Podcast 98: Have a Quest, an Interview with Gary Taubes about the Case Against Sugar, and Why I Love My Uniqlo Vest.

It’s time for the next installment of  Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

We’re coming up on our Very VERY Special Episode — Episode 100. Hard to believe. For this episode, send us questions about anything, whether related to happiness or not. Email us or call us at 774-277-9336.

Also, to start the new year in a happier way, we’re doing a fun project on Instagram. Every day, for the month of January, Elizabeth and I are posting a photo on Instagram of something that makes us happier (giving us a boost, helping us stick to good habits, reminding us to feel grateful, etc.).  Join in! Use the hashtag #Happier2017 and tag us — I’m @gretchenrubin and Elizabeth is @lizcraft. It has been so fun to see the photos people are posting.

Try This at Home: Have a quest (which is different from having a mission, which is slightly different).

bluebirdchristmastreeHere’s my bluebird tree, the result of my mother’s quest to find bluebird ornaments for my little tree.

Happiness Hack: How I love my Uniqlo vest! Light, easy to pack, warm, fits under my clothes, and has a vertical pocket that securely holds my phone. I wear it every day, throughout the winter. Uniqlo isn’t an advertiser; I just love my vest so much.

Interview: Acclaimed science writer Gary Taubes talks about his new book, The Case Against Sugar. In my book about habit change, Better Than Before, I write about the “Strategy of the Lightning Bolt” and how reading Gary’s book Why We Get Fat utterly changed my eating habits, overnight.

If you want to read my interview with Gary about his new book about sugar, get it here. If you want to read more about Abstainers vs. Moderators, I post about it here. I’m an Abstainer, 100%, and realizing this aspect of my nature has been a huge relief to me.

Demerit: I give myself a demerit for dropping all my forms of work to do nothing but focus on the edits on my draft of The Four Tendencies book.  To hear when The Four Tendencies becomes available, sign up here.

Gold Star: Elizabeth gives a gold star to Eliza for dealing with the college application process.


Elizabeth’s young-adult romance Flower just hit the shelves! She and Shea Olsen have written a novel that combines love, temptation, secrets, ambition, celebrity…delicious.

If you want easy instructions about how to rate or review the podcast, look here.

Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page to continue the conversation from the podcast — usually on Tuesdays at 3:00 pm ET. To join the conversation, check the schedule.

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #98

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  • Becky Joy

    Link to vest please?!

  • Trina Summers

    Gretchen, do you have a bluebird from Terra Studios? They are supposed to be the original bluebird of happiness. Shamefully, I have never been to their fantastic location although I live in the area. Maybe a visit should be my quest! http://arkansasroadstories.com/art/terra.html
    Also, Elizabeth mentions tattoos and not being able to commit. That was always me, but for my bucket list my sister and I got tattoos together and mine is two mockingbirds. They are the Arkansas state bird and represent my two daughters. I was inspired by my oldest daughter’s first tattoo of 3 pine trees (AR state tree) representing me, herself, and her sister. Also, I love to watch birds, so it was the perfect choice for me.

    • gretchenrubin

      My goodness, my grandmother gave me one of these birds! I had no idea about the story behind them.
      Though I think the original link between bluebirds and happiness may have come from the Maeterlinck (sp?) play.

      • Trina Summers

        I think maybe they are claiming to be first to make one as a product more than claiming to have made the connection. My cousin gave me one that sits on my bathroom window sill and helps me to be Happier each morning.

  • Sue Avila

    Am convinced about the need to give up sugar, but the thought of giving up potatoes, pasta and BREAD (every type from every culture!) seems impossible, and unpleasant. What are the alternatives for these?

    • Trina Summers

      Sue, it was Gretchen’s experience that led me to be open to a program that eliminates all sugar (even artificial sweetener) and flour. I have whole grains once a day and that can be in the form of oats, rice, or shredded wheat. It can’t be whole grain flour, has to be the whole grain. A potato or sweet potato can be substituted for my grain serving also, but there’s strict portion control and my program cautions to watch out for the exact thing that Gary mentions on the podcast. If you can’t stop thinking about something, you probably shouldn’t have it. I have replaced the grains with so many fresh fruits and vegetables, that I honestly don’t miss them. We have spaghetti squash once a week instead of pasta. I cook taco meat and have it on a salad while my family makes tacos. I don’t feel deprived at all. And I’ve lost 26 pounds in 3 months.

    • gretchenrubin

      For what it’s worth, I don’t eat bread, pasta, potatoes, rice. And I don’t miss them! When I stopped eating them, I stopped wanting them. This approach wouldn’t work for everyone, but it has been great for me.

    • Jenna Van Sickle

      I tried a low-carb diet for years, and it really didn’t work for me. I stuck to it 100%, and I was miserable. Now, I eat a diet that is based on starches (mostly potatoes and sweet potatoes, but could just as easily be whole grains). I still don’t eat any processed foods or sugar (other than what is naturally in fruits, vegetables, and starches). My unprocessed starch-based diet has kept me effortlessly thin for the last 4 years, and way happier than I was on low-carb!

