5 things you learn in a month without sugar

I survived! My month without added sugar is complete – it seemed long at times and then was over in a flash, and I learned a lot in the process. Here are my top five lessons from an optional sugar break:

  1. Just say no. Going into March, I literally didn’t think I could resist having a taste the donuts in the office or the cake at a friend’s house. But midway through the month I found it was getting easier and easier to just say no, just like I would if the treats had walnuts in them (which I’m allergic to). Now I have a sense of how vegetarians can say no to barbecue!
  2. Your taste buds adjust quickly. As promised, I could taste natural sugars better once I cut out the added stuff. And when I did order a butternut squash ravioli at Eataly and it came coated in brown sugar, I felt like I was eating dessert for dinner – where before, that was my baseline. 
  3. Added sugar is everywhere. See above. Sugar is SO hard to avoid (more on this in my last post.) It’s no surprise that our sense of sweet is messed up when you can’t avoid added sugars in your everyday life. It has definitely made me look for ways to find more unprocessed snacks and raw meal options (more balsamic vinegar, less bottled dressing, etc).
  4. Sugar affects people differently. One of the many appealing things about this month was my coworkers’ anecdotes of better sleep, clearer skin, and weight loss. For me: nothing but the taste buds. Maybe that’s because the part of my brain that wanted sugar demanded that I eat more of other food to compensate – maybe it’s just body chemistry. I’m still glad I did it, but it would have been nice to get those other perks too!
  5. Quality over quantity. Now that my sugar free month is over, I am going into the rest of spring with a new focus on eating better sweets / things with added sugar in them. Less junky chocolate and movie theater candy and lame donuts. More treats my friends make or recipes I try myself or treats where the sugar makes it đź’Ż – and then only a smallish amount. Let’s see how it works!

Have you ever cut added sugar out of your diet? What did you learn?

Unsweet spring

If you know one thing about me, I hope it’s that I’m passionate about life and the people I love. 

If you know two things about me: see above, plus I’m from New Hampshire (Granite State represent!).

But if you know three things about me… #3 may very well be that I have a serious sweet tooth.

I will skip dinner if it means saving room for pie, eat ice cream even in the dead of winter, try every brownie recipe you’re working to perfect. From Turkish delight in the food halls of London to chocolate croissants in Paris to caramel iced coffee on the banks of the Charles, I’ve loved it all. 

And for March, I’m trying my darndest to go without. 

I was inspired by my coworkers and this NYTimes article, and by the notion that cutting out added sugar for a month will reset my idea of sweetness. So far, that seems to be true – even butternut squash seems sweeter than it did before. 

And it’s also made it perfectly clear just how much sugar is in everything. 

I read Salt, Sugar, Fat a while ago and learned about the unfair advantage these ingredients have in modern food, and this month has shown me all the secret places sugar is hiding. Not just in dressing and jams, but in frozen bagels, chicken sausage, and crackers. Plus, it’s nearly impossible to buy yourself a snack in a coffee shop without drowning yourself in sugar, even if it’s through a “healthy” granola bar. And what do you bring to your friends who just had a baby or your overwhelmed coworkers but pastries and cookies and other sorts of overly sweet treats? And what do you eat at the movies?? (Confession: seeing about eight movies and theater productions in a month where I ate a bag of candy each time is part of what prompted this.)

I’m two weeks in with two weeks to go. My criteria is avoiding sugar (and related sweeteners, like honey and corn syrup) as an ingredient. So fruit is a go, and bread without added sugar and such is fine. But honey mustard and that delicious Skippy peanut butter are off the menu at least until April (and maybe longer). Learning to have coffee without copious amounts of sugar has been the hardest by far – and has taught me that I need to seek out better coffee, if I was trying that desperately to mask or improve the taste. (Goodbye office K cup coffee, hello Cafe Nero cappuccino!)

I’m joined in this quest by my mom, sharing moral/menu support from NH, and my roommate, Katie – so glad she agreed to this weird experiment because watching someone else have dessert when I am not would be my downfall for sure. 

Have you ever tried going without sugar or addressing other cravings? What would be the hardest for you to give up?

Top 5 reasons you should volunteer to GOTV

If you watched last night’s debate, you might have woken up today stressed… scared… mad as hell.

I’ve got the cure for what ails you – and it is GOTV.

GOTV aka Get Out The Vote is the period before an election day when persuasion and identification are done and you shift to getting your supporters to actually cast their ballots. Depending on who you talk to (and your absentee voting regulations) it starts between a month, a week, or a weekend before E-Day. In other words: it’s here. And you should be a part of it.

