How I quit sugar for one month

 

Why I did it:

During December I ate more junk food than I had probably all year. I was trying to just give myself some time after my wedding to truly not give a fuck about what I was eating since I had been pretty restrictive before the big day. Problem is, I also spent a lot of December with stomach aches and waking up in the night to take antacids. Anyway, I just felt ready to sort of erase all of the eating I did in 2017. I didn’t want to be restrictive at all with carbs, fruits, calories and all that, but I also didn’t want to eat any sugars (that includes honey, agave etc) or any processed foods (anything with 5 or more ingredients).

How I did it:

First things first: I removed all of the possible temptation from the house. There’s no way I could have done this with sugar staring me in the face. I threw most away but some stuff I put in a bag and hid in the basement. I’m not above asking Aaron to hide something from me if I feel too tempted! I immediately filled the kitchen with basically everything I wanted that fit the criteria. I’ve been carb-restrictive in the past and I consciously chose not to do that for many reasons. Mainly, I wanted to enjoy eating and feel better; I wasn’t trying to lose 10 pounds or anything. Also, I didn’t go nuts and eat potatoes for every meal, just ate what I wanted.  I’ll put a list at the bottom of some foods I stocked my kitchen with to give you an idea but I definitely did eat a lot of the same foods just with different sauces and prepared differently. I didn’t have a problem with it because I liked what I was eating, I felt good and I felt full. I will say that I think getting two new kitchen gadgets (Vitamix & an air fryer) for Christmas really helped make it exciting to cook for almost every meal. It was kind of like having two really cool new toys so it definitely made it more exciting to cook. If you live with your partner it’s also important to make sure they’re on board too. There’s a chance you’ll need some major support throughout!

The Bad: Completely depends on your outlook and lifestyle but I would definitely say the hardest part for most would probably be socializing. I pretty much stayed in all of January (which I was actually happy to do!) but I can understand that being a struggle for some. When I did go out it was usually when I planned to cheat (I think I cheated 3-4 times over the course of the month) or I planned enough in advance to make sure I was going to a compliant restaurant. Also, I don’t drink super often so not drinking wasn’t hard for me. Reminder: this is just what I did and you may still see benefits if you drink wine every night, since it’s sugar content is low. The other annoying thing is when you’re buying packaged foods at the supermarket, your trip will definitely be longer since you have to read every label. You’d be surprised how many things have added sugar!

The Good. Almost immediately I noticed I felt better. No stomach aches or sleepless nights or antacids. My skin looked bright within a week (full disclosure: I take pretty good care of my skin as well). I don’t weigh myself so i can’t say if I lost any weight, but again that wasn’t the goal. I didn’t feel bloated as I usually do. I really enjoyed the food. I made tofu stirfry, chicken with brown rice and veggies, fried cauliflower rice, red lentil pasta with homemade vegan sauce. I probably ate more carbs than I would usually allow myself to eat and still felt lighter and better! I even made sweet potato fries with cashew cheese dip. I found a lot of recipes by googling or even looking through instagram. This is the one area I think the algorithm works: the more healthy food posts I saved on instagram, the more similar ones it showed me on my explore feed. I also just kinda winged it a lot by the end. When I wanted something sweet I ate berries or a smoothie or I even made a couple mini loaves of banana bread using ripe bananas, oat flour, cacao powder and peanut butter. One major takeaway I have is there are sooo many products that have added sugar that really don’t need it. If you want to try restricting sugar but aren’t ready to go fully in, just start looking at labels. Even if you cook a lot at home, basically every sauce, salsa, peanut butter, jelly has sugar in it! There’s usually a sugar free option if you look hard enough though. The other GREAT thing about this month – I saved sooooo much money vs December when we were eating out constantly. A meal consisting of tofu, grains, veggies and sauce for two people typically costs about $4-6 total (1/4 bag of brown rice, 1/2 bag of brussel sprouts, container of tofu etc) so although there’s a ton of time you’re putting into cooking, you’re saving lots of money.

