Pilar Gerasimo Goes Behind the Scenes on The Wellness Revolution
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Jonathan: Hey, everyone, Jonathan Bailor back, and I am so excited about today’s session. In fact, you may have to turn your speakers down a little bit because I think it’s going to get a little bit rowdy in here because we have a wonderful person with us, someone who, really, is cut from the same cloth, because she gets fired up, fired up, about this subject being more than just about calories in, calories out, saying that two-thirds of our population are just lazy gluttons, and we just need to try harder.
In fact, she has made a career out of exposing the mythology we see around these skinny jeans, and six-pack abs, and 100-calorie snack packs. She has done that all around the world, for many, many generations. She spent a bunch of time at the Huffington Post, she founded her own fabulous magazine called Experience Life, and this isn’t just like some cottage industry. This has reached over 3 million individuals and has received over 100 editorial design awards in its more than a decade-long history. She is an absolute baller (laughs). She wrote this fabulous Manifesto which really explodes these myths that we are here to dispel, and you can learn more about her, as well as this revolutionary act she is in the process of performing and helping us all to perform at her site, revolutionaryact.com.
Pilar Gerasimo, welcome!
Pilar: Thank you so much, Jonathan. What a delightful introduction, thank you. It’s great to be here with you.
Jonathan: I am so happy to have you, Pilar. We met just a few weeks ago and we became fast friends because I feel like our souls are on the same path. I want to get started, before we jump into your Manifesto here. Really quick, you are unapologetically blowing the roof off a lot of this 1950s, “Eat less and exercise more, people. Come on, that’s all there is to it.” What motivates you to go so passionately against the current?
Pilar: I think it’s a combination, Jonathan, of my own frustration with having tried to do it the way that the so-called authoritative sources told me I had to do it, and by that I mean my medical professionals, my health care guides, people like nutritionists, who were giving out conventional information, and then the media who were so confusing to me in my early journey toward a healthier way of life. I about blew my own top. And I really wasn’t super unhealthy to begin with, but the more I followed the conventional road, the further off course I got.
And then I think as I got into it, I really became a health journalist as I started the magazine, Experience Life, and like I said, that came out of my own frustration, but when I got into the media and I started understanding the dynamics by which we are misled, sometimes intentionally, sometimes just because that’s the way media works, it made me even more frustrated and more determined to help other people turn it around without so many detours and delays. Because one thing I see over and over again, is that as people begin to embrace what they think are healthier choices, but those aren’t necessarily choices that are working. They’re counting calories, and they’re cutting down on fats, for example, and instead of getting better, they get worse or stay the same, and then they give up, or they feel like they’ve failed.
And that, to me, is not just, it’s not fair. I see the frustration and the pain on those people’s faces and I’ve felt that, myself. That is what has motivated me, and for me, it’s been about 13 years doing this type of work, and it’s the most gratifying work on the planet right now. Because, ultimately, I believe like you do, we need healthier, happy people out in the world doing their thing and giving their best gifts. And we can’t afford, not just us personally, to be unhealthy, but to have people in our midst, unhealthy, unhappy, demotivated, frustrated, angry. I don’t want to live in that kind of world. I want to live in a world with more like us running around (laughs).
Jonathan: (laughs) I think you really hit the nail on the head, Pilar, when you said, it’s not a lack of effort, certainly. I get so frustrated, because maybe there is one-half percent of the population that is just completely off the ranch, doing the stereotypical things that make people diabetic and obese, but that is the minority, the shocking minority. So many people have tried so many things. It’s not a lack of effort. It appears to be simply just incorrect information. What do you think about that?
Pilar: I think it is a combination of incorrect information and a sort of anxiety on the part of people who are starting out, about trying it their own way, experimenting. I think the discouragement that comes early often leads people to feel disempowered, and the more that they reach out and get this bad information, the worse it gets. I do think that there is also an inertia that happens. Once you are unhealthy, and you are malnourished, you are overweight, you are probably getting depressed, not just by your circumstances, but by the nutrition, or lack thereof, that you are getting, and the lack of satisfaction you are getting from eating diet foods and low-cal foods combined with fast foods and other crappy foods, it’s very difficult to get re-motivated from that place, to do anything.
