “Why?”, but I often face a mental block at this point. As if my mind is bored, that this deep thinking is too uninteresting for my brain to deal with. :D Common or lazy? :D

    (By the way, this totally doesn’t apply to cooking, as I seem to be in the kitchen 24/7 by choice. The only times I want to go to a restaurant is when I feel I a bit sad and I feel I want an excuse to cheer myself up. A bit like emotional eating but instead emotional going out! lol Happens rarely though.)

    • Darya Rose says:

      Common or lazy? I think both. Nobody ever taught us to think this way, so we don’t have a lot of practice and it feels difficult. Plus not thinking is always easier than thinking. The cool thing though is that it’s actually kind of fun once you are aware of it and practice it. Like solving a puzzle.

      • Irina says:

        Will aim to deal with my inner feelings! Thanks Darya. It wasn’t really an obvious thing to do before I found your blog. (By the way, thank you for introducing me to a pedometer idea. This literally changed my life. I adore walking every day now. It gives me so much energy, I feel amazing. Never struggled with weight, so didn’t think of doing this regularly, but it’s so good for the soul! Addictive!)

  2. Sherry A. says:

    Great Post!

    My mental barrier ‘aha’ from this post is I enjoy cooking for my kids, and now they are adults leaving me less inclined to cook a variety of meals. I never considered ‘why’ I felt bored with my cooking. And, I love to cook and happily embrace the Foodist mindset. I’ve just rotated similar meals, unless my lovely Foodist (elite status) daughter cooks with me. You’d be impressed at the gourmet meals my daughter whips up with the simplest of ingredients – Delicious.

    BTW your earlier mention (last week) about bone broth… that very same broth healed my daughters four year battle with leaky gut syndrome (completely). Happy more people are learning of its benefit for their digestive health.

    Thanks, Darya… Your blog is my most favorite nutrition and science-based platform. Great insight, Always!

  3. AJ says:

    Thank you for inviting us to your own journey of understanding your habits and “healthstyle.” I love this Socratic method approach to food choices (and really, any life choices). It’s never easy to look into a mirror for any period of time and through repeated times, but such an endeavor helps us reach our full potential. Happy MLK Day!

  4. fanny says:

    Nice post! I’ve been asking myself a few WHYs lately. I haven’t gotten to the bottom of it. Resistance is a wonderful thing!

    Also, thanks for the tip on the book today! However, I was wondering why it was bundled up with a bunch of odd diet books.

    • Darya Rose says:

      It’s the way the promotion works, there’s always a theme. I agreed to participate because I wanted you guys to get the price. But I hear ya, most of the other titles make me nauseous ;)

  5. Renee says:

    Hi Darya,

    I just found your site after reading an article that was posted on LifeHacker on the health benefits of juicing — incredibly witty and informative BTW. I also recognize you from an episode of “The Random Show” with your husband and Tim (Those two together are good fun, a little bromancey, but fun).

    http://lifehacker.com/does-juicing-have-any-real-health-benefits-1542055799

    I agree that it’s important to understand the why we feel the way we do and not allow ourselves off the hook so easily. To add to that, sometimes I find that I don’t give myself enough credit for my wins in life and instead dwell more on my failures.

    Coincidentally, yesterday was the first I-don’t-feel-like-it-day I had in months. After trying the “summon up more willpower” approach, which is also my usual line of defense, I caved in and decided to give myself the afternoon off. This, I admit, made me feel a bit guilty. However, after a little thought I realized that I was overworked and had even worked through the weekend. Therefore, I actually deserved the day off. Not to mention I didn’t give myself credit for having a productive morning.

    Recently, I read an article that said women are less likely to share their successes than men. I think it’s important to recognize our wins — ie going to the gym for months on end or a decade of cooking healthful meals. One cheat day or week isn’t going to sabotage our entire routine because it’s what we do on a consistent basis that counts.

    Thanks for sharing and great post!

    Renee

  6. Paulina says:

    Great post, Darya! Very intriguing. I too ran into the same thing as I mainly bought my proteins from Trader Joe’s, and I, also limiting myself to organic/wild, really only had chicken, eggs, and canned salmon to choose from (maybe the occasional pricy ground beef). This week however, I made a point to go to the farmer’s market and get a brand new cut of beef (brisket) that I have not cooked myself before. It’s in the slow cooker now, and I’m stoked to go home and cook some veggies to go with it!

