So I finally got around to finishing this book, and I have to admit, the fact that my stomach was hurting and my legs were terribly cramped from a tough training session made reading it, if anything, even more excruciating than the last time (when I was also on the injured list – I’m terribly clumsy and have the immune system of a new-born thrust into an elementary school). It is just tough to read about someone undergoing such a concentrated effort to make every part of himself – from his hearing to his posture to his diet to his stress level (and so on) – and not feel like a complete failure at health!
Now, as far as this book goes, I don’t think he accomplished his goal (to be the healthiest man in the world) as successfully as he embodied the mission of his last book (to spend a year “living biblically”), but he certainly did his best. The problem lies more in the project itself, since it was essentially never-ending and impossible to keep up, than it does in his efforts to succeed. Jacobs went to see specialists about his hands, his sleep, the toxicity levels in his home…on and on, and it turns out, every doctor or expert considers his or her field the most important (and often overlooked) aspect of health. The lists of things he was trying to do every month to maintain optimum health were insane, and most likely damaging to both his emotional health and family life.
Now, I am definitely no expert in health. I love sloth and gluttony as much as the next guy (undoubtedly more than some), but even I was able to glean the truth from Jacobs’ experiences. The top two suggestions were the same as those we hear from our doctors at every visit – eat whole, healthy foods, and exercise every day. There is absolutely nothing flashy about that plan, but it works. If you want to go above and beyond this, you can improve your sleep, your mental outlook, and almost any body part (as long as you’re willing to commit to the specific exercises or therapies that will strengthen weak parts of the anatomy). If you want to go even further, well, I suggest your read this book first and get an idea of what that undertaking really looks like.
Good health is a wonderful gift, but many other things in life also deserve attention. Family, friends, career, hobbies, faith, service work – each of these are commitments that require time and energy – and if you choose to devote your entire life only to optimizing your body, you’ll miss out. At least, that’s what Jacobs’ discovered, and I’m inclined to believe him. He spent two plus years pushing himself to every extreme, and in the end, moderation was the most successful solution for him. Sure, he spends more time walking and running, and his diet is largely plant-based now, but those are relatively easy changes for any of us to make if we want to. Also, honestly, it was interesting to watch him geek out over his health, if only because it meant I could take the easier road after learning from his example. And if there’s on thing I’ve learned from all this, it’s that easy is always right! (Is what nobody healthy said ever.)
Check out AJ Jacobs’ adventures for yourself here.