I don’t think it is that people are lazy, I think they are sick. I think that they are so low on the vitality scale that imagining doing something like getting up and running, or taking a fitness class, or getting on their bike and riding ten miles, they can’t even imagine doing that. They can barely get up the stairs in their house. They can barely get off the couch. Not because they are lazy, and I think that is a really important differentiation, but because they feel so crappy, and that is the part that I think is often overlooked.
Jonathan: And it is so important to acknowledge that, because when you see the amount of suffering that you and I see in the world, what the mainstream media, I feel, in a lot of cases does is, they trivialize it. It’s like going to someone who is anorectic and saying, “Just eat more. What is wrong with you? Just eat more food.” Well, the anorectic is not missing the point that they are not eating enough. The question is: Why are they doing that?
I was speaking with a wonderful researcher recently and she was describing this very, very sad, for lack of a better term, cycle, where an individual who is put in an unhealthy environment starts to gain weight, and get sick, and become over-fat, and that causes depression, and then they go on medication for the depression, which also makes it harder for them to control their appetite, so then they get more depressed and more overweight. To go to a person that is in that complicated of a web and say, “What’s wrong with you? Just try harder,” is inhumane. Am I being too strong?
Pilar: No. It’s lacking in empathy, it’s lacking in understanding, and it is fundamentally mistaken. One of the things that you and I have both learned from the research that we have done in digging through the studies in the literature is that our brains get hijacked. Dr. Mark Hyman says that in his books. Your whole body gets hijacked. It’s not that anybody thinks it is a good idea to sit down and eat an entire pack of donuts. It’s just that once you have eaten one or two, there is stuff that happens inside your biology, inside your biochemistry, inside your neurology, that makes you want a third, and a fourth, and a sixth, and that’s how people eat a whole container of donuts. That food is designed to make you crazy. Once you have begun that path, this is why I think sometimes detoxing yourself off of those foods is the only way to get off. You would have to fix that part of your bad biochemistry that is broken, otherwise the cravings go just off the charts.
And then people feel so ashamed of themselves. “I must be a horrible person that I just ate this, or that I can’t stop thinking about the cookies or the cakes.” I think when we get into a judgmental place and look at folks who are feeling that, it is not only counterproductive, but it ignores the basic science behind what is causing the problem. And you are right, that the vicious circle then begins, that you need a drug, whether it is a depression drug, or a cholesterol and blood pressure drug. Now, once you are taking those drugs, you have side effects that make you less able to benefit from exercise. We’ve seen mitochondrial dysfunction. The very people who should be exercising and needing the benefit of that aren’t getting it. And all the other side effects, muscle aches, lowered vitality.
And lo and behold, I think this is the part of it that requires a revolutionary mindset, understanding that it is not just that you are a weak person, it is that you are living in an environment that is full of toxic choices, toxic information, and misleading notions of what you should be doing. And sometimes the people that you trust most, mainly the newspaper or the magazine that you are reading that purports to be expert on this, or your health care professionals, are sending you down a wrong road, and telling you to eat the wrong things. And they are not telling you that, really, what you need to not be eating is not so much a particular number of calories, or a particular number of carbs, or a particular diet. Getting off of the stuff that is making you nuts is really the only way to begin seeing clearly and making clear choices.
Jonathan: And I’m so happy you used one of our favorite words, and that is revolutionary, because what we are describing here really is, as you said, revolutionary. It is thinking of certain edible products as more drug-like and seeing this as a multifactorial equation that is not as dehumanizing as the current calorie myths that we are told. Let’s dig into your Manifesto. This has gotten so much attention, and for good reason. You give us ten points, and I know you have many more than ten, but I only imagine you pulling your hair out and saying, “Oh my God, okay, these are the ten!” So, I cherish these ten, because I know how painful it must have been to whittle the list down. Let’s start right from the top, and again, folks, you can check out this full top ten list, as well as the Manifesto PDF, at revolutionaryact.com, which is fabulous. The very first point, here: The way we are living is crazy. Tell us a bit about that, Pilar.
Pilar: Yes, that’s the very first point, and I think that was where I felt like I had to start, because we need to understand that it’s not you that’s crazy and bad, it’s the world around you. And Jonathan, I just want to show people, this is what the Manifesto looks like in its printed form, and it’s available, like you said, online as a PDF you can print out, or as a little interactive thing.
