For a full year, serial experimenter A.J. Jacobs religiously followed health advice, from slathering sunscreen to sporting a bike helmet while shopping. This was not the first time Jacobs turned himself into a human lab: the senior editor of Esquire magazine is also the best-selling author of “The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World”; “The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment”; and “The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible.”
He will talk about his latest book, “Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection” on Monday, May 7, at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, presented by JCC Greenwich.
During his year of biblical living, Jacobs grew a long beard, lightly tossed pebbles at a “cranky elderly man” who proudly admitted to adultery, and was fruitful and multiplied – his wife gave birth to twins.
Born Jewish into a secular home – “I am Jewish in the same way the Olive Garden is Italian,” he writes – Jacobs stopped wearing clothes of mixed fibers and attempted to follow the Sabbath. While he began the year-long journey as an agnostic, he emerged with a new take on Jewishness.
“Interestingly, the project really connected me with my Judaism,” he says. “After the year, my wife and I joined a synagogue. And we like celebrating the rituals and being part of the community. This, despite the fact that I don’t have a strong belief in God.”
Jacobs says that he decided to become “drop-dead healthy” because he was in terrible shape. “I needed all the help I could get,” he says. “I was what they call ‘skinny fat,’ which means I had a body that resembled a snake that had swallowed a goat. I got out of breath playing Hide and Seek with my kids. And my wife said to me, ‘I don’t want to be a widow” in my 40s.’”
Like his other experiments, this one had to be all in. Jacobs resolved to test every shred of medical advice he could find, to determine what works and what doesn’t.
Along the way, he learned some surprising truths.
“First, we have to stop sitting so much,” he says. “Sitting is alarmingly bad for your heart and metabolism. You really should get up from your desk every few minutes and walk around.” In fact, Jacobs wrote the book while walking on the treadmill. “Took me about 1,200 miles,” he says.
Another bit of health advice, from Maimonides, is to eat only until three-quarters full. “That is absolutely true,” says Jacobs.
Jacobs is considering suggestions for his next project. “My kids want me to do ‘The Year of Eating Nothing But Candy,’” he says. “My religious friends want me to do “The Year of Living Talmudically.”
“Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection” with author A.J. Jacobs: Monday, May 7, 7:30 p.m., The Bruce Museum, 1 Museum Drive, Greenwich | Tickets/info: JCC Greenwich, www.jccgreenwich.org / (203) 552-1818