I recently read the book Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs. The book is about A.J., a writer for Esquire Magazine, and his journey to be the healthiest person on the planet. He decides to take a year out of his life, and each month focus on a different aspect of his health. His project ended up being closer to 2 years than 1, but he covered a lot of ground during those 2 years.
When I first started out reading the book, I thought the majority of it would be about what we all think of when we think of trying to become healthier. Losing weight, eating a well-balanced diet and exercising. And he did focus on that, but the majority of the book was regarding other aspects of his health. The ones we often ignore.
A.J. spent time thinking about the health of his ears, his “bathroom habits”, his muscles and even his nervous system. He talked to professionals about noise pollution and decided to wear noise-cancelling headphones most of the day to protect his hearing. He also investigated different methods to avoid the dreaded strain during bowel movements. This chapter was enlightening to say the least, but it turns out there are theorist who say our toilets are causing a lot of issues with our excretory system. And when he started having joint and muscular pain, he spent time testing different approaches to curing his pain by focusing on his nervous system. He tried physical therapy, a Zen-style mind control technique, and acupuncture. While none of the approaches helped completely alleviate his pain, his thoughts on “curing pain” opened my mind to different possibilities.
Throughout the book A.J. took on different approaches to mental health. As many of us have experience, our mental thoughts and feelings can greatly affect how we are feeling physically. So he sought out stress-free living to keep his immune system in tact. One way was attempting to keep social interaction fun and interesting to help boost his mental health therefore boosting his physical health. As any one can guess, he was not successful in ridding his life of stress and making every interaction a positive one. But he tried. And that’s a great way to approach it.
One of the best and newest approaches to stress relief was his pen pal system. A college student read an article about what he was doing and came to him with an idea. She had a proposition for him – he writes her about what is “stressing him out” and she takes on the burden for him, while he does the same for her. So when she wrote him about upcoming exams, he would worry for her while she could just focus on taking the exams. And when he would worry about a looming deadline at work, he would remember that she has that burden so he doesn’t have to worry. And it seemed to work for them both. While the stress did pop into their head, all they had to do is remind themselves that someone else is handling that burden and they don’t have to. It seems a bit too good to be true. If anyone wants to test that out – let me know! I’d be happy to try this one out!
A.J. did lose weight on this journey. He would update you throughout the book on his monthly stats. He tried very different diets, from the raw food diet, minimalist diet, to the superfood diet. What seemed to work best for him was portion control, mindful slow eating and making healthier choices.
He also tried various forms of exercising. Throughout this book he tried out free running (barefoot running through NYC – ouch!), heavy lifting and even trained and completed a sprint triathlon. He saw benefits from all the methods of exercise he did, so it seems that any exercise is better than none. No matter your style of exercise you prefer – just move!
Overall this was a very interesting book. He dived into aspects of health that I would have never thought to investigate. I mean, who questions whether they are using the facilities in the healthiest way possible?? While some of the chapters were a little TMI, but his writing style was funny, well-researched and kept me engaged.
People may read this book to find out the best diet, exercise program or stress relief technique, and that’s not what this book is about. You will not find the best method to health by reading this book. The message I took from the book is that health is a personal journey and you need to find what is right for you. He tried some techniques that didn’t quite jive for him, and that’s ok. He found what could incorporate into his lifestyle and saw significant improvements in his health. And that I think is the best lesson of all.