(Note: This review is of the hardcover edition.)
"My sons are annoyed that I won't eat cupcakes with them at birthday parties, opting instead for a plastic bag of carrots." - from DROP DEAD HEALTHY
"A New York spa will spread bird excrement on your pores for two hundred dollars ... Snail secretion facials are also available. Seems we haven't come so far from Elizabethan times, when there was a fad for puppy urine skin cleanser." from DROP DEAD HEALTHY
In DROP DEAD HEALTHY, book author and newspaper/magazine contributor A.J. Jacobs chronicles the twenty-five or so months he spent seeking bodily perfection.
What? There's a physical flawlessness that goes deeper than skin-deep? Say it ain't so, AJ!
In twenty-seven chapters, Jacobs focuses on improving the condition or function of his body parts: stomach, heart, ears, butt, immune system, genitals, nervous system, lower intestine, adrenal gland, brain, endocrine system, teeth, feet, lungs, skin, inside of the eyelids (sleep), bladder, gonads, nose, hands, back, eyes, and skull.
So, whether it's testing the sprayed essence of cucumber plus Good and Plenty candy as an aphrodisiac, running shoeless, getting his teeth whitened with UV-light, attending laughter therapy sessions, getting a colorectal exam, identifying spices by smell, fitting his bed with hypoallergenic sheets and pillowcases, taking pole-dancing classes (for the exercise benefit), juicing and dehydrating raw fruits and veg, or doing brain exercises, the author explores an array of fads, theories, devices, schemes, and recipes to optimize his comprehensive physical and physiological tune-up.
One might immediately wonder if any of this did any good that sticks. Perhaps, then, the most valuable parts of DROP DEAD HEALTHY are Appendices A through G in which Jacobs shares advice, tips, methods, and regimens which he personally found useful after weeding out that which was, at best, just not for him or, at worst, just nonsensical to the point of making his wife Julie roll her eyes.
AJ's narrative is told with self-deprecatory humor and a wink; he undertook the self-improvement project with serious intent, but not too seriously. For each month, he records for the reader the result of a reality check. For instance:
"Checkup: Month 8
Miles walked on treadmill while writing: 302
Meals eaten in front of mirror this month: 18
Miles run per day: 2
Biggest health sin: 27 candy corns in a single sitting"
"Checkup: Month 20
Average grams of sugar per day: 25
Cups of coffee per day: 1.5
Times unsuccessfully attempted to switch to green tea: 7
Number of yoga instructors who have been surprisingly rude to me and other students: 3"
Each chapter comes with a black and white photograph illustrating the topic at hand, and the front and back endpapers each display a color photo of the author composed and labeled in such a way as to give humorous visual reference to those body parts and functions addressed in the text.
Overall, DROP DEAD HEALTHY is an entertaining and informative read. It should, however, be taken more as a book of humor than one on fitness or nutrition, in which latter case it could only be found superficial by a True Believer.
Perhaps the most enduring message that Jacobs wishes to convey, or at least the one that I perceived as such, is not to go to extremes.
"Health obsession can turn you into a selfish bastard" - A.J. Jacobs
"Don't be so obsessed with healthy food that you end up sitting alone in the corner eating organic kale and silently judging your friends." - Steven Bratman, M.D., coauthor of Health Food Junkies: The Rise of Orthorexia Nervosa-The Health Food Eating
, as paraphrased by Jacobs
Right on about that!