I hope you’re ready for a little book talk today because I’ve got a great one to tell you about! A little while ago (actually, it was more like a few months ago) I was sent a copy of AJ Jacobs‘ most recent book, Drop Dead Healthy. As many of you know I’m a big magazine reader but don’t read real books (apart from cookbooks) very often because I can never find the time. However, this particular one sounded intriguing so when the publisher asked if I’d like a copy, I happily accepted.
If you haven’t heard of AJ Jacobs in the past, he’s the Editor at Large at Esquire magazine, and has also written for publications including The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly and New York magazine. He’s even been on Oprah, and well, you know you’re big when you’ve done that! Book-wise, AJ has written 3 New York Times bestsellers:
- The Know-It-All
- The Year of Living Biblically
- My Life as an Experiment: One Man’s Humble Quest to Improve Himself
His most recent, Drop Dead Healthy, chronicles his quest to become the healthiest man alive by trying as many health-promoting products, regimes, and plans as possible, all while trying to figure out what exactly “healthy” means. His motivation? Three years ago, Jacobs was hospitalized with tropical pneumonia. After coming out of that experience, he decided it was time to make a change to his health and transform his “python-that-swallowed-a-goat type of body” (his words, not mine). To do this, he consulted a super posse of top doctors, researchers, nutritionists and trainers. He made an enormously long list of healthy to-dos, then set out on a 2 year adventure to accomplish them all.
In each chapter, Jacobs investigates a new body part or bodily system. Everything from fingers to the brain to testacles are researched, and each health experiment that he conducted is documented (as well as many of his wife Julie’s reactions, which I thought were fantastic!) As you may have imagined, Drop Dead Healthy was a hilarious read. When the publisher first asked if I’d be interested in the book, I absolutely did not anticipate laughing as much as I did as I flicked through the pages. Oh, and an interesting thing about those pages… there are 375, and AJ typed them all on his treadmill desk, walking 1,200 miles in the process. That’s my kind of multitasking!
I highly recommend reading this book from cover to cover, but just in case you need more convincing, here are some of the bits that still stick out in my mind:
- When investigating the skull…. AJ learned that more people die from drunk walking than drunk driving on a per-mile basis, and there are over 25,000 pedestrian accidents each year. In effort to avoid adding to this statistic, he walked around New York City (his home) for a week wearing a helmet.
- On eating slowly…. Jacobs observes that our culture has become far too familiar with wolfing down food, so he tests (and encourages others to embrace) Chewdaism. That’s the thorough chewing of food, as opposed to trying to swallow it whole. As a result, we improve our ability to digest foods and make the nutrients more available for absorption. The pioneers of Chewdaism recommend 50-100 chews, but AJ’s alright with just 15. (I encourage you to see how many times you chew each bite the next time you have a meal. When I did, even 15 seemed like a lot!)
- On movement (and lack of)…. Sitting for extended periods of time is really really bad for us, and can increase our risk of various cancers (as can just about everything else in the world it seems, but that’s not the point.) Since AJ was so fully committed to this project, he invested materials for a treadmill desk, opted to run errands (literally run them, and sometimes sprint them), and fidget, because fidgeters burn more calories than non-fidgeters. Oh, and when he and Julie competed with each other to see who could log their daily 10,000 steps on their pedometers, he was a fierce competitor. One day, 514 of those steps were accumulated while turning the house upside down looking for his son’s stuffed elephant.
- On excretion…. It tuns out we shouldn’t use toilets. Instead, we should revert back to caveman days and squat in order to excrete waste from our bodies. Why? According to AJ’s research (and yes, there are studies to support this), squatting puts us in a better position to ‘go’ faster, and doesn’t encourage hemorrhoids like toilets do. Betchya didn’t know that one! To test, AJ ordered Nature’s Platform. You can probably guess what it is, but if you’d like to be entertained, follow the link and have a read. As he so correctly writes, “It fits over your toilet and turns your flush American Standard into a third-world hole in the ground.”
- On physical exercise… Make workouts short and intense, and if possible, incorporate natural body movements. When experimenting with physical activity, AJ tried everything from Intensati to The Caveman Workout. In the latter, he sprinted, crawled, and swung his arms around with a pack of primal, raw meat-eating enthusiasts in Central Park.
Near the end of the book, AJ consults one of the members of his super advisory panel, Dr Steven Bratman. Bratman is the doctor who coined the term orthorexia, or the disorder in which one is obsessed with achieving optimal health. Bratman figures that people who obsess over ensuring that they always obtain the highest standard of health (whatever that is), are in fact, not healthy. I think orthorexia could be an entirely new post in itself because we could debate forever what is healthy behaviour and what’s not, but I think he has a point.
I won’t spoil the ending for you by telling you what happens, but I really liked that the book closed with the sentiment that it’s all about balance. Yes, there are things we can do to improve our physical, mental, and emotional condition, but in the end, we’re only on this Earth for a short amount of time (relatively speaking) so I think enjoying the process and having fun is just as important.
If you’re interested in seeing more photos of AJ’s transformation, check out some of these photos from his Huffington Post article. To read more about what he learned, check out his blog. And if you really want a good laugh, go get a copy of the book for yourself and get ready to be entertained!!
Alright, that was a wordy one! Here are my questions for you:
- Have you read Drop Dead Healthy? What did you think? What parts did you enjoy the most?
- What are YOU reading these days?