An entire industry has formed itself around America’s obsession with health and wellness, but given the diverse and sometimes contradictory nature of the extolled advice — Pet dogs! Move more! Eat greens! Drink coffee! Don’t drink coffee! — it can be hard to know where to start. And considering the widely reported state of our collective health, it seems like many of us never do.
Author A.J. Jacobs is up to his immersive antics once again, this time in an attempt to achieve physical perfection.
Luckily, one man was brave enough to follow all the advice. Humor writer A.J. Jacobs is no stranger to extreme living. In addition to his popular essays in Esquire — famous among them include “My Outsourced Life” and “I Think You’re Fat,” about the Radical Honesty movement — the New York Times best-selling author has chronicled his adventures reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica (The Know-It-All) and living strictly by the rules of the Bible (The Year of Living Biblically). Having already tackled his mind and his spirit, Jacobs attempts to achieve the healthiest possible lifestyle in Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection (Simon & Schuster, $26).
The extreme experiment had Jacobs running barefoot through Central Park, donning noise-canceling headphones and measuring out his daily sunscreen. He ate mostly meat, then mostly vegetables. He learned how to breathe deeply and chew slowly. Ultimately all the extreme behavior brings Jacobs to an interesting place: one of moderation.
“I used to love the sedentary life; I used to be soul mates with my Aeron chair!” Jacobs says in an interview with American Way. “But now I really love walking around. I feel more energized. I don’t feel guilty when I have dinner with friends.”
By the end of his project, Jacobs lost 16 pounds, lowered his cholesterol and walked more than 1,000 miles at his treadmill desk. But what matters more, of course, is what he gained — a new perspective on life.
“It is incredibly hard to change your habits, but you have to do just that,” he says. “You have to think of your future self, and treat your future self with respect.”