Pilar Gerasimo, Experience Life Founding Editor

Revolutionary Acts

Experience Life founding editor Pilar Gerasimo shares her renegade perspectives for thriving in a mixed-up world.

Monthly Archives: March 2010

Experience Life Magazine

Why I Do Not Dig Diet Soda

DietSoda.jpgOK, I am not going to rant. But I need to get this out of my system: I think diet soda is awful. I think all soda is awful, actually (yes, I know there are no “bad” foods, but I hold soda in approximately the same regard as those puffy orange Circus Peanuts — these are not really “foods,” per se). Diet soda, in my view, is especially insidious.

Here are my top 10 reasons:

1. There is absolutely no proof that diet soda helps people lose weight. The calorie-reduction argument is total bunk, and zero studies have shown a positive correlation between drinking diet soda and weight loss. On the contrary, there’s significant evidence that diet sodas and other noncaloric, artificially sweetened drinks actually lead — quite powerfully — to weight gain. (See “6 ‘Healthy’ Food Choices to Rethink” for more on that.

2. Diet sodas are billed as being good for type 2 diabetics and other blood-sugar- challenged types, but they aren’t. Because of something called the “cephalic phase response,” your body tastes the sweetness, and even though there are no calories to shuttle, the brain triggers a release of insulin from the pancreas and also a “Sugar is coming! Stop-burning fat” response from the liver. The result is the usual array of insulin-related problems (increased urge to eat, increased tendency toward fat storage, pro-inflammatory biochemical cascade), plus an arrest of healthy protein-and-starch production, and a confusion of the body’s built-in caloric monitoring systems, all of which compel you to plump up and eat even more unhealthy stuff later. (For more on this dynamic, read the article, “Poor Substitutes.”)

3. The act of drinking diet soda — and of seeing it in your fridge — sends your psyche a slew of negative, demoralizing, less-than-healthy mental messages (I am afraid of getting fat; I don’t trust my body to crave the right things; I need to be on a diet; I am compelled to drink sweet stuff, even though I know it’s not good for me; I’m being “good” now so I can be “bad” later), all of which tend to drive other unhealthy eating behaviors even as they trigger disempowering feelings of self-denial and self-indulgence. (For more on this dynamic, see my Thoughts From the Editor column, “View to a Fridge.”)

4. Diet soda contains all kinds of icky chemicals that add to your body’s toxic burden, lowering your immunity, contributing to inflammation and reducing your body’s ability to deal effectively with other, less easily avoided toxins like those pervasive in our food, water, body-care products and environment.

5. Diet sodas and the chemically derived artificial sweeteners they contain (especially aspartame) may act as neurotoxins and have been linked to headaches, memory problems, anxiety, brain fog, depression, skin irritations, menstrual problems, fibromyalgia, joint pain and more. (You can read up on the scientific debate about this both in the aforementioned “Poor Substitutes” and in our article “Excitotoxins.”)

6. Artificial sweeteners and artificial colors tend to drive cravings for more sweet and hyper-flavored foods (more diet soda, please!) and reduce your ability to properly taste more subtle flavors or natural foods, perverting your palate and dissuading you from making other healthy changes to your diet because nothing natural tastes the way it ought to.

7. Frequent sipping or gulping of diet soda blunts your thirst, reducing your intake of pure water, which is a much better choice for hydration and helps to clear toxins from your system (vs. further polluting it). Regular imbibing of soda may also interfere with your body’s healthy hunger signals and thus dissuade you from eating healthy snacks that would support good nutrition, metabolism, energy and mental function throughout the day.

8. The acids in diet soda (and regular soda, for that matter) eat away at the enamel on your teeth. They also are acidifying to your entire system, and thus disruptive to your general health, including the good flora in your gut, where about 60 percent of your immune system resides.