What now? I’m going to try and keep this up during the week for as long as I can. I’m on a roll now and why stop? I already felt the ramifications of intense nosedive into sugar on Superbowl Sunday which was enough to remind me that sticking to this as often as I can will keep me healthy and happy. I will not be restricting as much on the weekends but still trying not to go too wild. Don’t stop me if you see me eating an ice cream sundae! I would definitely recommend this to anyone who wants to feel better, look brighter, sleep better and has a bit of self control. If you do it, let me know how it goes!

A short shopping list of foods I ate lots of this month:

  • Enlightened broad beans (taste like corn nuts but high in protein)
  • Spindrift (sparkling water with a lil fruit juice mixed in)
  • Nut pods (nut & coconut based creamer for coffee and tea)
  • Oat milk
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Red Lentil Pasta (the one from trader joe’s is great and cheap)
  • Cashews (to soak and make sauces!)
  • Nutritional yeast (a fake cheesy flavor for sauces or homemade kale chips)
  • Nuts (I made a few batches of granola with nuts + oats + coconut oil + date syrup)
  • Date syrup (sweetener made from only dates! great to add to sauces instead of honey)
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Peas
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach (it’s so easy to disguise two giant handfuls of spinach with a little mango in a smoothie!)
  • Black beans
  • Chickpeas (I made crunchy chickpeas in the air fryer and it was so easy and yummy!)
  • Kale (I also made kale chips in the air fryer with nutritional yeast and avo oil)
  • Bananas

 

 

Master Wedding Blog Part 1 – Planning!

samanthaaaron-wedding-2017-madonna-inn-woodnote-ceremony-49

After Aaron proposed in December of 2016 I didn’t have immediate ideas of what kind of wedding I wanted and neither did he. Initially we both considered eloping  for the ease factor, low cost and potential for a fun vacation. While we were considering what to do and enjoying our first month of being engaged, we decided to book a trip to Madonna Inn for a night with our friends. I mentioned the trip to a friend and she said “Oh are you looking at the wedding venue there?” The truth is I hadn’t even thought of it in the moment but I had considered it as an ideal wedding venue after Georgia told me a year prior how inexpensive & easy it was to plan her wedding there. Anyway, we emailed the Madonna Inn and inquired and easily set up a tour of the space.

samanthaaaron-wedding-2017-madonna-inn-woodnote-portraits-207.jpg

When we got there, looked around & got pricing it seemed pretty obvious we would end up having it here. Obviously, aesthetically it’s a dream, but also it’s a great option for someone who doesn’t want to do a ton of work since the space is already pretty elaborately decorated, food & cake are included in the package and it’s easy for family coming from out of town. Just for fun, I did some research on some other potential venues outside of LA and figured out that for the cost of the ceremony, dinner for 120 people and the reception rental, you could rent an empty venue in Palm Springs, ha. For me, I knew I wanted to spend the least time planning this wedding as possible. I didn’t want to worry about renting chairs, tables, flatware, tasting food etc. so it was clear what we should do. Aaron was completely on board so we started looking at dates before the end of 2017. They only had a few dates left and one of them was Saturday 11/11/17; I still can’t believe that date wasn’t taken?! So we went with that.

samanthaaaron-wedding-2017-madonna-inn-woodnote-portraits-129

At about the same time that our lovely videographer Amanda Monroe Finn reached out to me, I was solidifying our photographers, Caroline & Jayden Lee. I got advice from so many people that the one thing to really spend money on for your wedding should be your photographers so I immediately booked them. That’s not to say they were expensive or anything like that, but the advice was that this isn’t an area you want to skimp or ask a friend/ guest to shoot your wedding. I genuinely have zero regrets here. Their photos are really breathtaking and I truly think I’d be just as obsessed if they weren’t pics of our wedding.