    Anyway, I wanted to see if you ever bought directly from a farm online. When I was in college, I rewarded myself with a $200 bundle of various cuts of beef, including some organs. I think it came out to a decent $/lb – maybe 20 pounds worth and not too difficult to fit in my normal freezer. Maybe that would be the most convenient option for you right now!

  7. gigi says:

    I love that you are so open about your personal battles- it’s helpful to know others out there struggle with similar issues. For me, living in Minnesota, I find the long (from October to May) winters get to me around mid-February and cooking (which for me is a creative outlet) becomes a chore. I solve my dilemma by going to the library and checking out stacks of recipe books looking to learn how to add something new to my list of go-to dinners. Of course there are always a few failures, but also a few winners that I add into my rotation of about 50 different dinner menus. I find variety helps keep me motivated. If that doesn’t work, i just make cake.

  8. malia says:

    I wouldn’t be into it either if I had a partner and I was cooking meals 4 days a week. Get your SO to do it!

  9. Maj C. says:

    Hi Darya,

    Recently, a very… uninspiring thing happened to me. I am working at an IT company for 5 months and was on my way to having the “permanent” position as a writer in my sixth month. The last few weeks before my sixth month, my boss talked to me saying that I will be extended an additional month before they decide if I will be regularized or not.

    He gave me a month to write the articles needed for the real reason I was hired. Twelve of them to be exact. Then he will decide if I will be regularized or not. Is this fair? I keep on asking myself if he is right for following the rule or ~too hard~ for choosing to follow the rule.

    I cried and felt betrayed. Prior to this month, I worked very hard to another “side project” my boss told me to do. That project turned into my major task for the whole five months. I write for websites and provided verbiage on the landing pages, emails, notifications, within the website itself – every part of it where words are needed, I created it.

    Although it may sound easy, but to do that task, you need to study the site’s different persona. The tone of language and delivery should fit with them in a natural way. My goal is not just to write words, but to think it through. I don’t want to just create sentences that are all but noise. I want my words to establish a signal.

    That’s what I did. And people/clients are somehow happy with those. Few corrections took place back and forth, but it was all resolved. I dedicated my entire five months to do well in this because even if it is challenging, I loved it.

    But, what I told you above is supposed to be a “side project”. The real job description I signed was somehow put on the back burner because there simply is no time. The side project is demanding. As a human being, I felt tired too. But I thought my boss would see that effort. I was wrong.

    He saw how much I was working for that. And yet, when evaluation time came, all of my efforts were trashed. He was looking for my output related to the real job I was hired for. He did not break the rules. (Or can’t he really do that?)

    Darya, I feel sad and unmotivated after this. Honestly, I feel cheated on. I feel like my five months was trashed away. This month’s extension is about to be over and I haven’t come close to meeting several articles that will mean my regularization.

    Like you, I tried thinking of why I’m feeling this way. Why can’t I work as motivated as I did before? I tried “summoning additional willpower”. And every time I do, I fail. I just can’t keep my head floating in the water. On the contrary, I feel like drowning.

    I will appreciate your view on this matter. But even if you do not reply, I just feel like I need to type down what I’m feeling because in doing so feels like I’m closer to finding out the answer.

    Or maybe I did found it already. I don’t feel motivated because I feel like I was cheated. I deserved that regularization right on my sixth month! Not another one of those silly extensions that go along the lines of “find a new job”.

    I feel lighter now that I’ve typed this. At least, I was able to release the thoughts encapsulated in my mind. I did not attempt to tell anyone. I tried self-remedy, self-psych etc but I can’t simply remove the fact that such decision is simply unfair.

    Or maybe it’s not. But it is hindering my ability to see the reason why I need to do this job anymore. Or work on staying, for that matter.

    But you know, I’m kind of tired being alone with thoughts like these. If you can respond to this I will really appreciate it.

    Sincerely,
    M

  10. Mina Smith says:

    I get this! I cook dinner and eat leftovers for lunch as often as possible, but between my one full-time and two part-time jobs and then cooking and housework, I just get so exhausted that I want someone to take care of something that’s on my plate once in a while. It’s not that I can’t drag myself away from work to poor a bowl of cereal if it gets really bad, but when you are responsible for a house, an 80 hour work week, and cooking, something has to give on occasion. It’s nice to just have someone wait on me for once!

    To solve it, I recently gave my roommate and my SO a list of chores to do every week to help take some of the unpaid, household labor off of my back and that mostly eliminates my desire for outsourcing the food.

