Healthy Deviance

What does it mean to be a healthy person in an unhealthy culture? What happens when we choose to reject the norms of a society that’s making us sick and unhappy a lot of the time? Journey with us into The Way of the Healthy Deviant.

This week on The Living Experiment, we’re talking about one of Pilar’s all-time favorite topics: Healthy Deviance.

It’s a favorite because it’s the subject of the book she’s writing (update: now available wherever books are sold, and also as an audiobook!), and also an idea at the core of the work she’s been doing for the past 15 years or so — including this podcast!

So, what does it mean to be a healthy person in an unhealthy culture? What’s required of us, and what’s available to us, when we choose to reject the norms of a society that’s making a lot of us sick and unhappy a lot of the time?

And how the heck can you even hope to do that when there seems to be so much working against you?

These are questions that both of us are fascinated by, and that we each explore in our own work in different ways.

So here, we journey together into The Way of the Healthy Deviant, and we offer you some fun opportunities to experiment with Healthy Deviance in your own life.

“Healthy Deviance” Episode Highlights

  • Pilar’s personal health journey and how it led her to become a rebellious health experimenter, a media-industry disruptor — and, ultimately, a Healthy Deviant
  • The evolution of Healthy Deviance as expressed through Pilar’s earlier works and projects, including Experience Life magazine, her Manifesto for Thriving in a Mixed Up World, and the “101 Revolutionary Ways to Be Healthy” mobile app
  • Seeing what Pilar calls our “Unhealthy Default Reality” as a real-life Matrix of sorts — understanding the challenges and rewards involved in unplugging from the dominant-culture definitions of “normal”
  • Evolutionary biology 101: Seeing the origins of our health crisis in the agricultural revolution, and understanding why “Paleo” diets and workouts alone can’t provide a solution to our modern-day challenges
  • Pilar describes The Way of the Healthy Deviant, including what she sees as three key competencies:
    • 1) Amplified Awareness (valuing, developing and safeguarding your own attention);
    • 2) Preemptive Repair (getting ahead of the daily damage that causes depletion, inflammation, imbalance and illness); and
    • 3) Continuous Growth and Learning (progressively building and expanding the “skills of the healthy person”)
  • The value of embracing the quest for Healthy Deviance as a Hero’s Journey — an energizing adventure and opportunity for creative self-expression — rather than just a tough, thankless slog

1) Choose a task or activity you already do, and make it a little healthier.

  • Examples: Minimize the amount of time you spend on social media, add a second vegetable to your meal rather than accepting the default offering of starch.

2) Deviate from the status quo or challenge a social norm, and experience what happens.

  • For example: Disengage from the onslaught of news, or pause some other “normal” habitual choice or action, just to observe the result and reaction.
  • Pilar offers up the example of an assignment her father, the late sociologist Jerry Gerasimo, PhD, loved to give his students to help them understand the power of social norms: Upon entering an elevator, face the back rather than facing the front; notice how incredibly uncomfortable this makes everyone, including you.

Start seeing our Unhealthy Default Reality. For one day, pay close attention to the forces that lead you to make less-healthy rather than more-healthy choices, and notice all the subtle and not-so-subtle ways the Unhealthy Default Reality shapes your choices and behaviors.

  • Don’t feel obliged to change your behavior in the moment of noticing. Just become more aware of the process by which you are influenced.
  • Consider jotting your observations in a journal so you can see them accumulating.
  • At the end of the day, review your notes/experiences and decide if you feel motivated to do anything differently tomorrow.
  • Unhealthy Default Reality factors might include limited available food options and promotions/pricing for unhealthy products (e.g., “Supersize” and “two-for-one” offers); limited opportunities for movement; exposure to streams of advertising and media; social norms that dictate how you manage your energy and time; social and environmental contexts that affect your mood and stress; limited opportunities for rewarding/authentic social interaction; inadequate recovery time; scheduling requirements or media habits that limit your sleep; and so on.

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PLUS . . .

The Healthy Deviant by Pilar Gerasimo (Book)
The Healthy Deviant: A Rule Breaker’s Guide to Being Healthy in an Unhealthy World by Pilar Gerasimo