Over the last few weeks, I’ve been reading Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs.
A writer for Esquire magazine, Jacobs takes it upon himself to become to healthiest man in the world after a health scare on a family vacation. The book takes place over two years as he tries to make himself healthy in all aspects in his life, from his diet, exercise routine, sex life and hygiene. He also focuses on aspects of his health a lot of us don’t consider, like his posture, his eyesight, and minimizing his chances of being injured in an accident. It was interesting to think about these approaches to health outside of food and exercise – really, how often do we consider our posture, our finger mobility, or noise pollution when we consider our health? While it could be deemed obsessive, I like how it gets away from diet and exercise as the only means of measuring someone’s health.
Jacobs attempts a variety of diets and eating techniques throughout the book, including raw foodism, calorie restriction, Paleo, juicing diets and excessive chewing. Obviously, I found these chapters particularly interesting (what healthy living blogger wouldn’t?) and enjoyed reading about these diets from the view of someone who was literally trying everything. He approaches each diet/way of eating without bias, considering the positives and the negatives of each one.
Particularly, I enjoyed the chapter where he speaks to Dr. Steven Bratman, the doctor who coined the term ‘orthorexia’. He thinks that when people become to concerned with being healthy, they’ll stress themselves out to the point where all that healthy food won’t really be doing them any good. You begin to feel excessive guilt when you stray from healthy foods, become socially isolated, and use healthy eating as a replacement for religion as a means of feeling virtuous (I never really thought of it in religious terms, but it makes sense to me). He considers other diets/approaches to food in this chapter, ending with a shopping trip with Marion Nestle (one of the most highly respected people in the business of nutrition), who tells him “You’ve got to enjoy food. It’s one of the great things in life.”
Sums it up pretty well, don’t you think?
Like the chapters dealing with diet, Jacobs considers a variety of different approaches and strategies with his exercise habits – both formal exercise (HIIT workouts, caveman-style workouts, barefoot running) and informal attempts at being more active (treadmill desk, literally running his errands). Again, he considers all the different approaches and research without any real biases, looking at the research and how he felt when he was completing each workout. In the end, I found that this section confirmed that as long as you’re moving, you’re golden. People are not meant to sit all day, so getting up and moving around a little is vital to your health. He actually has me wishing that I had room in my apartment for a treadmill desk, considering how often I sit on my couch with my laptop.
There’s a lot of health trends out there, and quite honestly, a lot of them contradict each other. We all have a limited time on this planet, so maybe there’s more important things than discovering ‘the key to health’. Don’t overthink it – try to move your body as often as you can, eat your fruits and vegetables, wash your hands once in a while, and try to limit exposure to loud noises. If you keep your approach to health simple, you’re fine.
Towards the end, Jacobs seems to realize that by trying to be the healthiest person on the planet, he seems to isolate himself a little bit and adopts a ‘healthier-than-thou’ attitude – something I’ve noticed before in certain individuals (and honestly have recognized in myself at time). Maybe, we should focus more on our relationships with others, as opposed to worrying about the latest health fads. Most extreme diets and regimes are just that – extreme. A more subtle approach seems to be the way to go about it.
Jacobs uses an awesome sense of humour and his experiences with his family to add to his story, making it more entertaining and more relatable. Overall, I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about their health, or just looking for a fun, yet informative read.
<— Have you read Drop Dead Healthy? What did you think?
<— If you haven’t read it, does it interest you?