Number one: The way we are living is crazy. Basically, it is saying, we are living in a world where more than 50% of the people in the United States, of the adult population, is chronically ill and/or obese. We think the commonly stated number is two-thirds of people are overweight or obese, 7 out of 10. So, if you really think about that, what kind of society produces more unhealthy people than healthy people? An unhealthy society, if you are living in a world where 2 out of 3 people are overweight or obese. I think it was a psychology researcher, Barbara Frederickson, who noted that only about 20% of us, mentally and emotionally, are thriving at any given time, and that 80% of us are either sort of just getting by, or living lives of quiet despair, she said.
Jonathan: Henry Thoreau, I love it.
Pilar: But I think that is really crazy. The whole point of a society is to produce healthy, thriving people, and if what we are producing is people who are chronically sick and miserable, then the way we are living is just nuts. It’s not right.
Jonathan: And it’s such an important point, Pilar, because when people hear what you advocate, what I advocate, what the science actually advocates, it is shockingly contrarian. It is not what society says. But, we have seen what society churns out. To your point, forget all the science, common sense tells us that if you don’t want what everyone else has, don’t do what everyone does.
Pilar: That’s exactly right. If you do what is normal in this society, you will end up being our version of normal. What the majority is doing is producing what the majority has. Right off the bat, the signal is, if you want to be different, you are going to have to do something differently. And I think that is a lot of what you and I, and a lot of other great revolutionary people, are now saying, and I am so excited that we are finally getting off that, “Just eat less and exercise more,” track, because we have been getting told that, and a lot of people think we have been doing it, it just isn’t working.
Jonathan: Absolutely. Okay, number two: There are powerful social and economic and political forces that are undermining our health. Talk about a revolution, there is some revolutionary thinking going on in number two, here.
Pilar: I know, I didn’t hold any punches back on that one. Last night I was screening an early cut of a movie called Fed Up, which is going to be coming out early in the next year. We’re seeing more and more of these movies and documentaries that are coming out that are exposing the food industry, “big food,” as we have come to call it, and big pharma, and they are really a lot of the same companies, the drug and food companies have sort of met in the middle. They are raking in enormous profits, and they have been gaining ground.
In the past probably 50 years is when most of the damage has been done, because our government has largely agreed to support those special interests, rather than doing what is in the best interest of the general population, including our children, which is where the movie, Fed Up, is going to be focusing. But watching the film last night, I was really struck by how often the public interests have been dis-served, and even just thrown over, by the interests of private profit. And what it means is that our policies from USDA, myplate.gov, to school lunch, to the recommendations that come out in terms of nutritional guidelines, then filter down into what everybody from school nutritionists to our medical professionals are handing us. A lot of times when you go to the doctor you will get handed some little pamphlet or quick guide to health, and it walks in lockstep with the recommendations that have come out of so-called authoritative sources, but those authoritative sources have been absolutely formed in their perspectives by special interests, and those economic interests are really hard to fight.
You can talk to U.S. senators, you can talk to presidents and presidents’ wives if you want to. Look at Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign. That started out as really focused on some pretty smart nutritional principles, but took a hard left turn somewhere along the way, and it became all about, “Just be more active.” I know that is not the intention of her program, and I respect her enormously, but it is clear, something really got bent in their approach, and I think a lot of it had to do with food industry lobbyists. If you look at how much they spent on lobbying during the periods where we were about to come out with public policies and public guidelines that were a little bit off where they wanted them to be, they spent tens of millions of dollars to get those recommendations back in line with what they wanted, which meant there is still a side serving of dairy, for everybody, several times a day, and we are encouraging people to eat more grain-based foods, cereals, for example.
Guess what? Some of the biggest food companies in the world, like General Mills and Cargill, are cereal companies. Everything that they have in their arsenal of built, invested capital, are machines that extrude cereals into processed flour, soybean oil, and something else. Everything is the same mash, and it gets formed into an extruded shape, whether it is a Dorito chip, or a cereal Fruit Loop or something. There is so much money invested in that, economically, the forces are guiding our daily choices, and we are being told that Special K cereal is a healthy choice, just like a bazillion other foods that come out of that system. And that’s just food. We could go on about pharmaceuticals, and it’s even worse, because the recommendations are, everybody needs a cholesterol drug. You eat the way we are told to eat, and you will need a cholesterol drug! Or at least you will fit the standard profile of people who they will tell that they need one.
