While there are some people who can eat whatever they please without having a thing happen to their face, there are also people, like me, who break out at even the slightest of anything sugary touching their lips. Okay, so I don’t breakout if I look at a cookie, but it does only take ONE cookie or sweet for a nice, plump zit to pop up on my face—and it stresses me out.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware that you shouldn’t include added sugars in every meal you have as it can increase cardiovascular disease and the chances of becoming diabetic. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration states “it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugar.” But in addition to affecting your health, sugar is known to also mess with your skin. According to the Huffington Post, eating simple carbohydrates, like refined sugars and white bread, will dramatically increase your insulin levels and cause inflammation throughout your body. Inflammation will break down the elastic and collagen in your skin, which will result in wrinkles. Plus, eating excess sugar can cause breakouts, hair growth, and dark spots.
So to get to the bottom of this sugary fiasco, I decided to cut sugar from my diet for a week to see exactly how it would affect my skin. Now when I say sugar, I mean added sugar, because your girl can’t live without fruit. I was super conscious of checking ingredients lists and nutrition facts on everything I ate, because, life hack: not only will it tell you if there is any sugar in the product, but it will specify if it’s added or not. If I saw no added sugars, I dove in. Most added sugars include sweetness, anyway, so I figured I’d get my sweet fix in the form of fruit and ditch the cookies, chocolate, and any sugar-filled product I typically love. I journaled for a whole week about all the meals I had and all of the emotions that came with a sugar-free week. Verdict? well, let’s just say, all the emotions were all worth it.
Full disclaimer: I totally had chocolate Sunday night, so I did wake up with one juicy pimple on my jawline. This only further determined me to eat my way to clear skin. For breakfast, I made myself two scrambled eggs with lox on Ezekiel bread. While I typically get hungry really quickly after breakfast, adding the healthy fats really helped hold me over until my lunch break. I skipped down to the small, Mediterranean spot near work and grabbed a breakfast sandwich with turkey bacon, scrambled eggs, tomato, and lettuce on a ciabatta roll along with an avocado, banana, kale, and date smoothie. The dates indulged my sweet tooth for the time being. For dinner, my boyfriend and I cooked breakfast for dinner, complete with pancakes and bacon, and a dash of maple syrup — not to worry, I get pure maple from Trader Joe’s, so there was no trace of added sugars. If there was anything I learned on Monday, it’s that I have a definite love for breakfast food and I crave sweets — a lot.
On Tuesday, I was faced with a slightly terrifying dermatologist appointment, so my appetite was small to begin with. Beforehand, I had a smoothie with mixed berries, plant protein, spirulina, and coconut water to keep it light on my stomach. To make me feel better after the appointment, my boyfriend took me to brunch, but I was completely unoriginal and went with an acai bowl topped with unsweetened coconut shreds and house-made granola. Sorry, but a girl wants what a girl wants, especially after the doctor’s, okay?! Inevitably, my mostly liquid consumption left me hungry, so I indulged in some chips and salsa for a mid-day pick-me-up. However, I did follow shortly with three fat bowls of pasta (which could have some added sugar due to the pasta sauce, though I was stubborn on ensuring my sauce had less than five grams per serving), but I topped the night off with a cup of lemongrass and ginger tea. I noticed that I didn’t feel so worn out and couldn’t help but wonder if it was because I was keeping added sugars at bay.
Wednesday was an incredibly busy day complete with an eight hour retail shift followed immediately by a babysitting gig. For breakfast, I sliced up an avocado before it was too late, and topped it with some lox and ate a few handfuls of cashews afterward. Essentially, my entire breakfast was full of good fats and I was completely satisfied. When lunch came around, I was craving the smoothie I had days before, so I once again hustled to the cafe and ordered the avocado smoothie, as well as a Turkish salad with lettuce, tomato, feta, red onion, cucumber, and a light dressing. The salad alone probably wouldn’t have kept me full, but that smoothie really filled me up.