samanthaaaron-wedding-2017-madonna-inn-woodnote-reception-169

One thing I can definitely say about our wedding: we did exactly what we wanted. There were so many aspects of the process that people assume should go a certain way and I thought it was appropriate to ask “why” to a lot of those expectations. For instance, wearing white, having bridesmaids and groomsmen, having your parent walk you down the aisle. This is nothing against anyone who does those things but I think it’s important to question why you’re doing something especially when it comes to such an important day. I wore exactly what I wanted; a vintage white and pink dress from Whurl! Our friends were freed up by not being involved in the actual ceremony so they got to truly support us by setting everything up the day of (hanging tassels, balloons, organizing place cards) while we got ready. And though I love my dad, it didn’t feel right to be handed off as though I was his property when I’m a 32 year old woman that lives on my own and has for over a decade. That being said, we still got to have a fun lil father-daughter dance to “In My Life” by the Beatles later on at the reception. I guess what I’m trying to say is that to me, some of the rules of how a wedding “should be” seem a little outdated.

samanthaaaron-wedding-2017-madonna-inn-woodnote-portraits-212 (1)

A little more about my dresses! I’ve had a few friends that have worked with Tashina and I can honestly say working with her was one of my favorite parts of the entire wedding. She’s AMAZING at what she does (her invoice says Dress Surgeon which is the best and most accurate title ever) and made me feel comfortable the entire time. As a human woman, it’s pretty easy to feel like complete crap if a garment doesn’t fit your body a certain way (what an insane and ridiculous thing to actually type) but I never felt bad once in the many check-ins and try-ons we had with my three vintage dresses. Oh and that doesn’t even cover the fact that she took a simple tiered tulle dress and transformed it into a bejeweled beauty. She even saved extra jewels for me so my equally amazing hairstylist Sandra could make a matching hairclip for me.

samanthaaaron-wedding-2017-madonna-inn-woodnote-portraits-121

Back to planning! We whittled down our guest list to about 140 invites and ended up hovering around 100 yes’s which is where we wanted it. Another area we “did what we wanted” was with the guest list. Maybe that seems obvious but you can’t imagine how many people I’ve talked to that said their parents tried to invite 100 of their friends and it turned into a huge fight or worse, they let them and then their wedding turned into a day that didn’t even feel like what they wanted it to be. I wouldn’t say we had any knockout fights with our families about this but we definitely had to say no at times. Maybe I’m being brutally honest here but I don’t know why anyone should ever have to invite anyone that makes you or anyone else uncomfortable to your wedding.

samanthaaaron-wedding-2017-madonna-inn-woodnote-53 (1)

Throughout this whole process I felt extremely supported by my friends and it was just so lovely. Honestly, I mean that. Something I haven’t experienced much in my life because I’m a control freak in some ways and often don’t ask for help, not because I don’t need it but because it makes me feel like such a burden. I really got to see my friends weren’t showing up for me because they expected anything in return (duh) but because they were genuinely excited. My friend Alana did such an amazing job designing our invites and our photobooth backdrop. I probably gave her little to no inspiration because I just didn’t even know what I wanted and she came up with the most perfect invite I could have imagined. I printed them with Mixbook (so easy to use + they have lots of cute templates already) and even included a sprinkle of confetti from Dixie & Twine in each envelope.

samanthaaaron-wedding-2017-madonna-inn-woodnote-reception-2 (1)

I would say handling the RSVPs was probably the most stressful part for me, and something I can’t see getting around. Again, these are all my personal opinions and maybe there’s tons of people out there who don’t feel overwhelmed by this part! But between hounding people for their responses, clarifying their food choices, and unexpected or last minute dropouts it can feel really challenging. Sort of highlights the project management aspects of a wedding and probably an area where having a planner would be a relief. In the end, I know none of this stuff is usually personal, but it can’t help but feel that way when you’re planning a day centered around yourself (which feels weird in its own way!)

samanthaaaron-wedding-2017-madonna-inn-woodnote-portraits-53

The only other challenge I had was around hiring a florist for centerpieces. As I mentioned earlier, one of the many great things about the Madonna Inn is how elaborate it already is. So when it came to decorating the reception room, I didn’t need much! A balloon arch and disco ball were more than enough to make the room pop. I inquired about centerpieces and the prices in general just seemed like a lot for our budget and what we actually needed. One friend suggested I instead go the thrifted flower route as she had done for a photoshoot a few years back. She convinced me and I was off to the races! Zipping around to thrift stores and picking up bouquets of silk flowers and colored glass vases. It was waaaay easier than I expected and I probably spent a total of $60 on fake flowers and vases. For my bouquet I needed a professional and reached out to my friend Yasmine and she really hit the nail on the head. It came out beautiful!

