PSA: Beware Of Sugar-Free Jelly Beans

by Katey Johnson
Originally Published: 
Sugar free Jelly Beans package and a warning on the back of the package
jfmdesign / Getty Images (left photo) / Katey Johnson (right photo)

Long before our girl Oprah was doing yoga in a black Spandex onesie on her lawn, I was on Weight Watchers. I loved it because I was on a diet, but I could still have junk food. I was like a CIA operative when it came to finding sweet, guilt-free treats that I could fit into my daily points. Until one day when my skills backfired. Literally. Like, fire came out of my backside.

Settle down, O. We got it.

It was a gorgeous, sunny, summer Friday, and I was scheduled to head home from my publishing job in Manhattan at 1 p.m. I’d been good on my diet all week, so I decided to hit up the drugstore on the way to work to do some WW-friendly intel in the candy aisle. I spotted a small bag of Jelly Belly Sugar-Free Sours and flipped the bag over to check out the calories. It was 200 calories for the bag, which came to 3 or 4 WW points at the time. “Sweet!” I thought, “and sour.” CHA-CHING.

Katie Johnson

I got to the office, settled in, and immediately inhaled my bag of jelly beans. (Yes, at 9:30 a.m. Take your judgment elsewhere.) They were awesome. I felt like I really had my you-know-what together. A little while later, I grabbed the empty bag to take a closer look at the nutrition info so I could enter it into my WW account. That’s when I noticed it. This very small (IMO) red box on the back of the bag.

Katie Johnson


Uhhhhhhhhh, I’m sorry. What was that? Was that “8 beans or less”? I ask you, have you ever eaten 8 jelly beans? Or LESS? In fact, turn to the person next to you and ask them the same. If you’re on a train or a public bus or an airplane reading this, stand up and ask everyone around you. Has anyone in the history of humankind ever eaten 8 jelly beans as a single serving? Because I ate 70 jelly beans. Yes, that’s right. Seventy. Roughly 10 times their suggested serving.

Yeah, lady in the yellow shirt, you have no idea.

I should’ve read the package more thoroughly, but a warning on the back of a bag of candy was not something I thought to look for. And quite frankly, if they’re being honest, they should call the candy “ass bullets,” and the disclaimer should read PACK A BAG FOR YOUR INTESTINES BECAUSE THEY’LL BE LEAVING YOU SHORTLY.” And laxative effect?! I googled the jelly beans and read, to my horror, account after account of people who, like me, had mistakenly eaten the whole bag. The sugar alcohol they use in place of real sugar is not good on the old insides. I looked at the empty bag. OMG. What had I done?

I looked at the clock: 11 a.m. I was taking a 1:30 train home and would be safely at home by 3 p.m. I hated going number two at work. The thought of taking a smash (my husband’s term) next to a co-worker and then pulling up a chair beside them at a meeting was too much for me. I briefly considered trying to throw up the jelly beans to save myself a nail-biter situation, but that’s not my style. I love food too much to part with it in that manner. And my husband and I eat Taco Bell regularly, so I figured if my insides could handle their refried beans, some sugar-free jelly frijoles wouldn’t be too much of an issue. Right?


He’s right. I was.

One o’clock rolled around, and there’d been no action. I finished at the office and peaced out, optimistic that I was going to survive this shitstorm. I hopped on the Long Island Railroad and texted my husband (teacher, off for the summer) to pick me up about 10 minutes from our house. As the train pulled out of Penn Station, I felt my first gurgle. My plan was to take deep breaths, focus on the music in my headphones, and not dwell on the fact that Rosemary’s Baby was brewing inside me. This worked for the first 30 minutes, and then about halfway home, my stomach started cramping and making pop and whoosh sounds. With 40 minutes to go, I sat very still and accepted the fact that it had begun. I had to elevate my poop status to the emergency level: CODE BROWN.

I tried to remain calm, but as the minutes passed, it began to sound like an airplane toilet was flushing in my stomach. And then it happened. I downloaded, if you will. The brown hellhound had climbed the steps and was at my backdoor. I was touching cloth. This is when the feverish, desperate, soul-igniting, butt-cheek clenching began. I clamped those babies shut so tight, the Jaws of life couldn’t have pried them open. It was my only hope. All I could think was, I’m going to explode poop on the train. The train bathrooms are no place for an episode like this. No place. I would need to be able to sit and grip and touch and maybe sob as the demon exited my body, so I wiggled and shifted in my seat with each new snap and swirl I felt. I was sweating jelly bullets.

I made ALL THE PROMISES to Jesus.

I don’t remember the last 15 minutes of that train ride. I think I left my body. My husband was getting the play-by-play via text, so he was prepped. All I remember after I hit the danger zone was pulling into the station and very gingerly doing a waddle down the stairs where I saw him revving the engine of our Jeep like we’d just robbed a diarrhea bank and he was waiting for me to make our getaway. He knew what was at stake here and basically pulled away as I opened the car door and fell in. I was at CODE BROWN DEF CON. There was no time for safety. There was only speed. We were like Shitsky & Hutch.

Please don’t crap bomb my car, babe!

We got home, I ran inside, and you guys…I made it. I made it in time. I will spare you the particulars but you should know that I expelled things from my body that day that had probably been there since junior high, maybe even elementary school. I was sweaty and light-headed, and I felt like I would pass out, but I didn’t. I made it. I believe that’s the closest I’ve ever been to meeting God. I leaned against the cold bathroom wall and I talked to Him. “OMG. THANK YOU, GOD. THANK YOU, GOD, IF YOU’RE REAL. THANK YOU FOR NOT LETTING ME BLOW OUT MY JEANS ON THE LONG ISLAND RAILROAD. THANK YOU FOR NOT LETTING ME DIARRHEA GREG’S JEEP. THANK YOU FOR THE EXQUISITE SPHINCTER AND BUTT-CHEEK STRENGTH WHICH I PROBABLY GOT FROM MY DAD’S SIDE. AMEN.”

I still love me some sweets, but since that day, I keep my eye out for warning labels. I tell any of my friends who are getting colonoscopies that they should eat these jelly beans instead of drinking that awful stuff the doctors make you drink to cleanse your colon. These taste a lot better, and I can guarantee they’ll leave your colon sparkling clean.

This article was originally published on