A book of the year for the Evening Standard and The Times.
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 forebears?
Humans like to be comfortable. When it's hot we switch on the air conditioning and when it's cold we crank up the central heating. Yet thousands of us take part in challenges like Tough Mudder, Total Warrior and Survival of the Fittest, which take us well and truly out of our comfort zones.
Scott Carney spent his days sitting at a desk staring at a screen. Approaching his mid-30s, he told himself that it was normal for his stomach to sag and for his legs to ache from under-use. Then he came across a picture of a nearly naked man twenty years his senior sitting on a glacier: Dutch guru Wim Hof, whose remarkable ability to control his body temperature in extreme cold has sparked a whirlwind of scientific study. Carney signed up to Hof's one-week course, not realising that it would be the start of a four-year journey to unlock his own evolutionary potential.
From hyperventilating in a dilapidated Polish farm house, to underwater weight-lifting with celebrities in California, What Doesn't Kill Us sees Carney interview athletes, trainers and scientists about the astonishing and sometimes dangerous world of body transformation. He takes part in the UK's original - and most difficult - obstacle course: Tough Guy, and completes a record-bending, 28-hour climb to the snowy peak of Mt Kilimanjaro, wearing nothing but a pair of shorts and running shoes. Above all, he learns that getting a little less comfortable might actually be the key to living a healthier, happier life.
About the Author
Scott Carney is an award-winning investigative journalist and anthropologist whose stories blend narrative nonfiction with ethnography. His reporting has taken him to some of the most dangerous and unlikely corners of the world. He is a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism and a fellow at the Center for Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder.
He is the author of The Red Market and A Death on Diamond Mountain, and has been a contributing editor at Wired. Other works of his have appeared in Mother Jones, Foreign Policy, Playboy, Details, Discover, Outside, and Fast Company, among other publications. He lives in Denver with his wife, Laura, and their cat, Lambert.
"Climbing a mountain in nothing but a pair of shorts seems idiotic to most, but for Wim Hof and his companions, it’s just another day. When investigative journalist and anthropologist Carney heard about Hof’s mind-boggling methods and claims that he could “hack” the human body, he knew he had to venture to Poland to expose this fraud. But in just a few days, Hof changed Carney’s mind, and so began a friendship and a new adventure. Carney now chronicles his journey to push himself mentally and physically using Wim Hof’s method of cold exposure, breath-holding, and meditation to tap into our primal selves. Our ancestors survived harsh conditions without modern technology, while we live in comfortable bubbles with little to struggle against and wonder how they survived. The question is, What happens when we push our bodies to the limit? Carney calls on evolutionary biology and other modern scientific disciplines to explore and explain Hof’s unconventional methods. Fresh and exciting, this book has wide appeal for readers interested in health, sports, self-improvement, and extreme challenges."
"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."
"On the heels of the paleo diet comes a new claim: taking on the physical challenges of the environment faced by our prehistoric ancestors can undo what easy calories and effortless comfort have done to our bodies?made them fat, lazy, and weak.
In his latest book, investigative journalist and anthropologist Carney (A Death on Diamond Mountain: A True Story of Obsession, Madness, and the Path to Enlightenment, 2015, etc.) expands on his 2014 Playboy piece, “The Iceman Cometh,” in which he profiled Dutch fitness guru Wim Hof and experienced Hof’s strenuous training methods, some of which involve exposing the near-naked body to snow and icy water. At first skeptical, Carney became convinced by the changes he experienced in his own body. The narrative is filled with personal details that will engage, astonish, and even repel readers. Expanding on his unnerving close-up account, the author also examines the research being done on the role of brown adipose tissue in the body and a variety of military and sports medicine training practices. He cites the anecdotal evidence of people who have placed their faith in Hof and are convinced that his techniques have changed, if not saved, their lives?e.g., sufferers of Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. As a climax to his account, Carney describes how, stripped to the waist, he accompanied Hof on a climb to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak. In the epilogue, the author asserts that his experiences showed him that “exposure to cold helps reconfigure the cardiovascular system, combat autoimmune malfunctions, and is a pretty darned good method to simply lose weight.” Hof provides the book’s foreword.
Couch potatoes take warning: the experiences described in this testimonial are often tough to read about, and the conclusions, while sometimes convincing, might best be taken with a touch of skepticism."
Number Of Pages: 272
Published: 30th January 2017
Publisher: Scribe Publications
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 23.4 x 15.4 x 2.8
Weight (kg): 0.4