Jonathan: That’s right. It’s truly an enlightening approach, Pilar, because once we understand this, I think it gives us permission to do something. Tell me what you think about this. I’ve had the wonderful privilege, and I know you’ve done the same, to talk with some really high-tier experts, so-called, in this industry. I was talking to someone in one of the most well-respected dietary associations, and we got into it a little bit about grain. Not in like, “You’re wrong!” But more just, “Help me understand why you think what you’re thinking.” You’ve probably seen the movie, Thank you for Smoking?
Jonathan: It felt like a scene from that movie, because what I was really going for is, for example, eventually we got down to – what is the unique nutritional benefit that you can only get from grains? Because, to me, that’s the only reason to say that you need to eat something, because it does something in superior fashion to anything else. And the answer always turned into, “Well, it’s all about moderation and balance – well, it’s all about moderation…” “No, no, no, wait. Stop. Science. Talk to me in science terms. Biologically, why are you recommending this?” And they couldn’t answer, because it seems like maybe they didn’t actually research this, they are just following these guidelines and these interests that you are describing.
Pilar: That’s a very interesting moment, the one that you are describing, and I have run into that myself so many times, where you hit on something, and you’re just trying to get a straight answer. Typically, Jonathan, what I find is that if I keep pushing on that, “Okay, so tell me, scientifically, why I ought to be eating this,” eventually, what I’ll get to is, “Well, we can’t feed the world on organic vegetables. Yes, I guess you could get all your happy carbs from vegetables and fruits and other whole foods, but we can’t feed the world that way. People are starving!” And then it becomes this socioeconomic, “You’re a food elitist” argument.
And I think it’s exactly the opposite, which is that the very people who would benefit most from having affordable, sustainable supplies of vegetables and other whole foods that are full of phytonutrients, as well as carbohydrates and fiber, and other things that we need, are the people who are being marketed to the most heavily, to have those grain-based processed products on the shelf, at eye level of their kids. And they are the ones who are the most likely to be told that cereal is a great food alternative for any meal of the day. When in doubt, eat a so-called whole grain cereal.
Well, guess what? There are hardly any whole grains in those whole grain cereals. And they still spike your blood sugar to the moon, and drop you back down into the nightmare of craving more grains, starches and sugar. And you know all of this, but my point is that this is the argument cycle you get into. “Really, what’s the science again, and where’s the proof of that?” And we can talk about why some of that is, but I think, ultimately, the bigger problem is, you’re going to keep getting the diversionary answer. Again, Revolutionary Act, going outside of the authoritative circles, the people who supposedly know what they are talking about, and reading up from people like you, and people who are on the cutting edge, and are sort of progressive.
I’ll just mention this. When you look at the people who are giving you this advice, I have found, it is very interesting, that the healthiest-looking people I have interviewed are the ones who typically are a little out on the edge (laughs). It’s not the person who is in charge of the USDA food guidelines. It’s just not. I’m a big believer in, do what works for you, follow people who are living in a way that is appealing to you, and who you want to be like. And then see where you go.
Jonathan: I love it. Well, the third point in the Manifesto is very apropos, because after these first two points I can imagine viewers and listeners may be thinking, there is really just nothing I can do, the power is out of my hands. But in point three you bring it back and you say, “The time for complicity is over,” putting the responsibility back on us. Tell us what you mean there.
Pilar: Yes. I want to just preface this by saying that I am often the person railing against the, “Hey, it’s all about personal responsibility,” because as we talked about, our environment dictates our behavior and our environment is being run by something other than our personal responsibility or choices. That said, we have really bought into a lot of these unhealthy notions, and we have been quick to embrace a lot of stupid quick fixes. “Oh, I’ll just take this pill,” diet pills and powders, for example. Or, “I love the idea that I can have these Snackwells cookies. And yay, I can still eat cookies!” And we’re not reading the ingredients, we’re not understanding the ingredients. We’re buying in to these quick-fix solutions, in part because we love to believe them, and we are buying in to the conventional sources because they are convenient for us. If someone in our doctor’s office puts this guide into our hands, we can look at the guide and we can follow it, and then two months later we can say, “Well I tried, it didn’t work, I give up.”
