toni bark
Photo: Gregg Segal
So how do the rest of us get some of what Bark's got? The good news is, you don't have to be born with it—even if Bark was. Her father worked as a trader in Chicago and flew planes in his spare time, introducing Bark to downhill skiing when she was 5. Her mother was a real estate agent and an excellent cook. Both parents had an affinity for staying active and eating healthy—one of Bark's earliest memories is of her father's giant bowl of vitamins in the kitchen.

They also encouraged their daughter to be an independent thinker, which accounts for her refreshing take on what it means to be (and eat) healthy. Caffeine is okay, and so is alcohol, in moderation; Bark calls any good red wine—say, Spanish Garnacha-Tempranillo—"nectar of the gods." Confronted with a high-grade tequila, she might even do a shot. She's also a big fan of fats—the "good" kind you find in nut butters and avocados. As for counting calories, "it's a huge mistake," Bark says. "It creates such an obsessive pattern. If you want to do something like look at calories, look at how many carbs you're eating. If you have a sedentary job, you need to reduce the carbs. Don't stuff your face because you don't like your boss; don't reward yourself with crappy food. The goal is to enjoy your food and have a really good relationship with it. A good relationship with your food should be nonnegotiable."

After the circus fitness class, we head to Fresh Farms International Market, where I receive my first lesson in the little-known pleasures of grocery shopping.

"Lita squash!" she says. "This is so much better than a regular zucchini!"

Almost everything Bark eats is low on the glycemic index and mostly vegan, with the exception of fish once a week. She also practically mainlines nuts and seeds of all kinds. "Low-glycemic foods help keep your blood sugar levels stable and your insulin levels low, so you can think more clearly and have more energy," she says.

Next in the basket go pomegranate seeds, curry leaves, ginger, avocados, raspberries, and teff, a grain she uses for baking. In the frozen food aisle, Bark puts her head down and studies some nutrition labels—"I look for ingredients that existed 100 years ago, so I know they're clean," she says. "I would never eat anything with hydrogenated fats or cottonseed oil, which is used in all kinds of cheap snacks." By the time we're at the checkout counter, the basket is packed with unprocessed goodness—ingredients for more meals like the incredible one we had last night: curried split pea soup, sweet potatoes, pasta made from raw kelp noodles with carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower in creamy cashew coconut curry sauce, dehydrated pesto crackers, and, for dessert, poached pears with sake and cinnamon.

Bark usually cooks on an induction range and has a dehydrator in the corner that she uses to make crackers as well as the "pancakes" she eats every morning: hockey pucks made of maca root, mesquite, chia seeds, macadamia nuts, dried mulberries, and cinnamon that she tops with coconut butter, fresh fruit, and pure maple syrup. The recycled stainless steel countertops are covered with jars, boxes, and BPA-free plastic containers full of organic herbs, spices, and oils. Hanging over the kitchen island, as if to bless this sacred eating space, are bright, sequined Haitian voodoo flags.

By way of relaxing, Bark whips up a batch of "brownies" from raw cocoa and what look like salad fixings (dates, avocados, and basil) while contemplating the thorny business of aging.

Next: Bark's beauty regimen


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