Recovering from a freak case of tropical pneumonia and ashamed of his ever-expanding waistline, writer A.J. Jacobs makes a decision to get healthy. And since he’s never been one to do things by halves, he bypasses the piddling goals of lowering his cholestoral or losing weight or exercising once a week and goes for the gold: becoming the healthiest man in the world.
Trouble is, there’s a lot of health advice out there, half of it contradictory. So Jacobs spends over two years following every piece of health advice he can (fad diets, exercise trends), as well as combing through the latest research in things like the effects of noise on brain and body health and how walking while working could save us all.
Along the way Jacobs finds himself questioning his own mortality, as well as trying to define his personal meaning of a well-lived life.
Another great read
This is my second A.J. Jacobs book — I read The Year of Living Biblically last year — and I’m still just as enchanted by his writing and dedication to his topic. Healthy living is only marginally less controversial than biblical law, and overall I thought the book was nicely balanced between recommending certain things and expressing doubt in their actual results.
Some medical problems earlier this year have prompted me to be more vigilant about my health, but like Jacobs I’ve found myself overwhelmed by advice: should I go vegetarian or gluten-free (or both)? How am I going to find time to exercise more? Should I try standing while working to minimize the time I spend sitting? Are caffeine or chocolate really the Satan-sponsored death bombs everyone says they are?
In the end I agree with the conclusions that Jacobs seems to come to in Drop Dead Healthy: little changes can make a bigger difference than you’d think, and you have to choose the health plan that works for you. It’s not all one size fits all — what works for one person might not work for everyone.
My favorite part is actually the book’s seven appendices, which are handy distillations of all the advice gleaned by Jacobs over two years of research. Each appendix contains manageable suggestions for how to get more exercise, eat better, manage stress, avoid toxins, etc. It makes the process of becoming and staying healthy feel much less intimidating.
Drop Dead Healthy is informative, funny, and heartfelt. Pick up a copy when you can, and here’s to being just a little more healthy!
(I read this book as part of Non-fiction November. Click the link to see posts from this and previous years!)