Your App Makes Me Fat

I read a blog post this week called “Your App Makes Me Fat.” It draws on the psychological hypothesis of ego depletion, the main tenet of which is that willpower (making good decisions) and cognitive processing emanate from the same region of the brain, and thus share the same limited pool of resources. Here are some quotes:

“Spend hours at work on a tricky design problem? You’re more likely to stop at Burger King on the drive home. Hold back from saying what you really think during one of those long, painful meetings? You’ll struggle with the code you write later that day.

“Since both willpower/self-control and cognitive tasks drain the same tank, deplete it over here, pay the price over there. One pool. One pool of scarce, precious, easily-depleted resources. If you spend the day exercising self-control (angry customers, clueless co-workers), by the time you get home your cog resource tank is flashing E.”

The upshot of the article is that user experience designers for apps should be careful not to add unnecessary choices and complexity, as these will deplete the user’s problem-solving/impulse control store. Of course if your app’s business model relies on enticing the user to make a lot of impulse buys, you might want to add a few more buttons, gadgets, whizbangs, and maybe a puzzle or two (I’m looking at YOU, Groupon).


This isn’t a new concept to me. Years ago in ministry leadership training, I learned a simple acrostic: HALT. You should never make important decisions or put yourself in situations that may tempt you toward moral compromise if you are:

  • Hurting
  • Angry
  • Lonely
  • Tired

This leads to a discussion of the importance of rest, sabbath, and general balance in life. If your resources are depleted, you don’t have the ability to make great choices. Think about the worst decisions you have ever made in life – did they come from a position of strength? Were you well-rested, logical, emotionally stable, and thinking clearly? More often than not, the answer is “no.”

Quoting Deuteronomy to the Devil

A study of the life of Jesus yields an interesting view of his rhythms. One pattern that quickly emerges is his habit of withdrawing for solitude and prayer. 

Mark 1:35    Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

Luke 5:16     But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

 In one instance, the writer makes it clear that Jesus spent the entire night in prayer before a major decision.

Luke 6:12     One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles…

As disciples of Jesus, we study his actions, attitudes, and commands, which includes how he made those hard decisions. The Bible tells us he was “one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Hebrew 4:15). If we hope to emulate that level of self-control in an ever-increasing way, we have to figure out just how he did it. Yes, he was God. But Hebrews makes it clear that he had choices to make. It’s not really temptation if it isn’t…well…tempting. He gained the strength to teach, heal, exorcise, and beat back the Devil in the desert through solitude, prayer, and meditation. 

This week at The Table, I’ve stolen a line from a Rich Mullins song: “Quoting Deuteronomy to the Devil”.

Lord God Almighty
Came as a preacher man
Fastin’ down in the wilderness
Quotin’ Deuteronomy to the Devil
And then He set His face like a flint
Toward Jerusalem

We’ll talk about the power than you find out in the desert, and how it might change the way we face the week to come. Hope you can join us live, or later in the week online.