I think there is the place where, rather than saying, “Well, you know what? This crap isn’t working at all. I’m going to keep looking. I’m going to try something else.” I think, for me, that’s where I started to feel empowered as an individual, when I started rejecting what I was reading in the women’s magazines of the day, and the health and fitness magazines of the day. So you know what? I just tried this program – I remember once, I think Shape Magazine put out one of the first interactive programs, and it was very sexy back in the day, they were going to email the program of what you were going to eat every day. And I tried that, for five days, “Okay, one toaster waffle… and [inaudible 23:54], and a margarine product, and some other,” and I thought, “Yech,” and I would be incredibly hungry and I would eat the thing they told me to eat for lunch, which was probably worse. After five days I was thinking, ”Okay, I’m really unhappy, I have very low energy, I feel like crap, and I’m not liking myself, and I’m just angry, and I feel like crap. I’m not doing this anymore.” And I just started figuring it out myself.
But I think we have created a culture where we are followers. “Just tell me what to eat.” That’s a very disempowered place to be, and I’m a big believer in experimenting, getting outside of a passive, receptive, just tell me what to do place, and going in search of information that makes more sense to you, and being willing to try it, and see how you feel. I think we’ve learned to tolerate the intolerable, and I do think that people have become, not just complicit, in the choices that they are making, but willing to settle for a lower level of vitality than they really need to, and I think the time for that is over.
Jonathan: I think it’s definitely possible. I like to use the example, and while personally, I will never be able to experience this, but I am always amazed and impressed that when a woman becomes pregnant, she is immediately able to say, “I now have a responsibility to take care of this blessing and this miracle that is my body, and this blessing and this miracle that is this new life that I am creating.” But somehow in our society, in month ten, that just dissolves, and a child that is ten months from conception is very different from a child that is nine months from conception. I use that because it is an example that we can do this. Millions – hundreds of millions of people, have successfully done this, bucked the system and said, “I will take responsibility.” Pilar, why do you think that only happens in nine-month segments?
Pilar: Well, it is interesting. A lot of the science around behavior change suggests that catalysts of pregnancy, or sometimes there are really nasty things, like a bad lab result, or a crisis, or a really humiliating experience sometimes, will get people to move from a place of contemplation, or pre-contemplation, into a place of preparation or action. With pregnancy, it is sort of a unique state, because there are all kinds of interesting hormonal things going on, too, and neurological things, like a protectedness about this little person, and you are right, once it is out of the body somehow it becomes a negotiable enterprise (laughs). But I think that there are daily reminders within pregnancy that are constantly catalysts, like, “Oh, this is another person,” and to be frank, a lot of women don’t. There are a lot of women who are pregnant who continue to do things, as we’ve seen, addicted women who continue to use. And a lot of women will continue to eat stuff, and in fact, will use pregnancy as permission to mal-treat their bodies. I don’t know whether that is the exception or the rule, I don’t have a statistic on that. It doesn’t work for everybody, that’s my point.
But there are a lot of people who will have other catalysts, and I see these people, too, who just reach this point where it’s enough pain for them, or they are about to have to undergo bariatric surgery, or they see someone near them suffer a heart attack, or go on dialysis, or have a leg amputated from diabetes, or something like that. And I think that those catalysts can be really important valuable opportunities to make change, but it doesn’t have to get to that point. I think what you do need to do, is connect with some internal value in yourself, whereby you believe you deserve to feel better than you do, and that it is possible for you, connecting to hope, connecting to the possibility that you could embrace a life that is bigger than the one that you have, and get into agreement with values that are really important to you, intrinsically. We will talk about the bikini body thing in a minute, and why that doesn’t work, but I think that if you are going to overcome inertia and you are going to overcome the tide of unhealthy forces coming against you, it requires a very deep sense of purpose, and a bigger why. And that’s what pregnancy provides, although again, not to everybody, unfortunately. Sometimes in nine-month intervals, whereas life tends to go on a bit longer than that.