    Also, I really only know how to cook healthy foods, so when I’m craving something sweet or something rich, I also outsource that. I try to cook at home all seven days a week though, and just go out for desserts or snacks if I’m really wanting it.

  11. Hallie says:

    Hi Darya,
    I just did this today with my usual workout. Like the insight because all day I kept thinking “why” did I just not feel like it.
    Thanks!!

  12. Ruth S. says:

    To Maj C: I understand how you see the boss’ request as unfair and unreasonable–and it sounds like you are de-motivated in large part because your boss did not acknowledge that he assigned the “side project” which in reality used all the 5 months’ time that you were to work on the original project.

    When he assigned the 12 articles for you to do in one month, did you speak with him to let him know that you didn’t think this request was reasonable or fair, and try to negotiate a more-realistic target with him for the month’s work? (If not, that’s learning for ‘what to do next time’…but if YES, you did speak with him and he dismissed your opinions,then you know what kind of boss this person will be–and most likely you won’t be happy working for him in the long run.)

    My advice is to reflect deeply on how much you want to be a permanent employee at this company and whether you can respect and work well with this boss. If the answer is “yes/yes”–or you REALLY NEED the money & benefits of permanent-employee status, and are willing to deal with the boss’ attitude, you should ‘tough it out’ and give it all you’ve got to get those articles drafted by the deadline.

    Another way to view it, is that if you said you would write all 12 articles in one month, then focus on meeting your commitment and getting the articles done- this will then make you proud that you met this difficult challenge!

    You might also be feeling a lack of trust (perhaps rightly)that even if you deliver the 12 articles, that they may still not offer you permanent status–and this feeling is also demotivating to think about. Unfortunately, as a temporary employee, that’s the risk you’ll have to take if you want the permanent-status job, so try and put that thought aside and focus on the task at hand! I hope this helps. Ruth

    • Maj C. says:

      Oh, my gosh! Hi Ruth! Thank you so much for your advice. All of what you said is right. You presented me with a lot of option and to be honest, it made me reflect.

      The only thing I hate is telling my parents the reality of the situation because they might get mad at me. But without that, I’m happy to go. Yes, granting that my work here is near my place so I don’t get to spend as much time commuting, or the fact that I was able to build solid friends. But despite magnifying these benefits, my mood only improves a little.

      The case anymore isn’t related to passion or if I love writing.

      It’s more that I feel tired. I just want to get this over with. I want time to think things through, and again quoting what you said, conduct a self analysis of want went wrong and determine “what to do next time”.

      I feel like I’m hurting myself—both in mind and body—as I continue to stay here. To be honest, I’m already starting to be nagged by thoughts like “I’m never good enough”, or “I’m the most unlucky person in the world” and “I will never get hired because my employer thinks Im a job hopper”

      Sidenote: I just graduate university last year. has joined the workforce for almost a year only…

      My resignation here might hurt my reputation. These thoughts are the only one that makes me do what I need to do. But thinking about it – the more I stay here the more damage I do to myself. I am about to have my birthday this month and to be honest, I thought I’m going to celebrate it happily. Turns out faith has other plans for me.

      *sigh*

      PS – Im attempting to write the articles and just made a quick visit to see if someone replied to me. And you did! THANK YOU SO MUCH. It feels good to be heard.

      Sincerely yours,
      Maj C.

  13. Nancy says:

    Thanks for your insightful post. It has motivated me to look further into why I am not losing weight following a healthy diet. I always do best when I limit my bread/pasta/bean/rice carbs to 2 small portions a day and eat protein, vegetables, yogurt and a limited quantity of fruit. However, I get bored and then end up increasing my carbs and while generally healthy ones, my weight loss stalls. I don’t want to go back to calorie counting, but need to figure out how I can have some flexibility and still lose those 10lbs I keep gaining and losing. Any ideas for finding the sweet spot?

  14. Betty Ristau says:

    I have recently tried to get back to healthy eating. While I have been very successful grocery shopping, I have found many times I get that I don’t want to cook syndrome. After reading your article I sat down to think about it. I realized that the I don’t want to cook comes when I’m hungry for the fast food fat and sugar meal. Need to work on my way of eating.

  15. Lazyretirementgirl says:

    This was very helpful, on a nonfood, non health front. Thanks so much.

  16. Sheryl-lee says:

    This is something that I struggle with on a periodic basis and it usually has nothing to do with the food I’m eating and everything to do with the emotional roller coaster that is my life. I find that when events in my life overwhelm me and I don’t seem to be able to find solutions, I can fall into a depressed state where I don’t really feel like doing much of anything let alone cook. I know that at these times I need to find some non food related ways of coping unfortunately I have very little motivation to even keep looking for a solution.

