At a recent independent bookstore event, I discovered that the co-founder of “Experience Life” magazine, Pilar Gerasimo, just released a book, entitled “The Healthy Deviant: A Rule Breaker’s Guide to Being Healthy in an Unhealthy World.”
Of course, I was eager to devour this compilation and on top of this enthusiasm, I had the good fortune to obtain a used copy from my favorite local bookseller.
I was not disappointed; the content is fantastically entertaining. It is filled with fun infographics, creative illustrations and fascinating statistics (such as 50 percent of U.S. adults are diagnosed with chronic illness, 68 percent are overweight or obese, 70 percent are taking at least one prescription drug, 80 percent are mentally or emotionally “not flourishing” and 97.3 percent are not maintaining healthy habits).
You may be puzzling over the term “healthy deviant.” Both her book and website (www.thehealthydeviant.com) supply the following definition: “One who willingly defies unhealthy norms and conventions in order to achieve a high level of vitality, resilience and autonomy.”
The first part of her book explores this idea thoroughly. Gerasimo explains her motivation for writing on this topic: “Currently, we live in a culture that produces more unhealthy, unhappy people than healthy, happy ones. … if you aren’t breaking the rules, you’re probably breaking yourself.”
She talks about how our current American culture is not fostering our needs for belonging, connection, growth and meaning. She provides an extensive, thought-provoking list of “unhealthy default perspectives,” then counters it with a marvelous illustration of “virtuous cycle of healthy deviance.”
You will discover a “weird symptom checklist,” and if you go to her website, there is a really cool free quiz. This quiz tells you where you fall on the healthy deviant scale. (I scored a 96, but I have been working on all these things since 1997. Health is a constant work-in-progress.) This part of the book really resonated with me, especially the section entitled “Pissed-Off Body Syndrome.” I can really relate to this term because when reviewing lab work with patients I will sometimes say things like “your liver, kidneys, pancreas, gut, ___(fill in the blank) is/are really pissed off if their lab results are abnormal.” Gerasimo provides another circular pictorial illustrating that unmet basic needs lead to pissed-off body syndrome, which leads to disease diagnosis and symptom suppression that leads to a health-care crisis.
She encourages everyone to embrace three renegade rituals: 1) morning minutes; 2) ultradian rhythm breaks (URBs); and 3) nighttime wind-down ritual.
I found the ultradian rhythm section fascinating because I had never learned about this concept before. Essentially, ultradian rhythms are biological patterns which dictate how your body functions in time. The purpose of these particular rhythms help your body and mind protect and rebuild themselves, optimize your mental and physical performance, and build your resilience.
For each suggested renegade ritual, she provides step-by-step practice tips and optional activities to incorporate these practices.
Near the end of the book, Gerasimo provides brief guidance on food and eating, sleep and recovery, exercise, stress management, self-image, media literacy, science literacy and health-care literacy. She shares a 14-day implementation plan. Chapter 22 is chock full of tools on journal pages, check-off charts, signage, article podcast recommendations (The Living Experiment), free downloads, workbooks and a free ‘ideal day’ guided visualization.
She wraps it all up by daring everyone to make disruptive healthy choices daily, “call out the crazy,” and create a community of like-minded individuals.
Whether you choose to read this book or not, Gerasimo has provided numerous free resources to help anyone redefine their health priorities and find ways to create and maintain balance amongst (or despite) the chaos. She offers a critical message in an amazingly refreshing and inspirational format on ways to improve your life to create joy.
Rachel Oppitz has lived in Park Rapids with her husband, daughter and dog since 2006. She is a naturopathic doctor and owns Itasca Naturopathic Clinic in Park Rapids and Bemidji. In her spare time, she loves to read, workout with friends, play games, do jigsaw puzzles, camp, hike, bike, canoe, travel, do guided meditations on Insight Timer, try new recipes, listen to music and journal.