The other thing that I will say, though, too, Jonathan, we didn’t talk a lot about prescription drugs, but I think that is another place that we have complicity, that we are willing to follow medical counsel sometimes that really goes against our own best interests. Sometimes I think one of the triggers that people have is when they get so fed up with taking 25 different medications a day, and they are having so many side effects that their quality of life has gotten so bad. Their libido is gone, their vitality is gone, their energy is gone, and they’ve got leg pain. At some point they say, “Okay, I’ve been willing to do this for five years, but my life is hell, it’s not worth living anymore. People literally get suicidal. Not that anybody should get to that point, but that frog in hot water problem, if you are brought to a boil slowly it is very different than just being tossed in.
Jonathan: Well, so far we’ve covered that there are major societal influences here, but we don’t have to fall victim to them, and then we turn the corner here with point four, where you say that, in other words, we don’t have to do it alone, because the resistance is alive and well.
Pilar: Yes. I think I mentioned before, when you and I talked, that it excites me so much to see people writing books like the one that you just wrote, and to see things that are questioning the lockstep that we have been in for the last 20-30 years, at least. I was talking with Kris Carr, who is very much a plant-based person. We don’t eat the same way, but we think the same way. Kris is all about like, “I want to start a revolution, man!” I want to help people do this. I want to help people come back from a cancer diagnosis, which really hurts. One of our main areas of focus is, how do you live well, and live better once you’ve had a cancer diagnosis? How do you learn how to do the disease thing differently? Because once we have a diagnosis, it’s like, “Oh my God,” you just give up, it’s horrible. You just put yourself into the hands of the medical system, and surprised when that doesn’t work.
There is this amazing and growing body of literature like Anticancer, Dr. Servan-Schreiber’s piece. I think Dr. Oz is a revolutionary, even though many people who are super-progressive say, well, he doesn’t go far enough, but this guy is on national television talking about things like functional medicine. He sends his family to functional medicine doctors. He understands that nutrition is important, and we’ll talk about that. Again, I don’t agree with him on everything, but I think he is part of a growing, very exciting movement. A lot of the books that have been written about cholesterol myths, the low-fat myths, people who are coming up with lots of different ways, none of which agree with the past 20 years of crappy advice we’ve gotten, and I consider them all to be different parts of a revolution that is marching forward, and I do think it’s happening. We’re in the middle of it right now, and I’m so happy to be a part of it, but I’m so relieved not to be doing it alone. I think for a long time I just felt like a voice in the wilderness, and I don’t feel that way anymore.
Jonathan: Absolutely. It is an exciting time. You take it even further with points 5 and 6. I’m going to combine them here, because I think there is a wonderful synergy between them. Number 5 is: Being healthy is a revolutionary act, which we’ve hit on, but then part of that revolution is to free your mind with point 6, and to realize that, as you say, this is not about six-pack abs and skinny jeans. It’s about a revolution. Tell us about that.
Pilar: This is the place, too, where the media has just taken ownership of the whole thing. There is this whole thing of six-pack abs. It has become a running joke now, with the cover of every Men’s Health magazine having “Your Best Body Ever,” and “How to Get Six-Pack Abs,” and every women’s magazine has “Drop Three Sizes, Get a Bikini Body in Four Days.” These repeating, echoing imperatives that tell you what should look like, and that that is the payoff for being healthy. Again, we’ve bought into this idea that that is the symbol of health and fitness, and it’s not. It’s just not.
Now, I will say, I think that being sexy and having a sexy, beautiful body is a lovely motivation, and I don’t think there is anybody that doesn’t necessarily want to look their best, but again, science. All of the behavior research shows us that connecting to extrinsic outside motivators, how other people see you, how you appear to other people, those aren’t really good lasting motivations. And what they do, unfortunately, a lot of the focus on bikini bodies and six-pack abs just messes with your mind. If you aren’t already looking like that, then you don’t feel like you are worthy of self-care. That’s what I got into as a young woman. “Oh, I’m supposed to look like that? Oh my God, if I don’t look like that, then I’m not sexy and healthy and fit.” And then I’m starting to hate myself more, and doing the kinds of things you do when you hate yourself more, eating at yourself, rather than feeding and nourishing yourself, for example.
I think if the mass media messages about what you should look like are messing with you, tune them out. Go other places. That’s why I always liked reading books and reading science. In some ways it was a refuge for me from the conventional health and fitness magazine set. And increasingly now, it’s social media. It is web-based media. It’s the same thing. “Six Celebrity Bikini Bodies That You Are Going to Want to have.” I just don’t even look at that stuff anymore. I don’t want to be sold on that line of goods. I think it’s become a kind of a fantasy symbol of health and fitness, but that’s not really what it’s all about.