      I actually found this new way of eating because it was (maybe still is) popular for a while in the paleo world to do a “potato hack”–eat only potatoes for a couple of weeks to lose weight, gain energy, etc. I felt so good on the potato hack that I just stayed, and eventually started adding other veggies, etc.

      Among many benefits, my wallet’s happier, and my cholesterol has improved dramatically. If any of this sounds interesting, I would recommend reading Dr. John McDougall (https://www.drmcdougall.com/health/education/free-mcdougall-program/) and watching Dr. Doug Lisle talk about How to Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAdqLB6bTuQ).

  • In my opinion, when it comes to SUGAR, the obstainer/moderator framework goes **right out the window** because of how sugar cravings work. Any consumption of sugar starts the cycle of craving right over again. My sugar cravings only went away when I gave it up TOTALLY. (14 months and counting!)

  • PolarSamovar

    Elizabeth, don’t feel badly for not having something to collect! “Collector” is a personality type — I think people are, or they aren’t. I have a mild terror of collecting, even metaphorical collecting like bird watching or having a bucket list. My jaw clenches just thinking about it.

    I have quests though. Currently it’s to have something blooming in my house every day of the winter – without buying flowers at the store. It’s taken creativity (I don’t have much windowsill space) and learning how to take great care of my houseplants, more than acquisition. It’s a quiet and peaceful pursuit that makes me happy every day.

    • gretchenrubin

      Reading May Sarton’s Journals got me to appreciate the idea of flowers in the house. She loved flowers so much, it was catching. A great quest.

  • Bonnie Laurie

    One of your listeners mentioned a shaming sign for people who don’t clean up after themselves in common areas — “Your mother doesn’t work here.” This sign hung in the shared kitchen where I worked until we hired the son of a woman employee. When someone penciled in: “Except for you, Christopher” on the sign, it made everyone laugh and the sign soon came down.

    • gretchenrubin


  • Tina

    I love the suggestion to have a quest. My quest is to visit every independent coffee shop in Chicago. I’ve probably been to at least 90 percent cafes in the city, but there’s new places opening all the time, so it’s a quest without a finish line. I really like the coffee house experience, more so than I actually like the coffee 🙂

    • Helena

      What a great idea! I love the coffee house experience, too.

  • Mimi Gregor

    I looked at the Uniqlo vest, thought about it, decided it was superfluous as I have a lot of warm sweaters. Until. It’s gotten freakin’ frigid here in Delaware. I’m off to your link to buy one. Warm sweaters are just not enough!

  • Laurel

    I’m reframing one of my habits to be my “quest”. For years, I have doggedly picked up coins I’ve found. I developed parameters around my quest as time passed: First, I began saving all the money in a special place, separate from any other coins I might carry. Then, I selected a fantastic container and I put any found money in the container as soon as I returned home. My goal each year is to “find” at least a penny a day. One of my New Year’s Day rituals now is to empty out the “found money” container and count how much I found—this year I found $17.51, excluding a handful of international coins I found while traveling. And, lastly, I take the found money and I put it in a bag in the glove box of my car, and I use it to buy treats for myself like a small ice cream cone. It takes a long time to count out all those pennies, so I space the treats out! A quest which involves purchasing or collecting items isn’t appealing to me, but I like the idea of calling my search for discarded coins a “quest”. Thanks!

  • Laura

    I was so excited to find your podcast at the recommendation of a favorite blogger of mine–and especially a podcast about “quests” as my family’s new year goal was to complete all of our little Vermont town’s hiking quests (they are literally named that!) this year. However, I was SO disappointed upon listening to the podcast, that happiness seemed to be linked to things and buying stuff. This is the same message our culture bombards us with every day. Scoring that rare book CAN bring happiness, but when we trade money for rare stuff, that eventually becomes normal, and we need something even MORE rare to fulfill that same thrill. It’s not happiness, it’s a consumer addiction on a doomed quest to feel happy. Which will never be attained until we realize that WE ARE ENOUGH, and step off that consumer hamster wheel and find true happiness and contentment.

  • Dalia Colon

    Interesting discussion about sugar. Gretchen, how do you handle social situations, since so many gatherings revolve around food? And what does dinner look like at your house? Who prepares the meals; does the rest of your family eat low-carb? I’m curious because I’ve been try to eat a mostly vegan diet. I feel much better when I eat this way, but I find myself preparing separate meals for myself, my husband and our kids. It’s exhausting! Any advice?

  • Sarah

    I have the Uniqlo vest, ant the Uniqlo light down bomber jacket, and the Uniqlo light down knee length winter jacket. Most of the collection! I generally wear at least one of these each day and love that they pack down into almost nothing into my handbag.

  • Lulu

    Last year I gave up sugar except for 1 day a month I could have whatever I wanted. It was easy to stick to my resolution until my son got married on Labor Day weekend and the leftover wedding cake came to my house and all the out of town company left. I couldn’t make myself not eat it. From that point until the end of the year the resolution was dead.
    So this year I made the same resolution again. So far, so good.

  • Helena

    Thanks for the quest idea! My quest is the Trails Challenge sponsored by my local park district. To complete the challenge, one must hike five of the trails – or 26.2 miles of trails – by December 1st, and submit a trail log to receive a commemorative pin. I am hiking with friends, so this doubles my happiness. 🙂