Today is a very exciting day because it marks Day 31 for the rockstars of my very first Flex in the City Studio Whole30! They did it! And I couldn’t be more impressed or happier with how well so many of them did. They committed to the program, changing not only what was on their plate (which was hard!) but also they committed to changing their habits and their relationship with food (which is HARDER!). If you heard or saw the physical changes that they’ve experienced, you’d be pretty darn impressed. And when you consider the psychological side of what they have done, you’d be positively blown away. Yes, sticking to the rules when it comes to food requires a considerable amount of time and effort to meal plan, grocery shop, prep and cook. But committing to finding new and healthier ways to deal with bad days, stress, and anxiety or to treat and reward yourself other without turning to food or drink means digging deep. It’s far from easy, but what you gain is well worth it – more than just better fitting clothes, clearer skin, and improved digestion (although all these things are pretty fabulous too!), taking on a challenge builds self-efficacy.
Although it can be difficult to get started, when it comes to building and keeping a good habit, the most obvious reward is in the activity in and of itself. If you resolve to exercise regularly in order to improve your physical health, a consequence of honoring that commitment is that you do indeed become more fit. The same can be said for saving money, eating well, or learning a new skill – with dedication and consistency, you accumulate a savings fund, you change your taste buds and health for the better, and you gain expertise and mastery over that skill. If you take a barre class and push yourself to stay in the exercise without breaks, you do become stronger over time and if you stick it out through the Whole30, you change your health, your habits, and your relationship with food for the better. However, there is another vitally important, and perhaps more subtle, way that doing hard things changes your life for the better – it increases your sense of self-efficacy.
Self-efficacy is your own perception or judgment about yourself and your ability to perform well in a particular area. It’s not the same as self-esteem which is related more so to feeling good about yourself; self-efficacy is your belief in your ability to influence results and change your circumstances and behaviors. And a lot of research shows that this matters A LOT. As leading expert on the construct and one of the most influential psychologists of all time, Albert Bandura said “people who regard themselves as highly efficacious act, think, and feel differently from those who perceive themselves as inefficacious. They produce their own future, rather than simply foretell it.” His research has demonstrated a positive effect of self-efficacy on long-term commitment, resiliency, and goal attainment. When we believe we can do something, we tend to “exert more effort and persist longer in the face of difficulties [and are therefore] more likely to surpass insurmountable barriers that occur in the way of [our] desired goals.” A high sense of self-efficacy can help us to overcome obstacles we encounter, recovery more quickly from setbacks, and help us to achieve our ultimate goals. And the good news it that when you take on a challenge or do hard things, you prove to yourself that you CAN and your sense of self-efficacy grows.
When you grit your teeth through the final (shaky) 10 seconds of your thigh sprint at the barre or successfully complete a Whole30, you build mental strength which has a powerful spillover effect to a wide variety of other areas in your life. You feel not only a momentary, well-deserved sense of achievement, but you also build confidence in yourself. When you show yourself that you can do hard things, you learn that you can do hard things – it builds self-efficacy. And soon enough, you’ll look back and be amazed at how far you’ve come. That thing you thought you could never live without no longer matters to you, that thing you thought you’d never be able to do is done, or suddenly you realize just how much better/stronger/healthier you are now.
Some things, like barre, never get easier – even though you do get better! But I have found in my own life that eating well is not one of those things – as you tackle the Whole30 or otherwise adopt a lifestyle of consistently eating healthfully and in a way that supports your body -it builds self-efficacy and it does become much easier. You learn the compliant brand of almond milk at the store so you don’t have to read every single label on the shelf. You learn a few recipes that never let you down in case you are short on time or enthusiasm for dinner. And you learn what you like and new combinations and how to mix and match to create entirely new things. Like these Whole30 Burgers with Sundried Tomatoes and Basil Artichoke Sauce. This sauce is a delicious topper for one of my favorite Whole30 pasta dishes so I decided to try on top of burger for a simple weekday meal option. It was a delicious decision I do not regret.
- Large/Extra Large Sweet Potato
- Ground/Minced Beef 1 lb (400 g)
- Coconut Oil, Melted 1-2 TBSP
- Sundried Tomatoes, Chopped 4 TBSP
- Basil Artichoke Sauce (Recipe HERE)
- Salt, Black Pepper, and Red Pepper/Chiles to Taste
- Preheat the oven to 350 F / 180 C and line a baking sheet with foil
- Wash and slice the sweet potato into large rounds/discs to serve as your burger "buns" - they should be about ¼" thick
- Melt the coconut oil and brush a thin layer on one side of the sweet potato rounds before placing on the foil lined tray, then brush the top with the remaining coconut oil and sprinkle salt, black and red pepper to taste
- Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes or until cooked through
- Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium high heat and form the ground/minced beef into 4 patties with salt and pepper to taste
- Cook the burgers in the pan for about 5-7 minutes before flipping to cook through on the second side
- While the burgers are cooking, prepare the Basil Artichoke Sauce and chop the sundried tomatoes
- Remove the sweet potato buns from the oven and plate, topping each burger with a generous helping of the Basil Artichoke Sauce and a TBSP of chopped sundried tomatoes