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I'm a software engineer, and when I get home from work, my hobbies are generally intellectual. So you could say that in a typical day, I do a full work day of intense intellectual effort, and then go home and relax by spending the rest of the day doing intense intellectual effort. Therefore, it's very important for me to avoid mental fatigue, and it seems like mental fatigue befalls me much easier when I'm trying to lose weight, often causing me to fail the diet.

What do I need to do so that the caloric deficiency of a weight loss diet will not make me have less energy for intensive intellectual effort?

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  • Try steady state cardio. I find going for a quick jog or sitting on a rower really gets me energized for the day instead of draining me, and the repetitive motion is actually really calming and allows for unstructured thoughts and free association which has helped me solve many bug or issues in my work.
    – E.Aigle
    May 25 at 6:25
  • Focus & cognitive ability usually improves in a fat-adapted nutritional ketosis state. Embrace a LCHF lifestyle and make sure you eat in a deficit mostly & the rest happens automatically in the long run. On a LCHF diet, you won't be as hungry & impulsive about food as you usually are on a caloric deficiency. That's the leverage. I'm a software engineer too and I already lost the weight I needed to. But I'm still in ketosis for its cognitive benefits. Follow "Stephen Phinney" and "Jeff Volek" works for some actual science-based information & do it right. Consider nootropics as well.
    – sepehr
    Jun 17 at 23:05
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You need to make it easy. Fool-proof. Whenever you find yourself "failing" the diet, look at why and what you can do about it. If you can get yourself in the habit of eating healthier, it isn't a diet anymore. Habits take zero brain power.

  • Got a craving for soft-drinks? Swap to diet.
  • Snacking in the evening? Brush you teeth earlier or prep healthy snacks.
  • Grabbing fast food too often? Meal prep so that homemade meals are just as fast.
  • Got that one snack food that you just can't live without? Then eat it. This isn't all or nothing.

As engineers, we're really good at coming up with solutions. So pose it that way. You're the client and the designer. "My problem is x" -> "Possible solutions could be y or z". When you make a mistake, you keep going, and you work hard to fix it. When you make mistakes on a project you don't scrap the whole thing, do you?

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This may not be the answer you want to hear but... add some physical activity! Your brain needs time to rest (or to just ruminate in an unfocused way) and this is likely to help your intellectual pursuits too.

As far as weight control goes, you might be working very hard mentally, but if you’re sitting in a chair then you’re sitting in a chair. Your brain being in “high gear” isn’t going to move the needle much when it comes to energy balance.

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