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For twenty-one years, Brody has been writing the "Personal Health" column in The New York Times, urging readers to lay off the french fries and use the stairs instead of the elevator, while also explaining the latest research on nutrition and disease prevention. Brody has attracted such a strong following that Time magazine hailed her as the "High Priestess of Health." Her voice mail at the Times is so overloaded with messages that she hardly ever checks it. And wherever she goes, people seek advice. "Within the space of twenty-four hours," Brody says, "one person asked me about golf elbow and another person asked me about tennis elbow."
The columns have impact, too. After a lecture to a community group, Brody was signing books when a slim woman approached her, produced a photo of an overweight woman, and said, "This was me a year ago. I followed your advice, and look." The woman had lost a hundred pounds.
Brody started personal-health journalism at the Times and has been its most evangelical proponent. The fifty-six-year-old journalist originated the "Personal Health" column in 1976. Thinking the weekly column would be a burden, she originally committed to writing it for three months. It quickly became the most popular feature on The New York Times News Service. "I came back and asked for a raise," Brody said. She has spent virtually her entire career at The New York Times, beginning as a science and health writer in 1965 after two years at the Minneapolis Tribune. She has also written nine books, mostly on nutrition and fitness.
Brody practices what she preaches, exercising daily in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, which is a block and a half from her home. She plays tennis four times a week, ice-skates regularly in the winter, swims every day, and cross-country skis over the park's ball fields when it snows.
She will admit to shortcomings in following her own advice: "I am a classic example of a sleep-deprived person. I resist going to sleep at night and I wake up very early in the morning without a clock, so I usually end up taking a mini-nap during the day. I'm a big believer in naps."