    • Donna says:

      Oh Sheryl-lee…I so ‘feel’…relate and empathise totally with your pain. I discovered Darya and Summer Tomato in the precise ‘quest’ to find ways out of this schema…and I believe strongly in her protocol and wisdom. For me personally, it is so unbelievably REFRESHING to find someone who truly gets the food as panacea component and truly wishes us to honour, love and respect our bodily and mental needs. I actually ‘lunch’ to her empowering podcasts with equally empowering guests. Intelligence DOES lurk and thrive with regards to kind nourishment of body and soul. Darya ‘GETS IT’ is all that needs to be added. Please keep reading and re-reading…listening to her blogs…and I promise you will find achievement and comfort in her credo of respect to body and soul through non-dieting. This is home.

  17. Jen says:

    Hi Darya – Excellent post. I think getting at the Why, and recognizing that everyone’s Why might be different, is far far better than beating yourself up. Plus a solution might be found! For me, my “I just don’t feel like it” moments come at the end of long days where I’m just tired of decision-making. I don’t mind the cooking, but I’m just not feeling creative. And healthy eating feels like it needs creativity (vs a bowl of cereal or pasta). I’ve tried to minimize these situations by (1) planning the week’s meals in advance and (2) asking my SO to come up with ideas on the weekends whereas I do weekdays. I give up some control, but not being decision-maker for a day is a relief. And if he’s feeling healthy, it’s a win-win. If not, it’s take-out.

  18. Patricia says:

    Hi Darya:
    Wow. What a thoughtful bunch.

    After weaning myself off the drive in habit, I learned to batch cook only because most recipes produce four or six portions. I simply prefer the food I make for myself because of the high sodium options that exist in almost anything you can buy prepared, organic or not.

    I love it when I find a jar of something when I come home hungry and am anxious to eat something fast. I rely on many websites for my inspiration because I have little creativity on my own.

    Last night I read about a wilted kale and quinoa combo I’m looking forward to making today. These choices come easily now and that thrills me to no end.

    Thanks for being so dedicated to the topic. Good health is your best reward.

  19. Laurel says:

    Is the Lift app that you used to recommend now called Coach.me? I can’t find Lift on the App store? Thanks.

  20. Hi Darya,

    Excellent post! I came across the same idea in Tim Ferriss’s podcast last week, and it is phenomenal. If we change behaviors based on one factor, without asking why and digging into what lies deeper, no significant change will occur.

    We’ve got to get to the bottom of the issue and keep asking ourselves “why” until we get to the bottom of the rabbit hole. It takes time, and I hope to practice this in my daily life. You’ve further inspired me to give it a shot :)

    You have illustrated this beautifully, and I thank you for that. No wonder it took off on Medium! :)

    -Valerie

  21. Sue says:

    Whoaaaaa, I think this was written just for me… I’m struggling with motivation (right now I NEVER feel like doing the right things for myself) and I’ve always thought the reason was because ‘I’m just lazy and unmotivated and I suck at this.’ So now I need to keep thinking and get to a real answer and figure out why. THANK YOU for writing this! Wish me luck! =)

  22. Becky says:

    I am the kind of person who is continuously asking why. I know how to cook. I have a Henckle. I even occasionally sharpen it. I don’t know if I’m doing it quite right, but it seems to work better afterwards, so probably good enough. I cooked for several years when my children were young out of necessity since we were on one income. Now that they’re adults, I’d rather spend my time reading, playing with spreadsheets, or learning about everything from psychology to statistics to nutrition and exercise than cooking or shopping. Still, I can see how it would be useful. If I could find a way to not be so bored with it and how to be efficient about it, that sounds great. I could use the savings too. I am fortunate to be in Austin which has delivery from the local grocery store chain (HEB is awesome) and from Central Market, Whole Paycheck (I’m glad they exist for people who can manage it, but I can’t afford them generally), and from a local co-op. When it gets to where temperatures stay below 90, I might even venture out to a Farmer’s Market. I consider them way too expensive, but to be fair, I have never looked at their veggie prices. I love the (pricey) but delicious prepared food. I just really dislike crowds and noise and heat. I don’t know if it’s an Austin thing or if all Farmer’s Markets have live music? I love good live music but only when everyone else is being quiet!

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