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Book Review — Drop Dead Healthy by AJ Jacobs

 

Title: DROP DEAD HEALTHY – One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection

Author: A. J. Jacobs

→ Devour it

Nibble till it’s gone

Spit it out

 

AJ Jacobs is an immersion journalist. For previous books he spent time living the Bible and reading the encyclopedia. This time, he realized he wasn’t very healthy so he tried to “maximize health from head to toe,” getting up close and personal with each body part to learn how to make it the healthiest it can be.

His goal was to follow all the advice out there about healthy living — ALL the advice. Quite impossible, as you know, especially since so much is contradictory advice. For instance, trying to find the “best” diet. He says, “If you could lock ten thousand people in identical rooms for eighty years and feed half of them nothing but vegan food and feed the other half nothing but steak and eggs, and keep everything else the same, you could have some real data. But unless a Bond villain decides to pursue a doctorate in nutrition, that’s not going to happen.”

Jacobs tucks away lots of useful little nuggets. Like when he felt his willpower slipping away while trying to give up sugar. He wrote out a large “disincentive” check to the American Nazi Party, which is an organization that would make him sick to support. He’d see the signed, ready-to-mail check whenever he was in the grip of a seemingly uncontrollable sugar craving. He reports it was one of the most effective strategies to tame his weakness.

And this newsy nugget, when one of his experts explained that, despite what you’ve heard about carpel tunnel syndrome, it’s mostly inherited. That is, unless your job involves using a vibrating power tool in a very cold room, like people who process human cadavers for orthopedic use. “Jeffrey Dahmer was probably at high risk for carpel tunnel.”

Stuff you didn’t know you didn’t know.

Not only was this a fact-based, interesting read, it was also poignant and laugh-out-loud funny.

He talks about Coco Chanel, who is on his list of the top five health villains because of her influence in creating the idea of worshipping the sun. He points out her Nazi spy collaboration and adds, “Which makes her life especially ironic — she was involved with two opposed evils: white supremacy and tanning.”

At the beginning of each chapter he lists his stats that month. For Month 18 he lists:

“Days I activated Freedom software (prevents Internet access, thus lowering stress and improving concentration): 19.

Days I rebooted my computer in order to short-circuit Freedom software: 15.”

He wanted to jump-start his sex life but his wife was skeptical of his plans. “You can’t get much more testosterone-deprived than having your wife forbid you from taking testosterone supplements.”

Wiser words were never uttered.

Pretend you wanted to write a non-fiction book. Would you ever immerse yourself into that endeavor for two years or so? What idea would you like to explore?