9. Diet soda (like regular soda) is generally bottled or canned, and its aficionados tend to drink it by the case, multi-liter twin pack and so on — day in, day out, year after year after year. Habitually imbibing packaged drinks creates all kinds of nonbiodegradeable garbage, and every aspect of soda production (from manufacturing and packaging to transport — and even its recycling) is an unnecessarily wasteful use of fossil fuels. Drinking any soda is also incredibly expensive, an important point for anyone who protests that they can’t afford high-quality food or decent nutritional supplements.

10. Despite all its amalgamated cruddiness, diet sodas somehow get a pass in practically all weight-loss plans, and are actually promoted by many dietitians as “free” foods or “good” treats despite the fact that they are categorically lousy for people. They are aggressively advertised as being “better choices” for health- and weight-conscious people, and as a result, many kids and teenagers make them a habit early in life. Every time I see this pro-diet-soda dynamic in action, it just chaps my hide and makes me dislike the stuff even more.

OK, I wound up ranting a little. Sorry. I know that many people who adore diet soda and have been sold on its wonderfulness may take issue with my demonization of these beverages. To which I say: Let’s agree to disagree. If drinking it makes you happy enough, or is an occasional enough dalliance that none of the above matters, drink away!

And to those who find themselves addicted to diet soda, I can only say take heart: Thousands before you have broken the addiction and found themselves astonished by how much better they feel.

My recommendation: For a week, start each day with a big bottle full of pure water with a slice of cucumber or orange or lemon floating in it. Sip away, avoid the soda aisles and vending machines, and just see if you don’t start feeling better yourself.

Experience Life Magazine

And the Illumination 2010 Ticket Winner Is …

Thanks so much to all of you who responded to my Illumination ticket giveaway question — all of the entries were fantastic! Clearly, there are a lot of you out there who are ready to take the next step toward reaching your goals.

On that note, I’m excited to announce that the winner of the pair of tickets, as selected by the Illumination planning committee, is Chelsey Fischer! Congratulations, Chelsea — I look forward to meeting you at the event on March 27th.

For anyone else who’s interested in attending Illumination, it’s not too late! In fact, I have six discounted tickets to make available ($89 vs. $150). Here’s how to nab one or more of ‘em:

Step 1: Visit the Illumination conference Web site at www.illuminationevent.com.


Step 2: Click on the picture of the tickets on the right-hand side of the homepage that say “Order Yours Now.”


Step 3: Identify the quantity of tickets you’d like to purchase on the “Conference Attendee Regular Price” ticket line.


Step 4: Click on the Gold Type just about the PayPal button that says, “Enter Discount Code.”


Step 5: Enter Pilar as the discount code.


Step 6: Click the “Apply Discount” button.


Step 7: Complete your order by clicking the “Check out with PayPal” button.


That’s it! The first six people who register for the event using my discount code — again, it’s simply Pilar — will get tickets for just $89.

Hope to see you on the 27th!

Experience Life Magazine

Time to Shine: Win 2 Tickets to Illumination 2010!

I’m a big believer in the idea that we owe it to ourselves and everyone around us to enjoy life at our healthiest, happiest, shiniest best. That’s why I’ll be joining inspired women from all over the Minneapolis-St. Paul area on Saturday, March 27, for a day of self-discovery and expansion.

It’s called Illumination 2010, and it’s an amazing event dedicated to bringing the best and brightest in each of us.

Wanna come? I have a pair of tickets to give away! If you’re interested, save the date (it’s an all-day extravaganza), and then read on for how to get tickets! Hop on it, though: you have less than 48 hours to enter!

As part of the event, I’ll be leading an interactive workshop called “Grow Your Goals: An Organic Process for Positive Life Change.”

VisionLandscape.jpgIt’s an introduction to a fun, creative approach I developed for helping people clarify their personal vision and goals, developing solid action plans — and then making them happen.

With that in mind, I’d like to know:

How do you envision your ideal future? 
What positive changes are you looking to make next?

Simply leave your response as a comment on this blog entry by midnight Friday, March 12, and you’ll automatically be entered to win two tickets (valued at over $225). The winner will be selected based on the thoughtfulness and authenticity of his or her comment, as well as the spirit and clarity of the vision and/or goals identified.

