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Mills alum finds success with health magazine


Mills alum Pilar Gerasimo is the founder and Editor in Chief of Experience Life magazine, dedicated to leading a healthy and fit lifestyle. Gerasimo majored in French and Comparative Literature. (Courtesy of Pilar Gerasimo)


Forget about the cayenne pepper diet, swallowing tapeworms and eating nothing but cabbage soup and take a look at Mills alum Pilar Gerasimo’s ideas for of healthy living.

From a communal farm in Wisconsin, to Mills College, to forging and editing a new genre of fitness magazine: Experience Life, Gerasimo has helped define what it really means to be healthy.

This year marks Experience Life‘s 10th anniversary. Founded by Gerasimo in 2001, she described her publication as being an “alternative” health and fitness magazine. It’s headquarters are in St. Paul Minnesota, but readers can find the magazine throughout the country.

The now 44-year-old Editor in Chief and Fullbright scholar graduated with honors from Mills in 1990 with a degree in Comparative Literature and French.

Though her studies may not have directly led to her discovery and passion for healthy living, Gerasimo said she uses what she learned at Mills in all aspects of her life.

“My education I use everyday,” she said. “It gave me a whole different way of questioning the world.”

Her energy in the classroom was not forgotten easily by one of Gerasimo’s role models, Mary Jorgensen, a former French professor at Mills.

“I absolutely remember her,” Jorgensen said. “I remember her charm and intelligence. She radiated.”

Though it’s been nearly 30 years since Gerasimo and Jorgensen have shared a classroom, both look back fondly on the other.

“I fell in love with French because of her,” Gerasimo said of Jorgensen.

But Gerasimo’s time at Mills also marked a distinct change in how she felt about food and fitness.

Growing up on a communal farm run by her mother, Gerasimo ate organically grown goods throughout her entire childhood. It wasn’t until she left home and headed to college that she experienced the downfall of processed foods.

“I rejected everything my mother had taught me,” she said. “I started to be concerned about losing weight, even though I wasn’t overweight.”

Media stereotypes and the lack of organic food options during her college years sent Gerasimo in search of a new way of thinking about health.

“I had to figure it out the hard way,” she said about her path back to a healthy lifestyle.

In her search to find her perfect health routine, Gerasimo realized why it was so difficult to be healthy, even for those who were motivated to do so.

“Most of the cookie cutter solutions really weren’t solutions at all,” Gerasimo said about the “get fit quick” plans found in so many health and fitness magazines.

And so, the first inklings of Experience Life magazine came to life, with the help of Life Time Fitness Inc., the operator of 90 health and fitness clubs throughout the United States, which publishes the magazine.

And she wasn’t, as the magazine currently has a circulation of over 600,000, according to its website.

Throughout Experience Life magazine’s existence, Gerasimo has discovered her ideal health regime. This year, she decided to share discoveries of how to be and stay healthy in today’s society of over-processed foods and unrealistic body images with her readership.

“I realized I never really sat down and wrote what my most fundamental beliefs were about health,” she said. “I had a burnign desire to put it out there and see what would happen.”

Her article, “Being Healthy is a Revolutionary Act: Renegade Perspectives for Thriving in a Mixed-Up World,” discusses the challenges people face when trying to be healthy, particularly that our society has mixed-up values when it comes to food and dieting.

Her article includes “A Manifesto for Thriving in a Mixed-Up World,” Gerasimo’s list of ten “revolutionary truths” about being healthy, which she then turned into an interactive webpage with 101 revolutionary ways to be healthy.

The list spans from her number one truth, “The way we are living is crazy,” to the number five truth, “Being healthy is a revolutionary act,” to her last truth, “Solutions in the mirror may be closer than they appear.”

Through her ten truths Gerasimo advises her readers to resist societal and cultural norms of over-processed foods and the need to have “six-pack abs and skinny jeans.”

Much of her health advise goes back to eating organic, “real,” foods and staying active, in any way possible.

Gerasimo currently lives back at the 300 acre organic farm in Wisconsin where she grew up, along with her husband, Zack Jacobson, and a three-legged pitbull, Frida, though everyone just calls her Muppy. Her oldest sister, Luisa Gerasimo, has a house there, too.

Luisa Gerasimo graduated from Mills as well, just three years before Pilar. She was the one responsible for getting Pilar to Mills in the first place.

“Mills impressed the socks off me,” she said, “and I talked Pilar into visiting me.”

Luisa described the then 18-year-old Pilar as being somewhat of a “homebody.”

“She was a heavy reader as a kid,” Luisa said “and she was kind of a late bloomer. She didn’t really blossom until college.”

Though both sisters live on the family farm, Luisa does not follow the same health regime as Pilar.

“She has the most disgusting breakfast,” Luisa said about Pilar’s daily concoction of fruits and veggies. “She puts things in the blender that don’t belong there.”




Follow Pilar Gerasimo on Twitter @pgerasimo or her fitness magazine @ExperienceLife.