Drop Dead Healthy: 9 Questions For A.J. Jacobs

The Power 9 Series is designed to capture expert advice on how to live longer, better, and offers insights on healthy living.

A.J. Jacobs is the author of The Know-It-All, The Year of Living Biblically and Drop Dead Healthy. He is the editor at large at Esquire magazine, and a contributor to NPR. He lives in New York with his wife and three children.


1. What did you eat for breakfast this morning?

A hard-boiled egg white, walnuts, a whole mess of blueberries and strawberries and a couple of spoonfuls of hummus. No cereal. I fear cereal. I think John Harvey Kellogg – the 19th century yogurt-enema-loving health guru and inventor of corn flakes – set us off on a path to obesity.

2. If Oprah asked you what your new book, Drop Dead Healthy, was about, what would you say?

It’s about an out-of-shape guy (me) 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.

3. What is the most important health take-away from the book if people want to replicate your success (and your electrifying abs of steel)?

Avoid sitting in one place for more than an hour. If you’re at your desk, get up every hour and walk around for a couple of minutes. As pointed out in one of my favorite health books, The Blue Zones, by Dan “Abs of Plutonium” Buettner, walking is a key to longevity.

The sedentary life is a killer. I took it to the extreme and wrote this book while walking (slowly) on a treadmill. It took me about 1,200 miles.

4. What is your favorite new recipe?

I’ve tricked my kids into liking kale chips. I shred the kale, mix it with a little canola oil, salt, and sesame seeds and then bake it at 250 degrees.

5. If I said, ‘A.J., I want to look better next month,’ what would you tell me to do?

The easiest thing? Wear sunscreen, big hats and tightly-knit clothes of dark colors (which repel UV rays). Nothing ages you faster than sun damage. And we Americans under-apply sunscreen by about 50 percent. We should be using a shot-glass full of sunscreen every four hours. That’s a whole lot of sunscreen.

6. What is the best exercise in the world?

I’m tempted to say burpee, since I love the name so much. But in terms of scientific evidence, I’d say High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) seems to have the most support. This is when you sprint for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds. Then repeat several times. (You can also bike, swim, or jump – whatever gets your heart rate near maximum) You can get a workout in 20 minutes, and it’s probably better for you than jogging leisurely for 40 minutes.

7. What are you surfing (websites)?

I’m a big fan of Science-Based Medicine, where they look at what really has evidence and what is wishful thinking. I also like Marion Nestle’s blog Food Politics. She’s a nutrition professor at New York University, and one of the best thinkers on food matters I know.

8.  You also wrote the New York Times bestseller, The Year of Living Biblically.  What are the healthiest and unhealthiest foods from the Bible?  Any good Bible recipes?

Well, Ezekiel bread is pretty healthy as far as breads go – it’s got spelt, barley, millet, lentils, and other whole grains. Though I should mention that in the Bible, God originally wanted Ezekiel to bake the bread over human dung, which I don’t endorse, health-wise.

9. What do you wear in your private moments?

Noise-canceling headphones. Also, pants. As for the headphones, one of the surprise findings of my project is how bad noise pollution is for your health. Noise leads to stress, which leads to heart disease. One study found that people who work in noisy environments have two to three times the rate of heart disease. So I strive for quiet. Not easy with three young kids.

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