Interview with Gary Taubes: The Case Against Sugar

I’m a huge fan of Gary Taubes’s work. As I describe in Better Than Before, my book about habit change, while on vacation in March 2012, I read Gary’s book Why We Get Fat and overnight, I changed practically everything about the way I ate.

I call this form of habit change the “Strategy of the Lightning Bolt”; Gary’s ideas hit me with the force of the lightning bolt, and my habits changed effortlessly.

On September 30, 2016, Gary Taubes and I talked by phone for a few hours about his new book, The Case Against Sugar.

I asked him to do this interview because I want to highlight key points from his book. The book contains so many crucial arguments that it can be challenging for the reader to keep track of them all.

The Case Against Sugar hits the shelves on December 17, 2016, and you can pre-order it now.

I want to help other readers experience the same lightning-bolt of understanding that has so benefited me.

Click the button below to get free instant access to a PDF of our conversation. 


A Little Happier: During the Busy Holidays, Create Time for Quiet and Rest.

During the busy holiday season, when we’re spending a lot of time with family and friends, it can be particularly important to find ways to get some restorative silence and calm.

Have you learned any great hacks for getting some quiet over the holidays?

Check out — it’s a great go-to spot to pull together modern,  feminine outfits for all your holiday adventures.

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Happier listening!

Agree? “Nothing Doesn’t Happen All at Once. It Starts Slow, So Slow that You Don’t Even Notice it.”

“It took me a few years to realize that nothing was happening for me. Nothing doesn’t happen all at once. It starts slow, so slow that you don’t even notice it. And then, when you do, you banish it to the back of your mind in a hail of rationalizations and resolutions. You get busy, you bury yourself in your meaningless work, and for a while you keep the consciousness of Nothing at bay. But then something happens and you’re forced to face the fact that Nothing is happening to you right now, and has been for some time.”

–Jonathan Tropper, Plan B

Have you ever had that feeling — that Nothing was happening for you?

5 Tips for Not Over-Spending — on Black Friday, or Any Other Time.

In the United States, Thanksgiving always falls on a Thursday, and the Friday following the holiday is known as “Black Friday.” It’s such a popular shopping day that one explanation for the name is that it’s the day when retailers go from being “in the red” to “in the black” (i.e., they start to show a profit).

Many people begin their holiday shopping on Black Friday; there are sales and special promotions; it’s a popular day to visit the mall.

Which means that for some people, it’s a challenge not to over-spend. 

In my book Better Than Before, about how to change habits, I identify the 21 strategies we can use to make or break a habit. If you’re worried about spending too much, try these strategies:

1.The Strategy of Monitoring: keep close track of what you’re spending. It’s easy to forget various purchases, or maybe even to forget to check a price tag. Monitoring has a very powerful effect — even if we’re not even trying to change a behavior, we tend to do a better job if we monitor it.

2. The Strategy of Distinctions — cash or credit cards: Some people do a better job controlling spending when they use cash.  For most people, using cash makes it harder to spend, because handing over actual bills feels hard. In fact, that’s one reason that casinos use chips instead of cash; loss seems more imaginary when you’re not handing over actual greenbacks.

On the other hand, some people are more careful when they use credit cards. They know that they’re going to confront a record of every single dollar they spent. So do what works best for you.

3. The Strategy of Clarity: shop from a list, so you know exactly what you’re planning to buy, and you don’t make impulse purchases. If you’re shopping for Christmas presents, say, don’t buy something for yourself.

4. The Strategy of Accountability: have a partner who has to be notified every time you make a purchase. You could go shopping with your sweetheart who holds your wallet, for instance, or — like a friend of mine — you could text your brother every time you pull out your wallet. She found that just knowing that her brother would see what she was buying helped her to make better choices.

Remember, if you’re an Obliger, you need accountability! This is crucial! If you want to form an Accountability Group, to get that crucial accountability, you can join the Better app. If you don’t know if you’re an Obliger–or an Upholder, Questioner, or Rebel–take the quiz here.

5. Strategy of Loophole Spotting. “Boy, we’re good at thinking of loopholes. What are some loopholes you might invoke, as you’re browsing the aisles?”

Moral licensing loophole: “I’ve been so good sticking to my budget, I deserve to splurge a little.”

Tomorrow loophole: “Starting tomorrow, I’m going to be so frugal, it doesn’t matter what I do today.”

Lack of control loophole: “Stores are designed to be so tempting that no one could resist buying.”

Arranging to fail loophole: “I’m not going to buy a single thing today, but I thought I’d just come and look around, for fun.”

Questionable assumption loophole: “If it’s Black Friday, this price must be a good bargain.”

Fake self-actualization loophole: “You only live once, I should treat myself!”

One-coin loophole: “What difference is this one purchase going to make? I’m not going to bust my budget in one store.”

When we recognize that we’re invoking a loophole, we’re able to resist.

How about you? Have you found some good ways to avoid over-spending?

Now, I myself am an under-buyer, so I don’t have trouble with over-spending. I have trouble with under-spending; it’s inconvenient and inefficient to be an under-buyer. So I have to force myself to purchase.

On the subject of money, you may be interested in this question: Which of These Four Stories Do You Tell Yourself about Money?

Podcast 92: Leave Something Unsaid, an Interview with Manoush Zomorodi, and a Retroactive Demerit.

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

Update: In episode 75, two listeners asked how to help their Rebel sweethearts land a job, and one reported back — job secured! Which is terrific.

Side note: If you’re going to give one of my books as a holiday gift, and you’d like to request a personalized, signed bookplate or signature card to make the present more special, request it here — U.S. and Canada only, sorry, mailing costs.

Try This at Home: Leave something unsaid.

Just to be clear — we’re not saying that we should never have important, difficult, uncomfortable conversations, but rather that we’re happier when we mindfully choose the time and place to have that discussion.

Happiness Hack: If it’s important to someone that you eat a lot when you’re eating at this person’s house, take a tiny first portion so you can take “seconds.”

Interview: Manoush Zomorodi, the host and managing editor of the terrific podcast Note to Self — “the tech show about being human.”

We talk about the Abstainer/Moderator split. Again. And the Four Tendencies framework — the quiz is here, if you want to find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel.

Manoush’s Try This at Home is to single-task.

Gretchen’s Demerit: I give myself a retroactive demerit for emailing people over the weekend, without hesitation, for the past few decades. Lesson learned. I now use “Delay Delivery.”

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth’s weight-training trainer pushed her to do 200 pounds even though it was a tough morning.

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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 #92

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