September 28, 2015

Dear Melissa: Why Do I Still Want to Kill All the Things?


Welcome to Dear Melissa, where I answer your questions about transitioning into or completing a Whole30, successfully sticking to your new healthy habits, and figuring out how to make this lifestyle work in the real world. Today, I’m helping a few of you figure out why you’re stuck in Kill All the Things mode, and what may be keeping you from Whole30 Tiger Blood. (Refer to page 32 in The Whole30 for details.)

Dear Melissa, Question: will the “Kill All the Things” phase ever pass, and if so, when? I’m ready to lose it. It started for me on Day 3. I’m now on Day 15, and still want to bash everything in. Help, and thanks! –L.L., via Instagram Dear L.L., As you’ve read in the Timeline chapter of The Whole30, the Kill All the Things phase usually occurs around Day 4-5, and is described like this:

“Day 4 dawns and you tentatively step out of bed… your head is surprisingly clear. Your limbs all feel functional. This could be a good day! You walk into the kitchen and as you’re greeted by the smiling face of your significant other you are suddenly overcome with the desire to punch them in the face for smiling this early in the morning. Congratulations! You’ve made it to day 4… Every nerve is lit, temperance is non-existent, and the only solution to the problem seems to be to Kill All of the Things.

This irritability is really normal in the early stages of the Whole30, but it rarely last more than a day or two. For this to continue through the second week is very strange indeed, which makes me wonder what’s going on under your cranky, cranky hood. Without an in-depth questionnaire, it’s hard for me to know for sure, but here are a few guesses as to why you’re still feeling negative and short-tempered, and what might be keeping you from the Tiger Blood.

Change Your Focus

Have you spent the last two weeks focusing on all the stuff you can’t have? Thinking about everything you’re “missing out” on would make anyone crazy… and cranky. Your brain is already unhappy that you’ve been denying it the normal rewards it’s used to getting, and it doesn’t like being told “no.” And spending day after day thinking about everything you wish you could eat is only winding your brain up like a toddler who missed his nap.

Action item: Set a new intention, stat. It’s only 30 days, but if you spend it obsessing about all the things you “can’t” have, you’ll miss out on all the delicious food you get to eat. (Plus, habit research shows there actually is something to having a positive attitude when it comes to willpower, which you’ll definitely need to lean at some point on during the Whole30.) Ditch the idea that you’re “missing out” and explore all of the delicious recipes, new foods, and benefits the program has to offer. Spend all the mental currency you were wasting on negativity looking for small victories (improvements in your mood, energy, skin, cravings, sleep, skin, digestion, aches and pains, or waistline) and you’ll quickly find those cranky days behind you.

Change Your Habits

Maybe you’re cranky because you’ve been feeding your Sugar Dragon for the last 15 days, giving into tantrums for rewarding foods with the sweetest, saltiest, fattiest foods you can find within the Whole30 construct. Except the stuff you’re eating now isn’t anywhere near as craving-satisfying as the candy/cookies/chips/treats you used to eat. And you’re probably feeling slightly out of control, giving into cravings automatically, and consuming beyond what feels good. Yeah, that’s enough to make anyone cranky.

Action item: Time to clean out your pantry—again. It’s only temporary, but you need a habit-shock, and you’ll only accomplish that if you get rid of temptation. Clear out the dried fruit, nuts and seeds, nut butters, maybe even fresh fruit; whatever you’re automatically reaching for to feed your Sugar Dragon. You don’t have to live without it forever, but you want to give yourself some space and distance to be able to identify your cravings when they hit, and learn how to manage them without the Whole30 version of food-with-no-brakes. This small act alone will likely relieve your crankiness; habit research shows that the simple act of making a plan goes a long way towards relieving stress.

