What Doesn't Kill Us, a New York Times bestseller, traces our evolutionary journey back to a time when survival depended on how well we adapted to the environment around us.
Our ancestors crossed deserts, mountains, and oceans without even a whisper of what anyone today might consider modern technology. Those feats of endurance now seem impossible in an age where we take comfort for granted. But what if we could regain some of our lost evolutionary strength by simulating the environmental conditions of our ancestors?
Investigative journalist and anthropologist Scott Carney takes up the challenge to find out: Can we hack our bodies and use the environment to stimulate our inner biology? Helping him in his search for the answers is Dutch fitness guru Wim Hof, whose ability to control his body temperature in extreme cold has sparked a whirlwind of scientific study. Carney also enlists input from an Army scientist, a world-famous surfer, the founders of an obstacle course race movement, and ordinary people who have documented how they have cured autoimmune diseases, lost weight, and reversed diabetes. In the process, he chronicles his own transformational journey as he pushes his body and mind to the edge of endurance, a quest that culminates in a record-bending, 28-hour climb to the snowy peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro wearing nothing but a pair of running shorts and sneakers.
An ambitious blend of investigative reporting and participatory journalism, What Doesn’t Kill Us explores the true connection between the mind and the body and reveals the science that allows us to push past our perceived limitations.
As this engaging autoethnography relates, anthropologist and investigative journalist Carney was skeptical upon encountering a photo of a nearly naked Wim Hof sitting on a glacier in the Arctic Circle. Hof, a Dutch fitness guru who runs a training camp in Poland's wilderness, claims he can control his body temperature and immune system solely with his mind; though Carney set out to prove Hof a charlatan, he was instead won over. Carney documents his interactions with Hof and the many others who have learned to control their bodies in seemingly impossible ways: he learned Hof's breathing techniques for tricking the body into doing things it isn't evolutionarily designed for, and underwent training to face extreme cold while barely clothed. It is this training that enables Hof and Carney to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro in 28 hours while wearing shorts. This is part guide and part popular science book; readers will learn about how Neanderthals used the body's "brown fat" to keep warm and how exposure nearly reverses the symptoms of diabetes. The accomplishments Carney documents are unbelievable and fascinating; this isn't a how-to for those looking to perform extraordinary feats, but it is an entertaining account that will appeal to the adventurous. 16 pages of b&w photos.
Overall a win
This is overall a fantastic book. I gave it 4 stars because in places it got a bit self indulgent in a way that didn’t add to the narrative, also the book did not outline as much depth on the method than I was hoping for, but that may have been a misinterpretation on my part of the title and narrative therein. All of which is merely personal opinion, and overall was still a fun read and I would recommend.