Jonathan: It reminds me of the calorie myth in the sense that it tries to lowest common denominator everyone. It says, for example, this is the one goal that everyone should strive for, and that goal is ridiculous for some. A silly example, and I hate to use sports analogies because not everyone can associate with them, but I will try to break this one down as much as I can. I was an ex-football player, and most folks know, even if you are not super familiar with football that there will be enormous people on the line, and they are called linemen. Those are big, 300-pound people. And then you have, for example, wide receivers. Those are the people that are usually taller and thinner. Now, for anyone who has played football, you know that during conditioning, everyone does the same exercise, and everyone eats the same meals. The team exercises and eats together. But the linemen will never look like the wide receivers, and the wide receivers will never look like the linemen, even though they are both eating and exercising in the same way, because we are not all the same, and having that idea that everyone needs to be a wide receiver, we understand that that would be ridiculous on the football field, but we don’t take the same logic and apply it to everyday life.
Pilar: No, and comparing your body to someone else’s body, when I wrote The 101 Revolutionary Ways to Be Healthy, I worked on a piece about giving up body envy, release body envy, move beyond the compare the bodies game, because I think it’s really deadly, for men and women, you’re right. Because your body, your bone structure, all of these different things, your metabolism to some extent, just your natural composition, I think it is also really important to remember that the bodies that were shown on the covers of health and fitness magazines, or celebrities or movie stars represent a percentage of a percentage. Something like 0.005 percent of the population is born with bodies that are naturally inclined to looking that way. Ultimately, they are kind of freaks of nature.
Jonathan: Oh yeah, absolutely.
Pilar: But I also think it is very interesting to observe people who have bodies that are different than that conventional ideal, but who are so fit and so healthy, and so confident in their bodies, they’re like outrageously more sexy and appealing. You’re just drawn to them. You can’t take your eyes off of them. Not everybody can have Gizelle’s body. And not everybody would want it. Or, your favorite quarterback’s body. But you can have your body at its healthiest, and best, and most confident and self-loving, and self-accepting, and self-appreciating, and happy in the world, and showing up and giving your best gifts. People like that, I’m sorry – dead sexy. So sexy to be around.
Jonathan: Absolutely. I love that. I love that you said that, not in a derogatory sense, but these people we sometimes see in the media are freaks, in the sense that having the genetics to look that way is a bit like having the genetics to be an excellent sprinter. We all realize that we cannot all be Olympic sprinters. It is not because we’re not good enough, it’s just because we have different gifts. For all of our listeners and viewers, there are many things you do that none of our other viewers and listeners could do. They are your unique gifts. But in this one arena, we seem to say, “No, no, no. Every single person in the world should be able to achieve this freakish accomplishment which is only possible with, not only a life dedicated to it, but also a certain very limited set of genetics.”
Pilar: Yes, and by the way, while you are chasing the unachievable ideal, what aren’t you doing?
Pilar: How many young women do you see in high school who are so obsessed with counting calories and dieting and trying to fit into the next pair of skinny jeans and look like whoever their current role model is, Miley Cyrus or somebody?
Jonathan: I hope they’re not trying to look like… (laughs)
Pilar: They’re twerking (laughs). We laugh about it, but honestly Jonathan, a huge amount of bandwidth is being taken up, not just by adolescent girls, but by grownup men and women who have other business on this planet besides trying to fit into the next pair of jeans or look a certain way. It just breaks my heart to think how much distraction there is, and how it is debilitating people, and disempowering them from pursuing healthier choices, happier choices, more empowering choices that would contribute, not just to their own personal happiness, but to a more exalted place for all of us to be.
Jonathan: Such a critical point, Pilar. Tell me if I’m hitting on the same point here, that health and fitness is a means to an end. We live in a culture where you spend 15 hours in the week exercising. Okay, you could spend 15 hours a week doing much worse things, but what if you could spend three hours a week keeping your body in tip-top shape so that those other twelve hours could be spent helping the world?