Nonetheless, I was still hungry for dinner shortly after I arrived to babysit, so I got a brown rice salmon avocado roll and a side of edamame. By the end of the day, I was wondering if there was any such thing as eating too many healthy fats in a day. Regardless, I thought my skin was looking calm and I did read that Victoria Beckham’s dermatologist told her to eat salmon every day, so I justified my consumption of so much.
When Thursday rolled around, my pimple had officially gone away and I had no new breakouts. If anything, my skin was looking as calm as ever so I was excited to keep on without using added sugar. For breakfast, I scrambled two eggs and picked up a bagel and some iced green tea before work. This held me over for longer than usual but when my lunch break came around, I was craving Thai. I hopped across the street to indulge in an awesome lunch special of salad, veggie pad Thai, and a hot tea. Right when I got off work, though, I was getting hungry, so I had a banana with sugar-free peanut butter. This combo always hits the spot, and I was tied over until later.
For dinner, I made my favorite grilled cheese — minimal cheese for me — complete with kale pesto, avocado, turkey, and some hot sauce. When I went to bed, I was feeling incredibly full and sugar craving-free. So far, cutting sugar has been totally worth it.
I had a bit of a late start on Friday, so I had a couple handful of cashews and grabbed a banana on the way out. I quickly dipped into a deli to get an iced green tea, unsweetened, of course. Keep in mind, I’ve always had my tea without sweetener, so I was totally un-phased, but if you like sweet tea, this is not for you. For lunch, I went back to the deli and had a turkey, avocado, lettuce, and tomato sandwich with mustard on an everything bagel. I’m sure you’re picking up that I quickly shifted my tastebuds into “savory” gear since I shut out sweets. When I got back to work, a customer complimented me on my skin, and at that moment, I was incredibly happy with my decision. Honestly, my lunch kept me incredibly full until dinner, which consisted of chicken gyoza and vegetable fried rice.
On Saturday, I woke up and had a cup of jasmine green tea and some avocado toast with lox and a fried egg on Ezekiel bread. This was my way of trying to make myself full before heading to a Yankee game, but unfortunately, I was hungry by the time I showed up, and Yankee Stadium is an awful place to be if you can’t indulge in everything. I got myself a hotdog with mustard, some fries, a jumbo pretzel, and a Blue Moon. When my friend wanted a churro, I, unfortunately, had to bow out and opt for a plum from their fruit market, instead. Sure, it was sweet, but it sure wasn’t a churro. I left with successfully keeping added sugar out of my system, and for dinner, I wanted Mexican. I ordered Tacombi and had corn esquites and a black bean and sweet potato taco. The food there is so good that I was stuffed for the night and didn’t need much more aside from a banana for “dessert.”
I woke up on Sunday, excited to take a peep at my skin, and before I even had the chance to look, my boyfriend said it looked great. When I looked in the mirror, I was pleasantly surprised at how smooth and not-irritated my skin looked. I was breakout-free and my skin was one-even tone — it was a dream come true! On my way to work, I had an RX bar and a banana, which surprisingly held me over for a long time. For lunch, I couldn’t help but get my avocado smoothie and that same turkey bacon sandwich because they’re just… to die for. And for dinner, I was exhausted and just whipped up some pasta once more. I had a cup of tea and examined my skin before I went to bed, completely pleased with my results.
Honestly, cutting added sugar wasn’t too difficult, but the results made any moment of craving worth it. I say if you want to cut sugar, go for it, but definitely do not deny yourself fruits, as they’re really nature’s candy. If you struggle with food-triggered acne, I urge you to try this experiment for a week. Deleting added sugar was so successful for my skin that I had a few pieces of chocolate the following Monday as an “I deserve this so don’t @ me” treat, but I have been consciously eating less sugar on a regular basis since then. My skin has seen some serious improvements, not only in lack of breakouts, but there’s also been less irritation and the overall look of my skin has glowed, as well as an improved look of texture. Plus, my energy has been up and I’ve been feeling like I can conquer anything — so yes, I would recommend giving a go. Trust, it’s worth it.
Feature image via Vanessa Granda