Bestselling author A.J. Jacobs’ latest book, Drop Dead Healthy, is a hilarious but serious attempt to transform his body. With a waistline, in his words, “like a python who has swallowed a goat”, he faces quite the challenge. This major decision was triggered by a life-threatening bout of pneumonia, when he faced the fact he may never see his young children grow up.
To give his project the best chance of success, he sought out the best health minds in the United States, all specialists in their own particular part of his less-than-perfect body. He keeps an open mind while always demanding scientific proof. During his research he meets some fascinating health gurus, some marvelous, others weird. From brain to feet, from breathing to sleeping, all are investigated thoroughly, tried and some are blended into his far-too-sedentary lifestyle.
After a thorough medical checkup reveals his weaknesses, he decides he must work on his waistline with diet and exercise. After consulting with several nutritionists, he focuses on habits to cut down the quantity of what he eats:
In his attack on portion size, he uses his infant child’s baby plate and small plastic forks and spoons, much to the amusement of his family.
He eats more often, but smaller portions and asks his long-suffering wife not to put extra food on the table within his reach at mealtimes.
He takes his time, savouring each mouthful, chewing so slowly his family loses patience and leave him alone at the table. He quotes Gandhi: “Drink your food.”
He experiments with different preparation methods like steaming and pureeing.
He concentrates on every mouthful, and avoids mindless snacking when watching a movie or sitting in front of a computer screen.
Finally, he reduces his appetite by drinking water, always in moderation.
He tries his best to curb his craving for sugar and salt, except immediately after a strenuous workout. He snacks on nuts, seeds and raw veggies with daily supplements of fish oil, coenzyme Q10 and B12 vitamins.
He enjoys variety in his menu, which is mainly plant and fruit based, avoiding red meat and getting much of his protein from beans and lentils.
After straying from his evolving new routines, he feels he needs measurable goals in strength, stamina and weight. This culminates in his successful triathlon after 18 months. If this goal fails to inspire, look no further than the achievement of two courageous local women who in spite of enormous health challenges continue to achieve their demanding goals. Congratulations to Lori Wikdahl, who walked the equivalent of the circumference of our world — 40,000 kilometres — in 11 years and octogenarian Meta Beduz, who reaches her swimming goals in our local pool.
Stay tuned for your next installment of Jacobs’ humorous battle with exercise routines or rush to our wonderful local library for his book, which received glowing reviews: “Drop Dead Healthy is a rare mixture of the hilarious, the absurd and the scientifically sound,” and, “Do your future self a favour and read this book.”
Phil Thomas is a longtime Creston resident and volunteer.