Drop Dead Healthy

My fellow reading fanatics, it’s time to discuss the June Book Club selection: Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs!

drop dead healthy

Just in case you’re looking for some summer reading material, you may find additional PBF book reviews and discussions on the Books page.

Brief Summary

Drop Dead Healthy details author A.J. Jacobs’ two-year quest to be the healthiest person in the world. Jacobs takes readers along his hilarious ride as he consults fitness and nutrition experts, takes a variety of fitness classes, works with a personal trainer, attempts various diets and more, all in the name of being healthy.

According to Jacobs, his book is about “an out-of-shape guy who tests all the medical advice in the world to see what works and what doesn’t, in hopes of becoming the healthiest person alive.”

My Review

As someone who feels like there’s an overwhelming amount of information out there about what is “healthiest,” I was really intrigued by this book and couldn’t wait to see what a journalist (Jacobs is the editor at large at Esquire) would find when he poured hours into serious research regarding fitness and diet trends.

What I didn’t expect was to laugh!

Having never read Jacobs’ previous two memoirs where he details his experiences reading the entire encyclopedia and his attempt to live biblically for one year, according to the moral codes detailed in the Bible, I didn’t realize that a big part of his writing style is the use of humor. He literally had me laughing out loud and reading excerpts of the book to Ryan because they were so amusing.

While the book had a lot of interesting facts and research findings, it was the way the author added humor to the facts that I enjoyed the most.

For example:

“The evidence is solid that pets are good for humans’ health. A study by the Mayo Medical Center found that dog owners had significantly lower cholesterol. A study by the Minnesota Stroke Institute said that people who owned cats were 30 percent less likely o suffer a heart attack (though 40 percent more likely to engage in scrapbooking).”

The way the author conveyed his wife’s reactions to some of his “experiments” also had me cracking up. (When he decided to stop calling his wife “sweetie” because it glorified sugar and tested the nickname “savory,” I laughed out loud.)

Aside from laughing and simply enjoying the book from an entertainment perspective, I found some facts alarming and took away some health-related tidbits from the book.

Here are a few I thought you guys might find amusing: 

  • Taking care of your mouth (brushing and flossing) is ridiculously important. A study from Emory University found a significantly higher mortality rate (23 – 46 percent higher) among patients with periodontitis or gingivitis. Mouth bacteria can seep into the blood and cause hardening of the arteries. Flossing can add 6.4 years to your life. I am now flossing every night.
  • Some people cannot smell their own stank. Forty five percent of Americans are genetically incapable of smelling androstenone, a steroid that occurs in sweat and urine. This explains that rank guy at the gym. He may not even know he smells!
  • We weren’t built to sit. According to Harvard professor John Ratey, our Paleolithic forefathers walked eight to 10 miles a day. Our grandparents expended an average of 800 calories a day more than we do. Even regular gym-going cannot fully undo the harm of sitting.
  • We severely underuse sunscreen. We should be using a shot-glass full of sunscreen every four hours.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a nice break from fictional books and I looked forward to spending time laughing with Jacobs whenever I opened the book.

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Discussion Questions

  • Did you take away anything from this book or change something in your life because of something you learned in Drop Dead Healthy?
  • Did you enjoy A.J. Jacobs’ writing style?
  • Was there anything you were wishing Jacobs would address in the book that he didn’t?  

Comments

  1. says

    One thing I have tried to start doing differently is flossing my teeth before I brush them. It makes sense to do it that way, but I (like a lot of people I would think) have always done it the opposite way. I’ve also tried to sit less – it’s really hard!

    I liked his writing style a lot. I really enjoyed the humor. That’s what kept me interested despite the fact that I found it a slower read because it didn’t have too much of a plot. I also loved how he tied in his wife’s reactions to things.

    I can’t think of anything specific that I wished he had addressed in the book. I think I just wished it were more focused on diet and fitness and less so on the miscellaneous body parts! I did find those chapters interesting though.

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  2. says

    I still haven’t read this book (didn’t come into the library in time!) but now I definitely want to. Thanks for sharing those facts/ statistics – I will definitely be improving my flossing habits, and trying not to sit so much! I can’t believe that our grandparents’ generation burned 800 more calories daily. That is definitely eye-opening.

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  3. says

    As a vegan I was surprised he didn’t find himself some extreme vegans. Although they may not be as funny as the extreme paleo people. :)

    Didn’t you envy his workspace? I am in school right now and between studying and sitting at my computer for work I get SO cranky. I envied his treadmill set up and I have never even been on one.

    I loved his writing style and similar to you, I laughed out loud a lot. I also found him “human.”

    I think he raises a lot of good thoughts about what is important…being intellectual versus a “perfect” body. As someone who was more of a school nerd I totally got that.

    I really think he gently put some thought and reflection in there with the family deaths. Both in terms of a long full life, and a more “extreme” life, but still facing cancer.

