Princess: Healthy living with a cherry on top |

Princess: Healthy living with a cherry on top

Ali Margo
The Aspen Princess

I feel like everyone I know is on some kind of cleanse.

I don’t know if it’s a spring thing or what, but every time I try to make plans with someone, they’re like, “Oh, I’m not drinking,” as if it’s necessary to get blind drunk in order to hang out with me. Or, “I can’t have coffee,” as if they need caffeine to stay awake while I prattle on about my pug.

I have a friend who was visiting from out of town and went on a huge bender because she and her boyfriend planned to start the “green cleanse” when they got home. On the green cleanse, you can only eat food that is green for 30 days. Coconut oil is allowed, but I think that’s it. She said she basically subsisted on pistachios and avocados the last time she did it because it’s the only real source of fat. And there were times she was so hungry she would eat coconut oil with a spoon. She’s already pretty thin to begin with, one of these people who’s blessed with a naturally tall, lithe frame and long legs. It’s hard not to hate her sometimes, especially because she has high cheekbones and good hair, too.

So I’m just picturing her after two weeks of living on spinach and kale, crawling across the floor and then clawing her way up the counter so she can get to the coconut oil, with barely enough energy to grab a spoon out of the drawer before she slides onto the floor and starts crazily digging into the raw coconut fat and scooping it into her foaming mouth in big chunks, like ice cream.

I have another friend who just did her second 21-day “clean” cleanse in three months. She would spend hours planning her meals for the week, and a trip to the grocery store was like a scavenger hunt for random items such as cacao powder and organic buckwheat noodles.

Of course, the Master Cleanse was all the rage for a while, in which you subsist on a drink made from lemons, cayenne pepper and maple syrup for as long as you can stand upright. But everyone I know who has the willpower to go to that level of deprivation are the same extremists who party like rock stars as soon as they are done, ingesting doughnuts and whiskey like it’s an Olympic sport. It makes them a little crazy.

I’ve done a handful of cleanses in my life, like once every couple of years when I have a big event coming up that I need to look good for. Once I did this cleanse that involved all kinds of hydrotherapy, and I had to do this thing where you took a super-long, hot bath and then lay down on sheets that had been soaked in cold water afterward while scrubbing your skin with a natural loofah brush. I passed out cold with that crazy brush embedded into my cheek and slept for like 16 hours straight in wet sheets. It was totally weird, but I did lose a lot of weight.

I recently completed the Paleo Challenge, which isn’t a cleanse but a six-week program to help you kick the addiction to sugar by eating only meats, veggies, fruits and nuts. This program actually worked pretty well in terms of sticking to it even after it was over. While I still haven’t eaten any bread or processed sugar, some of those foods I’d eliminated have come creeping back in. I’ve discovered Coconut Bliss, a nondairy ice-cream product made from coconut milk that is pretty clean in terms of not having any processed ingredients, but it does have agave, which is sugar. I love it so much I’ll eat a half a pint at a time, moaning in sheer ecstasy like I want to make out with it — it tastes that good. And I’ve eaten like four bricks of Manchego ever since I decided goat’s-milk cheese is OK.

See, I think that’s the problem with all these cleanses. They’re a great way to jump-start a healthier eating program, to break bad habits and to break free from processed foods that are likely at the root of most modern disease. But how do you keep the pendulum from swinging from deprivation to indulgence all over again?

My husband, on the other hand, lives on a diet of cheese, bread and meat. He buys those giant bricks of cheese at City Market that are orange and eats them with pepperoni sticks. Last night I made a beautiful, organic stir fry, and he said, “That was delicious, honey,” and then promptly went back into the kitchen, where he prepared himself a full breakfast meal of eggs with cheese, hash browns and bacon.

“So glad I could make that little appetizer for you,” I said.

I don’t push healthy eating on him. He happily eats whatever I put in front of him, but if it doesn’t include meat and cheese, he will for sure eat them afterward. If he’s too tired to prepare himself another meal, he’ll have three bowls of cereal instead.

My question is: How did we get to this point where we have to go to such extremes to eat healthfully? Is there not something ironic, if not slightly perverse, about all us privileged folks basically starving ourselves in order to maintain balance in our lives? And once you go on one of these programs, how do you maintain it in the long term?

I often think Ryan will outlive us all because he doesn’t stress over every single thing he puts in his mouth. Stress is equally as toxic as processed foods.

I could be wrong, but if a healthy life really is about balance, then there has to be some icing on cake — or at least a cherry on top.

The Princess wants to know if sprouted bread is bad for you. Email your love to