Thursday, May 10, 2012

Drop Dead Healthy - One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection

by A. J. Jacobs

A. J. Jacobs is not the type of person who takes his goals lightly. Several years ago he made a goal to improve himself mentally, spiritually, and physically. He chronicled each of those self-improvements its own book. For his mental improvement he set out to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in a year; which he wrote about in The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World. For his spiritual improvement he devoted a year of his life to living every commandment in the Bible; which he wrote about in The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. With this book, he completes his trifecta of self-improvement and focuses on his body. For a little over two years Jacobs spends every waking moment and conscious thought on how he can achieve perfect health.

To start out, this book is not the memoir of a 600lb man who shed the weight and now walks around in a saggy suit of skin nine times larger than his body. Jacobs was not obese. He was what he called "'skinny fat’ — a body that resembled a python after swallowing a goat." So the book is not about weight loss. Instead Jacobs chooses to spend a couple weeks at a time trying to obtain optimum health for one specific part of his body at a time: heart, lungs, stomach, immune system, feet, teeth, bladder, ears, etc.

The true joy of this book, along with his previous ones, is Jacobs's self-deprecating sense of humor as he describes the various health experiments he subjects himself (and by association, his saintly wife) to. Like buying a device to be placed over the toilet bowl, which allowed him to achieve the squatting position he learns is the most ideal for the healthiest removal of waste. Or jury-rigging a treadmill into a writing desk so that he could be walking while writing the book (he walked 1,200 miles at a 2 mile/hour pace).

Jacobs tries veganism, Atkins, juice cleanses, along with dozens of other diets. He tries Cross Fit, anti-gravity yoga, and there's a very entertaining account of him attending a pole dancing workout class where he was the only man among fifty women wearing high heels, and sporting an inordinate amount of cleavage.

The book is entertaining and it's informative. It made me laugh and it made me think about the way I treat my own body. It's not a life changing book, and I don't think Jacobs meant it to be. But I challenge anyone to read it and not come away with some ideas for at least a few changes they're going to make in order to take better care of their body.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

1 comment:

  1. I saw him on the Today show when he was promoting his biblical book. He was entertaining. I'd love to borrow your book if it's a lender.