There are lots of definitions out there of what self-efficacy is (from Albert Bandura, the guy who coined the term, example 2, and a wiki link), but I think it's an important concept (at least enough to rouse me from sleep) for anyone wanting to lose weight/gain health/improve their life to understand.
Per Albert Bandura, "self-efficacy is the belief in one's capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations." (quote here)
So how does it relate to weight loss/health gain/life improvement? Think about all the times you've tried to lose weight/gain health/improve your life -- and then rate yourself honestly about how sincerely you believed you were going to succeed. (For instance, have you ever uttered something like "I can do something like this for a week, but I can't imagine doing it any longer!" or "I can't imagine ever loving exercise.") How about this--think about all the times you gave up before you started. How would you rate your self-efficacy? Pretty crappy, right?
This one theory is even making me reconsider revising the definition of the The Epiphany to include a phrase something like this: Until YOU believe YOU are capable of effecting long-term and permanent changes in YOUR thoughts, YOUR actions, and YOUR life, YOU will forever be stuck in a body, mind and a life that holds YOU back.
Why was I thinking about this so late at night? I had a passing thought about why I went to therapy a few years ago -- I lacked self-efficacy. I felt absolutely powerless to (1) be able to move out of my 3-br apartment that was cheap, but making me unhappy (unstable environment, long commute) and (2) to be able to stop skin picking. I was just so paralyzed by fear that I couldn't see any scenario where I might succeed. It took months of my therapist saying "even if you make the wrong decision, what's the worst that could happen?" (in the case of moving) and "even if you go on a SSRI for a while, what's the worst that could happen?" (in the case of the skin picking).
The great thing about self-efficacy is that it can be learned and nurtured. You can start with a little bit of it and build it little by little. Think about the feeling when you realized the work you put in at the gym, or your consistency in food logging resulted in a change in your body, your energy levels, and how you felt about yourself. Remember the time you tried to go a little longer on the treadmill or do one more set on the weights. Taste the same delight you felt when finding a low-calorie version of a favorite recipe. A wee bit intoxicating, eh?
Self-efficacy is also a great topic for the blogging community. When you see other people succeed, you are more likely to believe that you can succeed as well. To quote our new friend Albert Bandura, "Seeing people similar to oneself succeed by sustained effort raises observers' beliefs that they too possess the capabilities to master comparable activities required to succeed." We need each other to re-affirm our belief (for instance, when we're putting in the work and not seeing results) that we will see results if we stay the course.
And then I think Albert Bandura took a page out of my #GoTheDist book: "By making self-satisfaction conditional on matching adopted goals, people give direction to their behavior and create incentives to persist in their efforts until they fulfill their goals. They seek self-satisfaction from fulfilling valued goals and are prompted to intensify their efforts by discontent with substandard performances" In other words -- it is important to set goals (and I'd even say the non-food rewards/incentives) that focus your actions toward your intentions.
Think about the time you succeeded in losing weight/gaining health/improving your life and I am willing to bet you succeeded because you had already decided that no matter what challenges arose, that you would find a way to persevere.
That, my dear readers, is self-efficacy.