Book Review: Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs
Book: Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection by A.J. Jacobs
Genre: stunt memoir
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: April 2012
Summary: After explaining that he has made a list of healthy things to add to his life that is fifty-three pages long, A.J. Jacobs expounds on his plan on page 2:
I want to do everything on my list because my quest isn’t just to be a little bit healthier. My quest isn’t to lose a couple of pounds. My quest is to turn my current self — a mushy, easily winded, moderately sickly blob — into the embodiment of health and fitness. To become as healthy as humanly possible.
Drop Dead Healthy is the story of that quest, taking place over two years plus a little. It’s also the funniest book I’ve read in my long term quest to read books that support my healthy lifestyle.
Thoughts: Of course, any effort by an American to make himself healthier is going to involve food. A.J. Jacobs confesses to a starting point of no green in his meals, unless he counted Rolling Rock. Since one of the initial problems he needed to solve in his quest for bodily perfection was to lose a significant amount of dangerous abdominal fat, Chapter 1 is “The Stomach: The Quest to Eat Right.” After trying the Vice Diet (coffee, wine, and chocolate are all good for you, after all), he focused on portion control and mindful eating.
Chapter 6 is “The Stomach, Revisited” where he talks about orthorexia –an unhealthy obsession of healthy eating. This is the chapter where he covers the debate between the plant-based diet and the low-carb, high-protein diet that keeps coming up in my reading (most recently in last week’s Weekend Cooking post: Book Review: The Hundred Year Diet by Susan Yager). Since his whole approach is scientific, he goes with the preponderance of science on this and leans the plant-based direction, while taking heed of the low-carb advice to avoid simple carbs.
Later in Chapter 6, Jacobs takes a lovely walk through a Whole Foods with Marion Nestle. In the produce section, he learns that she doesn’t believe in superfoods:
Nestle thinks that we have an outsize obsession with ranking our fruits and vegetables….This type of thinking leads us to believe the idea that the fruit with the most antioxidants is the best. It makes us overlook all the nonsuperfoods — what one writer called “Clark Kent” foods–such as apples and oranges, which are perfectly healthy. Antioxidants are just one of dozens of good chemicals in food. (p. 97)
Chapter 16 is also titled “The Stomach, Revisted.” It takes a lot of revisiting to be a healthy eater in America while not developing orthorexia. In this chapter he tries three of the more rigid diets for two weeks at a time — raw food, low-carb / high-protein, and no sugar. All had positives and negatives, but he didn’t stick with any of them once the two weeks were up.
Appeal: I focused on the food bits for the Weekend Cooking crowd, but this book covers lots more — exercise, stress reduction, and toxins in our environment. Anyone looking for a well-researched but humorous look at issues impacting health in the modern age will want to read Drop Dead Healthy.
Lots more Weekend Cooking adventures are gathered at Beth Fish Reads.
I like a little humor mixed in with my fitness too! This sounds like an informative read. I’m very leery of all those diets that exclude foods or focus on specific foods. Truly there must be some kind of balance of eating right but enjoying everything. Exercise, of course, is a key.
LOL, I love how the only green in his diet was Rolling Rock! This sounds like a fun but informative read, good humor along with some great ideas for a healthier lifestyle.
that’s true about being obsessed with super foods. still love the other fruits too though!
I’ve seen AJ twice at Bryant Park in conversation with other writers; he is very funny. I’ve yet to read his books, but this one sounds very appealing.
Diane — I really enjoyed The Know-It-All, too.
sounds like a really good read. Joy – Have you linked this in to my Books You Loved July edition – others may really enjoy it too.
Hope you are having a nice week. My Weekend Cooking contribution was a salmon pizza.
Sounds interesting. some of the diet based books I’ve looked are are very rigid and try to tell me that only their way will work and the rest are all wrong. ha, not this fellow. Thanks for the introduction.
Thanks for linking in to Books You Loved, Joy. Cheers
I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while. Great review.
I’ve been curious about this book but I have such an overwhelming list of books I’m either currently reading or know I will be reading very soon that I know I won’t be reading this one for a while. But I’ve no doubt I’ll enjoy this one, especially after reading your review.
Interesting. I liked his book about religion, but I confess I got tired of him after I tried a second of his books (I think it was the dictionary one). Maybe I’ll give him another try.
I think I’d like this — a little humor, a little common sense.
“orthorexia” is a new-to-me word, I hope I can remember it!
Joy, just to let you know that your review was featured on Carole’s Chatter today. Have a good week.