    It was very different from what I normally read and I enjoyed it.

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  4. says

    hahhaaha I love that first funny quote! My husband always tells me that about pets too! Although…he doesn’t scrapbook. Oh! But his mom does ;) And I find some of these facts pretty interesting. And I always wonder about that when I see elderly people–how they must have been so much more active than we are! Especially if we live in the suburbs with not much walking.

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    • says

      Just read your link to the article about sunscreen… this definitely makes me skeptical. I have to admit I don’t think I wear enough sunscreen but now I wonder if I am actually doing the right thing.

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  5. says

    Sounds like an interesting read! Not sure if I agree with the statement about Sunscreen use though. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with it’s use, but there is still so much we don’t know about it…I think you should read this blog post really quickly – it raises some interesting facts about sunscreen and its use. I don’t think the answer is more sunscreen necessarily (unless of course you have no choice but to be out in the sun), but to limit our exposure out in the sun. I dunno…just some food for thought!
    http://virgilonhealth.com/2012/05/sunscreen-no-thanks/#more-1154

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  6. says

    Sounds like a really interesting read- I will have to check it out!

    But, I wonder if that sunscreen fact is really true… haven’t there been recent studies that show many mainstream sunscreens (not the 100% natural sunscreens) contain ingredients with potentially carcinogenic properties?! Also, most people are deficient in vitamin D- not that I am advocating people lay out in the sun without any protection!

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  7. Jay says

    I loved his janky black and white photos, especially the way old treadmill and how he had his computer on stacks of boxes. I also thought he would do more chapters on diet and exercise but the other body parts info was interesting. I really enjoyed the commentary about his family, especially his grandpa and aunt. It was so sad that she passed away.

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    • says

      The photos were wonderful! He really has a visual sense of humor as well. :)

      I maintain the death of his grandpa and his aunt were some of the more powerful parts of the book simply because of the necessary reflection on a “healthy” life when you are contemplating someone’s death.

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  8. Darby says

    So does that mean we should even be using sunscreen if we spend all day inside? Haha but I definitely agree that flossing is soo important. I am now going to floss every day., especially since I’m already so neurotic and worry every time I find out a new health statistic. Got a kick out of his comparison to his wife and the issue of germs.

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  9. Andrea says

    I would disagree with the sunscreen point and am surprised he used it in the book if he is also talking about our Paleolithic forefathers! I don’t think they had sunscreen :)

    I, for one, subscribe to Paleolithic tendencies in a modern way and don’t use sunscreen or use very little. We already put enough crap and chemicals in our body through food…. I have to say I am going to have to find this book and read it even if I don’t agree with some off the concepts!

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  10. Krista says

    I’m not sure I agree with the sunscreen thing. I keep reading studies that Americans wear too much sunscreen and are more and more deficient in Vitamin D. Some of that, of course, is from being indoors (and sitting!) all day. I’m sure if we were out roaming for hours like our ancestors we would need that much sunscreen though.

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  11. says

    I’ve heard of a lot of the things he’s mentioned like sunscreen. It’s a good reminder though – I just bought a ton of sunscreen.

    I can’t sleep if I don’t floss anymore.

    The most memorable parts are when he references Dr. Oz, saying too much working out will make you older, and orthorexia, focus on eating too healthy. I liked that there’s a word for it.

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  12. says

    Yay, I’ve been looking for a good book to read or rather listen to on my long drive back to Oregon! Too bad they don’t invent a car that we stand up in as we drive… That would sure help solve a lot of this sitting too much problem!

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  13. Annie says

    i’ve actually proposed the idea to my supervisor that we get standing desk stations or something. i haaaate that i have to sit all day. i make it a point to get up at least every 30 min and stand up for a few seconds, and every hour walk around the office, but i know it’s not enough. and i work out daily!

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  14. Katie says

    I really enjoyed the book, I agree with you that it was slower then most fiction books but I enjoyed that it had a good mix of humor and substance.

    The tidbit that I took from it was how important flossing was now I am a daily BEFORE brushing flosser!

    I wish he had talked a little bit more about how different diets effect your body, such as too low carb can cause ketosis and stuff like that.

    Overall I thought it was a great selection, and one that I will recommend to people for sure!

    I am looking forward to next months!

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      • Katie says

        I know right?!?! I am also going to try to be more aware of sun screen…I don’t think I’ll be doing the whole shot glass thing, I LOVE my spray neutrogena, but I am going to make an effort to put on SPF 30 when I know I’m going to be out for an extended period of time.

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  15. rin-on says

    I am definitely more conscious of how loud noises can damage my hearing (I live in NYC). I even bought a pair of noise-cancelling headphones to wear because I’ll be traveling a lot in the near future!

    I loved his writing style – the book was definitely a fun read. I was reading funny passages out loud to my SO too.

    I wished more diet and fitness specifics were addressed, like how and why things affect your body. The miscellaneous body parts were a bit much for me too.

