Drop Dead Healthy: Striving for Bodily Perfection

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

As one of the hundreds on campus struggling to maintain their New Year’s resolution to be “healthy,” I repeatedly find myself asking, “What does that really mean, anyway?” A.J. Jacobs, editor at large at Esquire and author of several books on The New York Times’ best-seller list, attempts to answer this in his next round of self-experimentation tales, Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection.

Even if you haven’t read any of his previous works, it is abundantly apparent from the title and cover that DDH promises to provide a humorous take on all things related to nutrition, exercise and mental health.

Jacobs does the work for the reader, sussing out the latest scientific research and putting the theories into practice. He tries everything from the current barefoot running craze to the as yet undiscovered (and based on Jacobs’ experience, perhaps, never to be popularized) laughter therapy.

When Jacobs commences a project, he never does it halfway. As he states in the “Prologue,” “My quest isn’t just to lose a couple pounds. My quest is to turn my current self — a mushy, easily winded, moderately sickly blob — into the embodiment of health and fitness.”

DDH is much more than the chronicles of a man who begins exercising and eating right. He goes system by system — from “The Stomach” to “The Skull,” covering every body part chapter by chapter — adding new habits each month to an exhaustive list of daily to-dos that will guarantee bodily perfection.

Included on that list were these interesting scientifically-based suggestions: humming to prevent sinus infection; chewing sugar-free gum after meals to slow tooth decay; performing hand exercises courtesy of George Irwin’s Finger Fitness, which include “flipping the bird” as a stretch; and working on his makeshift treadmill desk — on which he wrote nearly the entire novel — because even if you are exercising an hour each day, if you are sitting the entire rest of the day, it’s just as bad as if you didn’t work out at all.

The book is not only an entertaining read, with Jacobs going in depth about how his new regimen affects not only his own outlook on life but also the people he shares his life with, but it provides the factual and anecdotal results of hundreds of the different ways people attempt to become “healthy.”

It also includes helpful appendices for those readers who want to make some changes in their own lives after being inspired by Jacobs’ journey.