Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Book Review: Drop Dead Healthy

Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection
by A.J. Jacobs
Published 2012 by Simon & Schuster
402 pages

Drop Dead Healthy is a two-year experiment in healthy living by the author. The short version is that he takes one month at a time to concentrate on a new addition to healthy living. It's additive, so whatever he adds on this month he keeps doing. By healthy living, he means some kind of experiment in a specific kind of living, drawing off of an expert or two. Everything from changing his diet (more than once, even) to avoid toxins to noise-cancelling headphones to shield his ears to HIIT and weight training - it is all there.

Some of it is kind of funny - attempts at doing MovNat have him running barefoot and shirtless in Central Park, a concern for safety has him walking around all day with a bike helmet, etc. Some of it just seems like superficial misguidedness - reading that chocolate is healthy he adds Toblerone bars to his diet, before digging deeper and realizing that dark chocolate is healthy, not sugar-filled milk chocolate.

The book isn't terribly educational; it's more diary than anything else. Some of it seemed like it would be of interest to a weight-training crowd. He tracks (sporadically) his weight and reps on a squat machine (which one isn't clear), his maximum pushups, his mileage on his treadmill desk, and "superfoods" he eats. But the book focuses on the new experiment, the interesting events in his life as he tries these things, and the contradictions between positions ("You must run barefoot" vs. "it's a bad idea if you have bad feet," and "wash your hands" vs. "germs build up your immune system," as two examples). It's like a lighter version of the 4-Hour Body.

If there is one good takeaway from this, it is that you can a) go way overboard trying to be healthy, and that b) there are a lot of easy things you can do now. Treadmill desks are expensive, but a cheap treadmill and a pile of boxes to hold up your PC is sufficient to start. You can just go start lifting tomorrow. You can eat a little better starting now, and so on. Healthy living, however you define it, can be broken up into cheap and easy chunks to start with.

Content: 2
out of 5. Not a lot of there, there, for training or diet or overall health, not for the price.
Presentation: 3 out of 5. It's well put together but what is there is hard to track back down when you want to read it again, index or no.

Overall: If you want a light-reading diary of experiments in healthy living, plus some organized tips at the end, read this book. Otherwise, it's entertainment more than education; a cautionary tale of trying to do everything when there is no consensus on what that everything really should be.

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