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  16. says

    I also wish that more time was dedicated to food/diet issues, but maybe that’s just because it’s what I find interesting. I did think it was cool that he focused on such a variety of body parts and topics, because a lot were things you don’t usually think of as “health”-related.

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  17. Kathy says

    I did not read the book, but reading these comments that were brought up about how much sunscreen to wear as well as how much our ancestors were outside walking so much more than we do…
    Not that I don’t advocate wearing sunscreen, bc i do… However, if our ancestors truely spent much of their time outdoors, i’m sure they weren’t having the same issues we have regarding skin cancer (nor wearing sunscreen, especially those that are 70+). But I’ve read there are foods out there that give us natural SPF when eaten. Therefore we should probably focus on adding more of those foods to our daily diet if we spend more time outdoors (in addition to wearing sunscreen)…. Just a thought I had :-)

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  18. says

    I loved this book too! I still haven’t posted my review of it, but plan to very soon. I loved how he incorporated humour to make some otherwise boring sounding studies pretty funny. I also like how he ‘sprints errands’, and given the choice, I’d work at a treadmill desk too!

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  19. Lauren says

    I have been waiting for your review on this book! I am at my cottage for a week now and in between studying for the MCAT for medical school, I definitely want to read this book!! Is it weird that I want to read a medical-esque book as my “break?” Don’t answer that…

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  20. says

    I really enjoyed this book – I was surprised how funny he was! I love the part where he’s talking about his kids and how they add “and everyone died” to the end of every story.

    I wish he would have discussed what he ate a little bit more. I was surprised that he didn’t lose more weight than he did if he ate healthy for two years (he wouldn’t even eat birthday cake!)

    I wish he would have went into detail about the triathalon training a bit more.

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  21. Dolce says

    I really want to read that book, it sounds very entertaining and interesting! If you ever are wanting to read a faith-based book, I recommend checking out You’re Already Amazing by Holley Gerth. It’s awesome, it really opened my eyes to my true purpose and made me feel amazing about myself. Check it out :)

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  22. Maital says

    I really enjoyed his writing style and as already mentioned, his humor. I loved all the personal bits and stories that he included about his wife, kids, grandfather and aunt. Also, while I haven’t read a ton of other health books, because he’s just a regular guy finding out information, etc, I felt it was more relatable, and not preachy as other books of this sort can be.

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  23. Rachel says

    I floss every night and I’ve seriously had friends and family joke about how often I floss. Finally, someone (other than my dentist) proves that my flossing habit is not a mild form of OCD, but actually very important!

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  24. Tori Hiatt says

    I loved this book! I found it so amusing, probably because I’m obsessed with health and fitness! I really enjoyed his writting style, it made it a lot of fun to read. You almost forget your actually learning something! My favorite quote from the book that he put in there was “I used to think the brain was the most amazing thing in the body, but then I realized who was telling me that!” I thought that was so funny and I found myself repeating that quote to anyone who would listen!

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  25. Vicky says

    i see some people commenting on how our paleolithic ancestors didn’t use sunscreen while walking in the sun for hours …. they also didn’t have holes in the ozon layer and didn’t live past 30

    Julie, love your blog!!

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  26. Maggie says

    I just started reading your blog and I love it! I read A Year of Living Biblically as part of a Sunday School discussion and really enjoyed his writing. He’s a funny guy. I’m looking forward to jumping into this book soon! Thanks for the recommendation!

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  27. says

    I’m still in the process of reading this, but I’m definitely finding it very interesting! I wish I could have a treamill desk like his– having a desk job is not fun and makes me feel super lazy.

    I also found the barefoot running part to be really funny and relevant since that topic has been discussed a lot lately.

    I’m taking my time finishing it, but I’m looking forward to seeing what else he encounters!

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  28. says

    Ha! I so want to read the book about trying to live Biblically – that has got to be funny! I haven’t read this book either. To be honest I thought it was going to be super health nutty but I guess I had it all wrong! I’ll have to check it out

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  29. says

    I LOVED his writing style, and I’m hoping to check out more of his books! I didn’t finish it in time for a review (darn life getting in the way!), but I am excited to finish it. And I agree – I totally didn’t expect to laugh so much while reading this book. Boy does he have an awesome family to put up with all of this!

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  30. says

    His other books are really, really good too. If you get the chance you should check them out!

    I’m really surprised by how many people didn’t know you should floss first! How does it even make sense to do it the other way? Clean the front and back of the teeth and then dirty them again by sliding floss through? But hey, at least they know now!

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  31. Elle says

    I read this and I liked how he tried so many different exercise classes… including pole dancing. Haha, would have loved to see that.

    Also, thought it was great about his treadmill desk. That would make sense to have one.

    His thoughts on chewdism had me thinking that maybe I should chew my food a lot more slowly.

    Overall, the book was really interesting and pretty funny and definately had me laughing.

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