If you need extra convincing, here are my top 5 arguments in favor of you (yes, you) volunteering before the election:

  1. It’s good for your health. Seriously! We are about to head into winter and overeating, undermoving season (IMHO). What better reason to go for a long walk, clipboard and packet in hand, to truly stretch your legs before you’re cooped inside for months? (Confession: campaign snacks are also fun, especially the chili my mom makes for our local office each cycle.)
  2. You get to work alongside awesome people. Whether its union leaders phone banking by your side or a canvassing buddy who was born before women could vote OR Chelsea Clinton, Bruce Springsteen, Joe Biden, or any of the other dozens of celebs I’ve met on the trail, there are such fun people ready to pound the pavement. All they need is you by their side!
  3. There are still undecided voters. It may be hard to believe in these intense times, but there are still people deciding IF they will even vote. You calling voters or showing up at their door, reminding them of polling hours and locations, could truly be the tipping point that makes them cast a ballot.
  4. It’s the cornerstone of our democracy. This sounds dramatic. IT IS DRAMATIC. It hasn’t been 100 years since all Americans could vote without fear of violence and aggression. Voting – and helping others vote – is a tribute to what this country stands for, and an investment in the future.
  5. You can be confident you did everything you could to secure a victory. I’ve had elections where I got to celebrate being on the winning team (see: Hillary for NH in the ’08 primary) and those where we weren’t so successful (see: Hillary for NH in the ’16 primary). But no matter what the outcome is, volunteering for GOTV is your ticket to show that you left no stone unturned in the quest to see your issues win. All in is a better place to be, trust me!

So what are you waiting for? If #YoureWithHer, click here to find a volunteer opportunity near you. Or google your favorite candidate’s office and “volunteer”. Down-ballot races determine how your state, county, town lives, and they need your help too.

Make this be the election you GOTV for the first time. I promise, you’ll love it!

Never felt this way before (about an election)

I’ve had the time of my life following this election – meeting Hillary a few times on the campaign trail, buying boxes and boxes of political pins to distribute to my friends, having real meaningful conversations with people about why #ImWithHer. And while there’s a lot at stake here – and a very scary man threatening to use his political power for personal retaliation – there’s still some fun to be had in this media circus.

With that in mind, I present this gem – in an alternative universe, these folks might make a good “Dancing with the Stars” team!

Unpacking from Iceland 

We’ve been back from our Icelandic trek for a week and I still look up at the sky as I walk home at night, thinking I might catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. 

It was the best kind of vacation – time in nature, delicious food, friendly people, and THERMAL POOLS. The bar for relaxation is now set so high that I’m only going to trips that involve cheap and beautiful hot tubs from now on.

I want to tell you everything about the food, our geysir and foss filled road trip, and my definitive ranking of all the thermal baths – and I will by the end of the month! For now, here’s a picture of the city landmark, a church so pronounced you can use it as a compass to navigate your way through the streets: HallgrĂ­mskirkja.

On the banks of the Connecticut River

About this time 13 years ago, my mailbox was flooded with wave after wave of college brochures. From near and far, everyone was sending beautiful campus scenes and course options my way. 

Among the massive piles of mail was a three page spread from a liberal arts college in Western Mass. It showed women rowing – a team of strong individuals out on the water with the mist rising around them. I kept it while I recycled most of the rest.

Many college visits and applications later, I visited that place. I met those nerds, sat in their classrooms, debated whether Hillary Clinton would run for president and if Harry would defeat Voldemort. And I chose that school for my college education.

This weekend, I went back to Mount Holyoke with one of the best treasures of my time there – my friend Kate (she of Mount Washington hiking fame, loyal readers) – to celebrate the thing that brought us together: 40 years of rowing on the Connecticut River.


Kate coxed our 8 (the O’Malley) and we rowed up and down the river. A flood of memories washed over me. How carrying the boat seemed easier now but stretching my legs right seemed harder. How to lock the oar for the catch and keep good swing in your slide. The commands I know from muscle memory – just like I remembered that one place where your thumb rubs on your outer hand and will DEFINITELY turn into a blister. And how amazing it feels when the boat glides across the choppy water of a New England river. 

Fun fact: our coach thought we were the same person for 3 seasons. Wearing matching clothes by accident still doesn’t help.

At night, we celebrated the christening of a new boat – blessed with champagne and river water – in honor of fellow alum and Olympian Mary Mazzio. At the dinner that followed, she told us about how getting through excuses and focusing on herself rather than her competitors made the difference in her success. And she reminded us that pull ups are “money in the bank” and was appalled at how few of us could do them. Sorry Mary!

I feel like I was blessed with river water myself this weekend. It was a beautiful reminder of the best decision I ever made – and all I gained from that charming, powerhouse of a college. And to think… it all started with this poster.