Aspen Princess: Nothing like a good illness to get your balance back |

Aspen Princess: Nothing like a good illness to get your balance back

Alison Berkley Margo
The Aspen Princess

The universe is clearly trying to send me a message: I need a lesson in humility.

It seems like lately, I keep getting my ass handed to me, especially over things I had just recently been bragging about.

“I was a Bikram yoga teacher for like, 10 years and I never got sick,” I told my trainer Betsy at the gym. “I mean, I’d have people sweating all over me all the time, you know, like, drip, drip, drip,” I trilled on. “The best thing for your immune system is to be exposed to germs. I never worry about that stuff.”

It was probably right then that I put my hand on a weight, or a kettle ball, or a door handle where the stomach flu was crawling around with like, 15 legs and big, buggy eyes and sharp little teeth. It then somehow crawled into my body undetected and made its way into my digestive track. Within 12 hours, I was under the bus. As I slept on the floor of the bathroom and came in and out of a feverish stupor, that conversation played in my head over and over like an annoying advertising jingle.

As a result of having the stomach flu, the only thing I could manage to eat was toast and pretzels — as in, the kind loaded with gluten and processed flour, the very foods that have been verboten since I lost 15 pounds (OK, 13) last July. Keeping that weight off is like something between a full-time job and an endless boxing match with a heavyweight champion fighter.

This endless battle with my weight has led me to what I have begun to refer to as “plant-based” or “plant-forward” eating. I mean, could I get any more pretentious? I don’t know what it is about vegan food that is inherently elitist, but it might have something to do with those sharp vowels in between hard edge consonants that allow you to elongate this tiny word into something a lot more snobbish — veeeee-gAAAn.

Or it could be the fact that only rich, entitled people would be arrogant enough to reject all this perfectly good food from their diets. I won’t give your mom’s “there are children starving in Africa” speech, but the fact is that eating this way is super expensive, high maintenance and inherently aloof. Like, when you’re at a restaurant with all your friends and they’re enjoying themselves eating fried pickles and burgers and you’re ordering butternut squash tacos with gluten free tortillas, it’s borderline obnoxious. I mean, live a little.

Before you freak out, I get it. I understand that eating this way is healthier, that it protects you from disease, gives you more energy, helps maintain a healthy weight. I happen to love it.

The other night, I posted a photo of a roasted vegetable salad I’d made just because everything I do is fascinating. I wrote about how I’d been obsessed with roasted veggies all winter (thrilling) and how I’d finally found a way to eat healthily and maintain my weight without dieting (go ahead, pat me on the back), and the key was not to subscribe to one rigid diet or to deny myself the foods I love, but to find balance. I finished it off with a series of super annoying hashtags and used a filter that made the food look brighter and an editing tool to blur the edges of the handmade ceramic bowl so it popped against the reclaimed wood in our dining room table (because all of that is super important when you are being a snoot).

I got a big response to that post, because there are tons of people around the world who are quite proud of themselves for eating their vegetables and have decided to turn it into an entire identity.

Well, after I got sick, I didn’t think I could ever look at another vegetable ever again. That salad, which was the last thing I ate before the onset of this horrible illness, had the aforementioned roasted veggies (brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips), power greens (kale, chard and spinach), quinoa, slivered almonds and cranberries. On a good day, this would be a fiber bomb, a gut buster, a bowl of stomach gas.

During my illness, all I could eat was toast (the gluten-packed whole wheat variety), and pretzels (the real ones, not the ones made of cauliflower from Whole Foods that have a disgusting burnt aftertaste). On day three, I moved on to toast with a fried egg for breakfast and a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner (with ketchup, of course).

It was like the floodgates had opened. All I wanted was anything and everything made with bread and cheese: pizza, nachos, burritos and more grilled cheese. Not to mention anything that involved fat, salt and sugar, and especially a combination of all three. Why is it that we crave the things that are bad for us? Why do foods loaded with these alleged toxins have to taste so damn good?

I managed to slowly drag myself back onto the proverbial wagon, first with bone broth and gradually with brown rice and some soft, comforting, well-cooked veggies until I got back to my regular routine.

“I usually make soup and roasted veggies for dinner, so I’m sure Ryan will be stoked to eat something else when I’m not there,” I told my friend when we met at Phat Thai for a girl’s night out.

She looked at me like I was half insane but didn’t say anything. I’ve known her long enough to be able to read her mind, so I’m pretty sure she was thinking, “Yuck,” and “There she goes with her extreme dieting again.”

Now that I’m feeling better, I’m trying to remind myself it really is about balance. I’m sure there are far worse things to be addicted to than pretzels.

The Princess will likely never wear a size 4 again. Email your love to