Pilar: Right. And think about it this way. Let me just toss this one out there for you. What if you figure out, in some of those hours, what really lights you up, what actually makes you happy? I can’t remember, the quote is escaping me, but it is basically that the world needs more people who are lit up. That’s what the world needs. I think that when we focus on this lowest common denominator goal of looking a certain way, it all becomes about the weight. “If I was just 20 pounds lighter, and if I just had 25,000 more dollars, and if I just…” It’s like these attenuations, putting off into some future fantasy what it would take for you to be happy.
I think that whole mindset if just screwed up. That wish self keeps buying the next cover of Men’s Health, the next cover of Women’s Fitness, the next diet product, the next low-cal piece of food, the next weight shake, or whatever the gimmicky, fitnessy thing is. I do believe that it is less about the time, really, than it is about the reward. Are you doing stuff that is making you happy? Okay, maybe it’s time-efficient, but is it joy-efficient, more than that? If you are spending all your time looking in the mirror to see if your butt looks okay, and doing compulsive workouts to try to improve the way your butt looks, you’re probably not chasing a bigger dream, and that bigger dream is the thing that really deserves more space.
Jonathan: Now I can see why you named your magazine what you did: You’re Not Experiencing Life. And that’s just brilliant. That’s makes a lot of sense. Folks, I’m going to make you go visit Pilar on the web to get tips 7, 8, and 9, because they are wonderful, but I want to make sure that we have enough time for number 10. I love number 10, because it closes with hope, which is always great, and some solutions. Number 10: Solutions in the mirror may be closer than they appear. Pilar, we’ve covered a bunch of challenges. We have also covered a lot of hope, because now we know that a different approach, an actual different approach, not just a different way to eat less and exercise more, and a more fun way to count calories, we’re actually going to take a different approach, we’re going to get a different result. Why are solutions closer than they may appear?
Jonathan: The idea is that it really starts with you. Would you mind if I just read this, Jonathan?
Jonathan: Yes, go ahead.
Pilar: Number 10: “The scope and scale of our national health crisis is so massive that it may seem beyond all hope, but it is not. In fact, each of us has an important role to play in solving these problems for ourselves and for each other. Every time one of us starts taking the steps necessary to build and protect our health, we rescind our support of the nasty systems that are breaking millions of us down, and if enough of us start treating our own bodies well, we will create new norms of vitality and well being. If we band together to demand and embrace healthier options, in our grocery stores, cafeterias, homes, workplaces, schools, health care centers, neighborhoods, we can reverse the trends that have been depleting our life force for decades. Most of the trends and public policies responsible for our country’s ill health have occurred over the past 40 years, in large part, by design, and they can be turned around in a fraction of that time by a swell of grass roots insistence. So, if you can make that happen, do. Connect with others who share your healthy convictions. Then go boldly forth and start thriving, one conscious thought, one empowering choice, one revolutionary act at a time.”
Jonathan: Woo, I got chills! I love it! That is so wonderful. Pilar, that just speaks volumes. Rather than trying to top that, I’m going to wave my white flag and say, “You just got that. That is beautiful.” And Pilar, where can folks go to learn more about this, to learn more about you, to re-read for themselves that amazing passage that you just shared with us? Give us the 411.
Pilar: Sure, it’s revolutionaryact.com. There, they can find the Manifesto. Also, a feature article that I wrote that contains a lot of interesting statistics that kind of launched the Manifesto. The Manifesto was originally just part of that article. It’s called, “Being Healthy Is a Revolutionary Act.” It is wisdom for thriving in a mixed-up world. It’s available at the website, as is a really cool interactive web feature called “101 Revolutionary Ways to be Healthy.” It’s a mouse rollover deal and that’s a mobile app, too, that people can get for their iPhone or Android or Kindle, or just about any device through the iTunes store or wherever you get your apps. I recommend that. And then experiencelife.com is the site for the magazine. They link together, revolutionaryact.com is powered by experiencelife.com, and so you will find a lot of cool content there, as well.
Jonathan: The coolest content of all, Pilar, I feel, is the woman on the other end of the camera here, and that is, yourself. Where can we learn more about you as an individual? Because certainly, you inspire me, and I’m sure you inspire our viewers. Where can we learn more about you and what you are up to next?
Pilar: Thank you. Well, I’m building my own website for the very first time in my history. I’ve always been the woman behind a magazine. Finally, I’ve got a fan page on Facebook: Pilar-Gerasimo. And on Twitter I’m P. Gerasimo, which is pgerasimo.