 

Click here to read Part 2!

Master Wedding Blog Part 2 – THE day!

 

samanthaaaron-wedding-2017-madonna-inn-woodnote-portraits-189

 

Click here to read Part 1 on Planning our wedding if you haven’t already!

About two months before the wedding it finally set in. Suddenly it was just felt real; not just like some elaborate party I was planning. The days leading up to it definitely felt a bit accelerated but I still feel like my life was pretty normal. We made sure to keep each other calm and not change our daily lives as much as we could. The day before the wedding we said bye to our pups (the biggest bummer about the Madonna Inn – no dogs allowed) and hopped in our car to drive up for our weekend. I remember there was a stretch of the drive where I fell asleep and then woke up and told Aaron I wanted to stop at a Chinese restaurant in Santa Barbara for lunch. He had to remind me we were getting married and on a tight schedule. Then he handed me a granola bar, ha.

IMG_3308.jpg

Speaking of snacks, our car was also filled with 100+ goodie bags for each of our guests featuring some of our favorite snacks from Spindrift, Otis Spunkmeyer and Enlightened. Each guest also got a sweet little pin designed by my pal Robin Eisenberg of our dogs Georgie and Mochi inside of a pretzel. One of my favorite parts of the wedding!

samanthaaaron-wedding-2017-madonna-inn-woodnote-92

The day itself went pretty perfect and smooth. When people ask me “what would you change about your wedding day” or “what is one thing that went wrong?” I genuinely can’t think of anything besides that I wish the lights were dimmed and the disco ball was rotating for our first dance, haha. Even the unplanned parts like when I forgot to print my vows and made Susan go print them and run them up to me in my room, ended up being some of my favorite moments.

samanthaaaron-wedding-2017-madonna-inn-woodnote-ceremony-81.jpg

When it came time for the ceremony, it was exactly as it should be. Sweet and short. My brother officiated (and did an amazing job considering he’d never done it before!) and we wrote our own vows. Somehow I didn’t cry or barf during the ceremony, but I did laugh a lot. I also kissed Aaron way before I was “supposed to” because I guess I forgot how these things work haha. As with everything else, it was so perfectly us.

samanthaaaron-wedding-2017-madonna-inn-woodnote-reception-47 (1)When we entered the reception (which btw was about 50 feet from our ceremony) for our first dance our lovely DJ Erika played “True Love Will Find You In The End” by Daniel Johnston and it really was a perfect moment. We spent the rest of the night eating and dancing the night away with our friends and family. I am SO glad I had such amazing an amazing videographer and photographers to capture because it does feel a bit blurry by the end.

samanthaaaron-wedding-2017-madonna-inn-woodnote-reception-20.jpg

A few words about working with the Madonna Inn: would definitely do it again but it’s very no-frills (ha, imagine that) in the service & perks department. There were definitely some miscommunications across the way and hiccups and personally I found the reservations department not to be super helpful leading up to our big day. If you book a 20 room block the bride and groom get their wedding night free which was nice. But no discounts are offered to guests, even in our case when we had about 40 of their rooms booked for our wedding. Our wedding coordinator was fine but they have so many weddings there they definitely run it more of a business than trying really to make it about your day and catering to you. They couldn’t tell me until a week before what time the reception room would be open to us in case they booked an event in the same room earlier that day which was annoying when coordinating with our sound guy and balloon deliveries. Things like that. Ultimately, you get what you pay for which I’m fine with in this case.

samanthaaaron-wedding-2017-madonna-inn-woodnote-reception-158

I think I fit a lot in here but please feel free to reach out if you have more questions. I will definitely say once again, that I loved the team I hired and would recommend them all in a heartbeat (DJ, Photographer, Videographer, Dress Surgeon, Hairstylist etc) if you’re planning an event coming up. Hope you enjoyed looking through pictures of my wedding as much as I did!

samanthaaaron-wedding-2017-madonna-inn-woodnote-portraits-181