WTH Effect - Whole30 Smoked Salmon Stack on Sweet Potato Toast

Overcoming the WTH Effect with a Whole30 Smoked Salmon Stack on Sweet Potato Toast

So there’s failing, and then there’s failing big. And let’s just say, when I do go wrong, I often do it BIG. And it ain’t pretty. I’m feeling like I’m finally caught up now, but just recently there were a few consecutive weeks which were extra hectic with a lot of deadlines and time intensive deliverables plus an inordinate amount of “little things” here and there which just required a lot of time. It was one of those months in which everything that had to be done was just barely getting done at the last possible moment and anything else was moved to the backburner. The lack of downtime was really starting wear on my patience and peace of mind, resulting in more than one disproportionate-to-the-situation meltdowns. I, and unfortunately those who know me well, know that when I am out of time, energy, or patience I have a very bad tendency to become a “Dictatorial Steamroller” (a term I encountered in a quite accurate personality test back in grad school which couldn’t have described this fatal flaw any more aptly). And once I head down that path, I all too often allow things to spiral out of control, falling prey to what is an actual psychological term technically called the “what the hell” phenomenon. Since I’ve already mentioned that an ongoing resolution of mine is to speak in a more edifying manner, I’ll go with the more PG rated version and refer to it simply as the WTH effect from here on out. 🙂

The WTH effect was originally outlined in the context of counter-regulatory eating by psychologist and willpower expert, Roy Baumeister. Essentially it’s our innate tendency to falsely believe that once we’ve compromised a healthy habit with a small slip up, we may as well just throw in the towel and really “go for it all.” I was originally introduced to the idea a few years ago in Melissa Hartwig’s Food Freedom Forever, where she describes the following highly relatable scenario: “you give into a craving, deviating from your normal diet to enjoy a treat. As soon as you do, your brain tries to persuade you that all is already lost (your health, waistline, and willpower), so you might as well eat All the Things. It’s the dietary equivalent of making a detour for gas on your way to study at the library, then saying, ‘[WTH], I’m already off course’ and driving to Vegas instead. Hey, if you’re going to fail, you might as well fail spectacularly.” Thankfully throughout a few rounds of the Whole30 and practicing the strategies Hartwig outlines in that book, I have much less frequent encounters with the nefarious WTH effect when it comes to eating. However, I only wish I could say I’ve made the same progress when it comes to my negative attitude.

The WTH effect can be observed in any situation where we might think that if we’ve already taken one step in the wrong direction or failed to keep a resolution in some way that it doesn’t matter what we do after that. For some people, it’s food or drink whereas some might say that if they haven’t gotten any work done in a particular day, they may as well just take the rest of the week off, or I haven’t been to barre yet this summer, so I’ll just wait until September. However in my life, I often experience the WTH effect in situations when I am having a bad attitude. Whether I am being excessively negative or quick tempered or just nagging, I find that once I open the can of worms, I usually just let them keep crawling out. And just like the thought of a literal can of worms crawling all over the place is disgusting, I feel absolutely terrible anytime I do.

Although it’s unrealistic to think we’ll ever be perfect, we can definitely work to make these failures smaller and our recovery time quicker. I wrote about my efforts in this area before, taking on Gretchen Rubin’s advice and reminding myself that “a stumble may prevent a fall.” When we step back from a situation for even just a moment to acknowledge the small slip up, we can often regain our footing before toppling over in full force. It helps a lot when we can recognize not only the falter, but also the tendency to fall into the downward spiral of the WTH trap. Anytime I do pause to put things into perspective, I gain much needed clarity about the present situation AND better remember the unpleasant aftermath of failing bigger. Although I’m still struggling, I hope I’m improving from my teenage days of incessantly arguing my “rightness” with my parents. Give me a few more decades and I’ll probably have it figured out…

Thankfully, as I mentioned, I struggle much less with feeling guilty about what I eat these days. I eat mostly in the way that I have learned via my Whole30 experiences works best for me personally – through trial and error, I know what should make up the bulk of my diet if I want to look and feel my best. And when I do decide to have something “off-plan,” I try to be mindful about the experience to make sure that I don’t end up on the other side of the WTH effect. One of the best ways that I have found to set myself up for success is by starting with a savory, Whole30 style breakfast. If I start off the day with a sugary bakery items (dessert like breakfast) the chances I go “off the rails” is significantly higher than if I go with a more savory and nutritious option in the morning. And I’m doing that this week with a satiating and satisfying spin on eggs benedict – my Whole30 Smoked Salmon Stack on Sweet Potato Toast.

WTH Effect - Whole30 Smoked Salmon Stack on Sweet Potato Toast WTH Effect - Whole30 Smoked Salmon Stack on Sweet Potato ToastWTH Effect - Whole30 Smoked Salmon Stack on Sweet Potato Toast

Whole30 Smoked Salmon Stack on Sweet Potato Toast

Serves: 2

Sweet Potato Toast
  • Large Sweet Potato 1-2 each depending on size
  • Melted Coconut Oil 2 TBSP
  • Crushed Red Pepper Flakes .5 TSP
  • Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste
Hollandaise Sauce
  • Egg Yokes 3 each
  • Ghee, Melted .5 Cup (125 ml)
  • Lemon Juice 1 TBSP
  • Sea Salt .5 TSP
  • Paprika .5 TSP
The Rest
  • Poached Eggs 4 each
  • Smoked Salmon 4 oz (113 g)
  • Parsley to Garnish
  • Poached Egg
Sweet Potato Toast
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F/190 C and line a baking sheet with foil
  2. Carefully slice the sweet potato into about .25 inch slices lengthwise. If it is easier or your potato is an odd shape, you can start by slicing off the ends to give you a flatter surface to slice
  3. Brush both sides of the sweet potato with the coconut oil and sprinkle top with salt, black and red pepper
  4. Bake in the oven for about 15 - 20 minutes, until the sweet potato is cooked through
  5. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes
  6. Place in toaster at desired setting to allow to crisp up slightly, repeating as needed to achieve desired crunchiness
Hollandaise Sauce
  1. Heat a small saucepan with water over medium high heat and then place a glass bowl inside the pot to heat (double boiler method), making sure that the water does not actually touch the bowl.
  2. Then whisk the egg yokes into the bowl for about 2-3 minutes or until they fade to a lighter, pale yellow.
  3. Slowly pour the melted ghee into the bowl, whisking continuously until the sauce thickens, only a few minutes at most.
  4. Then remove from heat and mix in the lemon juice, sea salt and paprika
Putting it all together
  1. Build your layers on your plates - sweet potato toast, smoked salmon, poached eggs, and then drizzle the hollandaise over the top and finish with a sprinkling of paprika and parsley


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