Aspen Princess: Chasing The Aspen Idea through another ‘wellness’ run |

Aspen Princess: Chasing The Aspen Idea through another ‘wellness’ run

Alison Berkley Margo
The Aspen Princess

A friend of mine recently posted an article from The New York Times about the wellness industry and how it’s basically a big marketing scheme that targets entitled white women.

Here in Aspen, we are all about wellness. It’s not just an industry here — it’s a lifestyle. There’s a whole culture surrounding this concept of “self care,” which is really just a phrase that has been coined by entitled white women so we can be totally selfish and then be able to justify it.

You could even argue that an entire culture has evolved from the idea of wellness, and that Aspen has been on the forefront of this concept long before it became a trend. Still, it’s everywhere, from that bag of gluten-free potato chips (potato chips have been gluten free, hello) to grossly overpriced athleisure labels who can now charge a hell of a lot of money for a pair of glorified tights.

But I have to admit, this article got to me. It made me immediately defensive, especially the idea that much of wellness is based on pseudoscience. I have learned in numerous ways that what you eat has a huge impact on your health.

But out here in the world, we are bombarded even with all these trending diets. Everything is gluten-free this, vegan that, Paleo or Keto. These are elimination diets that cut out foods that are deemed bad for us. Then comes a slew of products that meet the requirements of said diet, but who’s to say they’re any healthier than what we started with?

It has occurred to me on more than one occasion that it’s absolutely ridiculous that we have the luxury to eat in these highly discriminating ways when there are people starving in the world. It’s also occurred to me that it’s super annoying when you’re out to dinner with that girl that spends 20 minutes requesting all kinds of substitutions not because she has any real allergies, but because she wants to be able to continue to squeeze into a size 4.

On the other hand, I have learned enough to understand there is a lot of toxicity in our food and it does make sense to try and avoid it. But let’s be honest: my biggest motivator has always been to look good and to squeeze into a size 4 (all right, 6). Why sugar coat it?

As I get older though, my health has almost (but not quite) eclipsed my vanity. Having a baby at the late age of 45 created a few problems. That pesky gestational diabetes came back — a check-up last year revealed that my average blood sugar was too high. I also have some issues around hiatal hernia — the result of my stomach having been stretched from pregnancy and now putting pressure on my diaphragm, a condition that gets painful if I eat too much sugar. There’s also the little problem of being 10 pounds heavier now than I was in my early 40s. It seems as though we gain about 10 pounds for every decade after the age of 30. The women I know who are in their 50s, 60s and 70s and are still thin achieve that by not eating very much at all.

I once asked my friend Dana how she stays so thin in her late 60s. She leaned closer and whispered in a conspiratorial tone, “I’m always hungry.”

There’s also the pressure of living in Aspen, a place where people are not only beautiful but also high-achieving in everything they do, especially when it comes to athletic prowess. Set foot into any fitness studio and you’re bound to find a majority of well-coiffed, well-dressed, artificially young-looking people who are extremely fit and extraordinarily thin.

My friend had posted this article after I had just signed up to do a 30-day cleanse through a multi-level marketing company that sells nutritional products. For a cool $300, I’d ordered a month worth of this company’s various powders and teas that would help me detoxify and lose weight.

I’d done this program once before and lost 14 pounds. Over time though, once I started eating actual food again, the weight creeped back on. The box arrived late, several days after the start date to the group cleanse. Still, I’d peruse the private Facebook page that had been set up as an online support group, and discovered people were mostly interested in finding products that were cleanse approved.

“Check out this amazing breakfast I had this morning,” one wrote. “A gluten-free bagel with eggs, tomatoes and avocado. You don’t have to feel deprived.”

Below that were a series of comments about how the gluten-free bagels were actually chock full of ingredients that weren’t allowed on the cleanse.

Then there were the comments about how the company’s various cleansing products were causing bloating and abdominal discomfort, followed by more comments about how to use the company’s other products to counteract the side effects caused by their products in the first place. “You should double the amount of the fiber powder to help with the bloating caused by the protein powder,” one wrote.

It occurred to me that a lot of these people were missing the point. Yes, a month spent guzzling various protein drinks, fiber formulas and detox teas might help generate a little weight loss, but you can’t live that way forever. You also have no idea what those products are really made of, unless you take them to a lab to be tested. When the box finally came, I sent it back.

I realized maybe that article had a point. Wellness is an industry, and us Aspenites are precisely its target market. I guess it’s a matter of truly understanding what The Aspen Idea of mind, body, spirit is all about. I guess I’m lucky enough to spend the rest of my life trying.

The Princess is eating vegan this month. Email your love to


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