My Ever-Evolving Relationship with (That Bitch) Sugar

I gave up sugar. Kind of.

Mostly, I gave up dessert that’s not a square of dark as fuck chocolate. I stopped with the cake and the cookies and, most especially, the chocolate candy, to include my most beloved addiction, the peanut butter cup. 

It’s vanity-based, this dessert desertion. I’m not on any sort of SUGAR IS THE DEVIL bandwagon or trying a new diet or even trying to lose weight. It’s not about any of that. It’s about the zits. 

When I was deployed, I blamed Kuwait for my skin problems. Maybe it was the stress or the heat or the water or the air quality or the dust, or maybe it was just Kuwait. I ordered potions and tonics to fix my skin, implemented a strict skincare regime, rinsed by face with bottled water instead of the non-potable bullshit that flowed from the taps in our shower trailer, but nothing worked. 

Except leaving Kuwait. 

I went to Tajikistan and Qatar and Jordan and England and Texas and each and every time I left Kuwait, my skin got better. There were no new zits, no bonus blemishes, which just made it extra easy to blame Kuwait for the shit quality of my skin. 

The thing about being deployed is that you get care packages, oftentimes from complete strangers who are thankfully and gloriously hellbent on sending you goodies. They send a lot of candy, these people.

Most days, I’d pad my diet with a handful of bite-sized chocolate snacks. The calorie count was low, I reasoned. Plus, I spent a lot of time in the gym, running or lifting or hitting my daily step goal, so it was fine. I’d earned those delicious little nuggets of chocolate joy. 

Then there was the once-nightly peanut butter cup habit I picked up. It was a bedtime snack, a delicious end to what was often another monotonous day filled with generally healthy eats.

All that plus an occasional piece of carrot cake, and that’s it. It didn’t feel excessive, and it wasn’t. I was more fit than I’d ever been before, was hitting all the fitness goals I’d set for myself and I enjoyed a solid love of my body and its strength and ability that my teenage self would have killed for. 

But my skin was still a mess. 

I started counting calories a few months ago, just to see where I was at. I wasn’t interested in dropping pounds or changing habits, but I did want to know how much protein I was consuming, if I was getting enough calcium, if I was eating any sort of a balanced diet. It was a status check, really, but it made me eat more thoughtfully. I slowed and then stopped the peanut butter cup habit that had followed me home from Kuwait and then, when I cut my candy consumption, my skin cleared up. 

Fuck, I thought. It was the candy.

It was so obvious. My skin cleared up each time I left Kuwait because I wasn’t eating a pile of candy every day.

In the months since then, I’ve done a little bit of experimenting. I’ve learned it’s not all sugar that my face hates, but the very specific sort of sugar they put in dessert.

I can eat bananas and blueberries and nectarines without issue. I can put honey in my tea and maple syrup on my paleo pancakes and my skin doesn’t flinch, not one bit, and wine is fine. But heaven help me and my skin if I eat one fucking chocolate cookie while visiting friends in Portland because it’s that sugar, the cookie kind, that my face hates. 

So I don’t eat it. 

This is absolutely the most dedicated and determined I’ve ever been when it comes to food-related limitations. It seems simple, really, but it’s not. Absolutes are hard and I’m still adjusting and learning how to say “no” to a dessert menu. 

My vanity helps, for sure. It is easier to say no to ice cream or a cookie pile when you know it will wreck havoc on your face, but still. It’s not easy being the only one without a cookie. 


  • Anita

    We’ve had the discussion about how dairy is ruining my life in the same way. I said no to mac and cheese with gouda today because yep, vanity. It hurt my heart a little. I’m going to go eat some extra French fries to make this better. I feel your pain!

  • Kristin

    I never had much of a sweet tooth until I got pregnant, and then, YE GODS. Give me ALL THE CHOCOLATE. I’m waiting for that part of pregnancy to go away, along with the zits. I’m starting to come out of my denial and stop swearing that it’s the pregnancy hormones making me break out. Nope, it’s all the damn candy. Thank you for the reminder that there are things worth giving up the peanut butter cup for. {but they’re so gooooooooood}

  • San

    I did Nicole’s Sugar Detox ones and while the takeaway was, yeah, I don’t really eat much sugar to begin with (I didn’t feel much different afterwards), I do know that too many sweets show up on my face as well… so I try to be really strategic and smart about when to indulge in something.

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