Find Some Support

Perhaps you’re feeling cranky because you’re not getting the support you need from family and friends. You’re committed and motivated and really want to get excited about your Whole30, but it’s really hard to remain enthusiastic and positive in the face of criticism, ridicule, or downright sabotage. If you’re the only one doing the Whole30 in your household, well, that’s hard enough. You may feel isolated, alone, and unsupported. But if you’re facing active resistance from the people closest to you, it’s no wonder you’re reacting negatively. You may be imagining two more weeks of having to justify your choices, resist peer pressure, and miss out on family or friend-fun because the environment they’re creating just isn’t healthy for you.

Action item: First, I’ll invite you to take an honest look at your own attitude and behavior. Is it possible the people in your life are reacting this way because of your attitude? Read this article for some tough-love advice on how to handle this, if you discover that the lack of support is actually coming from you. Next, it’s time to have an honest conversation with the people in your life about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how they can support you. (And, potentially, falling back and spending less time with these folks, prioritizing your health and happiness for the remainder of your Whole30.) Read this article, and then this one, for further guidance. Finally, you need to find a new support network, perhaps in your local community. Talk to co-workers, fellow gym-goers, or your church group about what you’re doing and whether they can support you in your journey. If all else fails, we’ve got an enormous, positive, and super-connected support network online. (Our community is the best—and you know they’ll understand exactly what you’re doing through!) You can find Whole30 on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and our Whole30 Forum, and even connect directly with me. We’ll give you all the accountability you need, while keeping you motivated and focused on the positive.

Restore Your Energy

Finally, another explanation could be a matter of what you’re eating—not the kinds of foods, but how much, in what proportions, and how your body is adjusting to your new way of eating. It’s entirely possible, even on Day 15, that you’re still experiencing energy issues, either because you’re not eating enough in general, enough of the right stuff, or just struggling with the process of “fat adaption” (a process in which your cells learn how to use fat as fuel). The process starts in just a few days, but can take a few weeks to really kick in to the point that you notice a difference. Until then, you may be lethargic, craving, foggy, and yes… cranky. In addition, many come to the Whole30 and under-eat. You’ve swapped out calorie-dense grains, legumes, and sugary processed foods with lower-calorie vegetables and fruit, and if you don’t make those calories up somewhere (protein, fat, starchier veggies, and fruit), you’re going to be under-fed. Or maybe you’re fat-phobic, undereating the macronutrient you’re trying to teach your body how to use. Or carb-phobic, eating tons of leafy greens, broccoli, and cauliflower and not eating enough potatoes, winter squash, or fruit to fuel your activity.

Action Item: First, make sure you’re eating enough. Use our Meal Template to make sure your plate has enough protein, veggies, fruit, and fat. If you’re active, make sure you’re eating enough starchy vegetables (like potatoes, winter squash, pumpkin, and beets) and fruit to fuel your activity level. (In fact, feel free to try a little experiment right off the bat, even if you’re not active—try adding half a sweet potato hash at breakfast, some beets and berries to your salad at lunch, and butternut squash soup with dinner and see if you feel better. If that’s the culprit, you’ll notice an improvement within a day.) Also check your fat quantities—make sure you’re adding our recommended amounts per meal.

My final piece of advice? Be patient, and beg for patience from those around you. I promise, this, too, shall pass. Even though this phase is taking a little longer for you than it does for most, it won’t last forever, and once you get your Whole30 ducks in a row, you’ll be running straight to the Tiger Blood stage—to your relief, and the relief of your friends and family, I’m sure. Best in health, Melissa

Got a question for Melissa? Submit it using this handy form.

Remember, we aren’t answering questions about the Whole30 rules via this column (use the forum!), nor are we able to offer you specific advice about your medical issue, health condition, or body composition. View More: Melissa Urban is a Certified Sports Nutritionist, and the author of the New York Times bestselling book It Starts With Food and The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom. She has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Details, Outside, Redbook, and Shape as the co-founder of Whole9 and the Whole30 program. Melissa lives in Salt Lake City, UT. Photo credit: Taylor Gage, She Thrives Blog