Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection by A.J. Jacobs

I got this for Paul for his birthday and it was really the gift that keeps on giving because I knew I’d read it, too.  Well, I just finished it and it has got me all kinds of thinking.  But first, I knew that we’d enjoy it because we read his essays in Esquire, plus he’s written for Mental Floss, and he’s a good non-fiction writer.  His books are pretty much all the sort of thing where he takes on a crazy project and writes about it.  And while those are a bit all the rage now, I think he’s very good at it.  For example, his previous book The Year of Living Biblically is all about trying to follow the Bible’s actual old school Old Testament rules for a year.  Then there was The Guinea Pig Diaries.  Paul and I agree-his wife must be a saint.  This latest project took two years to do and it was his quest to be the healthiest person in the world. Now here’s the thing about his essays and books-they sound gimmicky but he does a ton of research. So, yes, he has a great humorous quality to his writing, but there’s also facts all over the place.
I have about a million issues with weight and health and fitness so this book has basically sent me into a turmoil.  Well, first of all-my first though is losing weight and exercising. But he’s talking about the whole package of health, so each essay (one per month, approx.) is about a new area he’s addressing, such as sleep, stress, environmental toxins, his testosterone, hearing, teeth, etc.  Because he’s doing this as a project he actually fully tries out many things that most people never would, and looks into lots of fringe health movements (and then, if need be, debunks them.)
But he also finds out which things do matter and at the end of his two years comes up with some summation things he would keep doing, and tips for normal people.
So here’s what I’m taking away from this:

Sugar: I absolutely must have less sugar in my diet and my kids’. I can’t go totally sugar free, but definitely need to seriously reduce it.

HIIT (high intensity interval training): apparently this really is a proven scientifically sound way to get fit and is best for your body.  Paul started trying it out last week.

Accident prevention: this chapter was pretty hilarious.  Most freak accidents you really can’t prevent, but one thing I really need to do is just simply put the cell phone out of reach when I’m in the car.

Standing:  Standing is better for you than sitting.  Though this tip, as well as the treadmill desk which he advocates, seem most applicable to people who work at home or in an office.  Frankly, I relish the moments I get to sit and pretty much collapse on the couch at the end of the day.  So I’m probably good.

Breakfast cereal/White flour:  A.J., here’s what I’m not doing.  Despite all the evidence, scientific and anecdotal, I am not ready to give up cereal for breakfast or things made with white flour.  I’m just not.

I’m hoping this book is actually the kick in the pants for our whole family to lose weight and be more active.  And lest my review scares you off because you think it’s a diet and exercise book, it’s really not.

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8 thoughts on “Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection by A.J. Jacobs

  1. I’ve read some of Jacobs’ work on various atheist and (I’m sure I’m going to regret typing this next word) “paleo” blogs, funny stuff.

    Seems like April and I already follow his suggestions,but your review makes the book sound like it ‘s worth reading for the entertainment value, I’ll have to check it out.

    • You know I was thinking about you during the sugar part! and his paleo stuff was a hoot. Paul’s change since reading the book? He bought those shoes that have toes.

      • I want a pair of vibrams, but they cost so much money. Yes, some paleo blogs had his piece posted. Most people do cross-fit, but there are those select few who love to carry rocks and climb trees to get the natural effect. I figure stairs and a pull-up bar are viable substitutes.

  2. Andrew, I got mine on sale at REI. They were $58 with free shipping (but they didn’t fit so I had to mail them back which basically lost me my free shipping). I wore them all day the other day and they were fun, but i can’t say life changing. I’m also not prepared to wear them to work.

    • I might get some Merrell “glove shoes”, very minimal,no heel,but still can wear to work without causing a fuss (I get laughed at because I made a standing desk out of some old encyclopedias and and empty printer boxes). Thanks for the info

      Also, Sarah, I think in the spirit of the book, you should try to go 30 days without cereal and white flour, you know, just for kicks.

      • Since I can’t stick to any diet for 30 days I don’t think I’d make it. But I was thinking about making one day a week sugar free and processed food free.

      • They should paste hair on the toes and marketed them as “Hobbit Cosplay”, might go over better.

        Well, if you ever do try to cut out the white stuff, April has seem pretty decent recipes using almond,coconut, and/or rice flour.

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