The winner — selected by the Illumination planning committee and yours truly — will be announced on Monday, March 15, here at my blog. If you’re the winner, I’ll also personally contact you via email. And I’ll seek you out to say “hi!” at the conference, too!

You can learn more about Illumination 2010, its amazing cast of presenters (Joan Steffend, Liv Lane, Maryanne O’Brien and more) and how to purchase tickets at www.illuminationevent.com.

But if you want a shot at winning two FREE tickets, remember to leave your entry/comment below now.

Hope to see you (and a few of your friends) there!

Illumination-Big.jpg

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. The “Experience Life Illumination: Time to Shine Giveaway” is subject in all respects to the complete Official Rules, which are available upon request. Giveaway is only open to entrants who, as of the entry date, are legal U.S. residents and are at least 18 years old. Giveaway is void where prohibited or restricted by law. Entries must be posted by midnight CST on 3/12/10. Sponsor: Experience Life, 2145 Ford Parkway, Suite 105, St. Paul, MN 55116.

Experience Life Magazine

Cup of Dreams

I’ve been driven bonkers for years now by how hard it is — outside of San Francisco, Seattle or Portland — to find a coffee shop that offers a latté made with organic milk. I hardly ever drink milk, so if I’m going to indulge in a latté, I want the real, unadulterated thing. And the real, unadulterated thing is surprisingly tough to come by.

Once upon a time, for a brief moment, some Starbucks locations stocked perma-keep, aseptically packed organic milk for picky drinkers like me, but then they stopped. (I believe this was about the same time they expanded their hideous selection of pale, low-fat pastries — perhaps they ran short of shelf space).

Anyway, with the crazy hope that my inquiries will contribute to some kind of critical-mass consumer demand, I’ve just kept on asking every barista I encounter: “Do you have organic milk?” Typically, the bewildered person behind the counter asks me to repeat the question. Sometimes they say “Sorry, no.” But more often, they reply with something ambiguous like, “Um … we have soy?”

Sigh.

Well, thanks to the wonderful word-of-mouth chain at work (one of our editors, Anjula, told another of our editors, Courtney, and Courtney told me), I yesterday discovered a coffee shop I had hitherto only dared dream of: Kopplin’s (www.kopplinscoffee.com) in St. Paul.

KopplinsCoffee_Cropped.jpg

On the first day of spring weather, my dad, Jerry Gerasimo, and
Experience Life senior editor Courtney Helgoe soaked up sun and superb
coffee outside Kopplin’s (Hamline and Randolph, St. Paul).

Not only do they offer organic milk, it’s the only milk they serve. And it’s not just organic: It’s whole organic — from local, pasture-fed cows grazed on organic grass — and it’s packed in glass bottles.

But wait, it gets better. Kopplin’s also serves fair-trade coffee — divine espresso drinks and a beautiful array of made-fresh-by-the-cup drip brews — prepared to perfection. Seriously, best latté I’ve had inside the U.S., and quite possibly the best latté I’ve had ever.

Anyway, for all these reasons and more (no skim, no decaf, lots of thought behind all their decisions and aesthetics — visit their FAQ page for more info), Kopplin’s is my new favorite coffee shop.

The crazy part is, they’ve been there for years, right in the ‘hood — I just didn’t know about them.

I figure if THIS wild hope of mine can come true, it means that dozens of others can, too. Walking and biking paths everywhere! Kids learning how their brains and digestive systems work in grade school! Family farmers making a living doing what they love! Hurrah!

Somewhere(s), right now, I know all these and many more wonderful things are happening, and I trust that they — like the Kopplin’s coffee shops of the world –will just continue to flourish. In the meantime, any time I get discouraged about the state of the world, I’m going to Kopplin’s for a whole-milk latté. I’ll just take my seat on the sidewalk and sip until my hope is nudged from its slumber.