Aspen Princess: A world without sugar is actually pretty sweet

Ali Margo
Aspen Princess

As I crest the finish line of the six-week-long Sopris Chiropractic Paleo Challenge, my in-laws are in town from Minnesota. Like any good Midwestern family with an affinity for hot-dish casseroles and fried food on a stick, they have filled my cupboards with every variety of bread imaginable, from sesame bagels (my favorite) and sliced whole wheat to cheddar jalapeno cheese bread. There are crackers, cheese dips, bottled dressings, mayo, Captain Crunch cereal and mini chocolate cupcakes.

The biggest struggle I’ve had with their visit has been to not come off as some kind of pretentious-ass-food-snob-health-nut because I so totally hate those kinds of people. I also hate being the one to sit out a family breakfast that’s been prepared because I can’t eat cheesy eggs and don’t want the whole batch to be compromised because I’m not eating dairy (even if I did spring $7 for a dozen farm fresh, organic, grain fed eggs). I hate being the one who doesn’t join in on “chairlift snacks” with my 11-year-old niece because she’s chomping on Swedish fish. I hate being wary of Grandma Millie’s special chicken wing recipe because it’s made with an entire bottle of Russian dressing, a jar of apricot jam and a package of Lipton beef soup mix seasoning (which, as far as I can tell from reading the ingredients, has no actual spices or herbs in it).

It’s fascinating, if not shocking, to realize how much of the food we eat is processed. My in-laws eat healthy for the most part; every night we eat salad, grilled meats and some kind of veggie. They haven’t complained about the lack of grains on my dinner table. But when I look at the food that’s wormed its way back into my pantry, I have to cringe a little.

Sticking to a whole foods-based diet outside of your own kitchen is almost impossible. So how do you live in the world where most of the food we eat is either processed or destroyed with added sugar and harmful oils and stick with it without coming off as a total pretentious-ass-food-snob-health-nut? Please tell me I’m not going to become one of those people who shows up at a party and pulls bags of their own food out of their purse like it’s a god damned refrigerator.

The worst part about truly kicking a bad habit is when it makes you sick to try to go back to it. It’s like when I quit smoking. Take it from me: Smoking was the best diet I’ve ever been on when it comes to getting stick thin and staying that way. It’s the best appetite suppressant ever made and is an excellent substitute for grazers who are prone to emotional eating. But then one day, I moved in with a smoker and his habits really grossed me out. So I stopped. I didn’t smoke for a long time, and then when I did, I didn’t like it anymore. I remember feeling really bummed, like, “I want to do this bad thing because it’s fun, except it’s not even fun anymore.”

That’s kind of what happened to me on this diet now that I’ve stopped eating grains and processed sugar. Sure, I can drink my favorite microbrew beers, but more than one pint and I feel super sick. The other night we went out for barbecue and I had my favorite wings with a pint of IPA. Well, guess what? I suffered all the next day with an upset stomach.

I guess that’s how I know that it’s working.

I’ll stick with it because the results are profound, like the effect it’s had on my skin. I’ve struggled with acne my whole adult life. I’ve had acid peels and chemical peels and microdermabrasion, and I even had a doctor drag a spinning needle all over my face to plump it with the plasma from my own blood. I’ve had the most painful extractions you can imagine and have walked out of facials looking like someone beat me up. Then I cut sugar out of my diet and start taking probiotic supplements and fish-oil pills and, bam! Acne is gone, just like that.

I’ll continue to avoid bread and grains simply because I love not feeling bloated and overfull after a meal. Eliminating nutritionally devoid starches from my plate keeps my calorie intake in check. A protein and a vegetable are typically always served so it’s easy to create a plate without making compromises I don’t want to make. It’s not that big of a deal.

Still, we live in a world where it is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to find whole foods in a natural/organic state, which is crazy when you think about it. Once you begin to pay attention to what we are eating, you realize how much of our food is manufactured and loaded with harmful chemicals and additives. While it is expensive and inconvenient to source better quality whole foods, it’s worth it when you consider the alternative. You might not know exactly how what you are eating is affecting your well-being or what exactly is the cause/effect dynamic, but once you remove these things from your diet there is no denying that you feel and look better. Not to mention the hope that no one will ever mistake me for being pregnant again (it’s happened more times than I care to admit).

Who cares if I didn’t lose a single ounce even though I eliminated like 60 percent of the foods from my diet? (If you tell me it’s because muscle weighs more than fat, I will seriously punch you in the nose). At least I know what I’m eating and feel a sense of control over my health moving forward.

If I’ve become a pretentious-ass-food-snob-health-nut, so be it. At least no one will mistake me for a pregnant one.

The Aspen Princess would like to thank Sopris Chiropractic for inviting her to participate in the challenge. Email your love to


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