How hard would it be for you to give up all of the processed foods you eat everyday, and instead subsist on a diet of natural juices? How hard would it be if your very life depended on it? That is what the documentary, Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, staring Joe Cross, tackles in a little over 90 minutes.
The film features Cross, an Australian entrepreneur and investor, and his journey to undo years of unhealthy eating and living by embarking on a 60-day juice fast (under medical supervision) while traveling across the United States. In addition to dealing with his weight and fitness, Cross was looking to do away with the 11 different medications (yes, I counted!) he needed to take everyday to manage his chronic urticaria—an autoimmune disease that causes him to break out in hives all over for the smallest of reasons.
Along the way, Cross approaches Americans in a “Man on the Street” way about their relationships with food and fitness, and some of the conversations were eye opening. One man went so far as to say that he knew it was his fault he was overweight and unhealthy, but he couldn’t help it; he was hooked on the food. That’s a real testament to what many people across the globe are dealing with—a physical addiction to food, or rather, all the additives in food that was meant to help us (by prolonging shelf life). He also touches upon psychological dependence and admits that “…it’s a tough thing when you have an emotional attachment to food.”
One of the women interviewed in the film dubbed Cross “crazy as hell” for not eating, while others admitted to engaging in an unhealthy lifestyle but not caring. Cross asked one woman, “If I told you eating fruits and vegetables would really keep you healthy, would that change your mind?” She responded honestly: “Probably not.” Her reasoning was she was sixteen, implying that her youth would keep her well. Some proclaimed that they’d rather die happy after having eaten their favorite meal than go on a fast of any kind. But Cross explains how fasting is a natural process. “Fasting is part of who we are as a human being,” he says in the film, tracing it back to our hunter-gatherer ancestors who would go days before having a full meal, but still managed to survive.
While Cross’ transformation throughout the fast was amazing enough (I won’t spoil the surprise), argumentatively the best part of the film was the other folks he helped along the way. One was Siong Norte of Iowa, who agreed to a 10-day juice fast to see if it would do away with her crippling migraines. The other was Phil Staples, an obese truck driver from Arizona who also suffered from chronic urticaria and agreed to the more intense 30-day juice fast. Norte came away from her fast with a better understanding of what it meant to be healthy, while Staples took the 30-day fast and extended it even further, making drastic changes in his diet and lifestyle. The results will have you speechless.
Critics of the film state Cross doesn’t bother to touch upon race and class and the role those two factors play in an unhealthy diet, and that a a diet of only natural juices is unrealistic. Yet another stated that juicing eliminated the nutrient-rich pulp from the final product, when just eating the fruits and vegetables in question would have sufficed and produced the same result.
But those points aside (this isn’t a film about the socioeconomics of human diets or vegan propaganda, after all), the results end up speaking for themselves. An overwhelming positive response to the film led to a website with information on how anyone could take back their health. I sent Cross a message asking what he thought about the public’s renewed interest in juice-fasting. “Watching the response to Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead has been overwhelming,” said Cross. “I created Reboot Your Life to provide people with the tools and information they are so eager for after seeing the film. The movement toward healthier, plant-based eating is growing more powerful each day, and we’re at almost 350,000 members—average people seeking to transform their lives and support each other.”
And to those critics who think a long-term juice fast is unrealistic and unattainable, Cross can attest to the ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle while juicing. “I’m not perfect by any means,” adds Cross, “but like anyone who has undergone the transformation I did—from obesity and illness to wellness—I’m addicted to feeling good. Whenever I’m tempted to slip back into my old ways, all I have to do is pause and really remember how I felt back then and how energized, vital and focused I feel now.”
This film is definitely worth the 90 minutes, if for no other reason than to get you thinking about the food you eat, the chances you continually take with your own health and the better days that can be yours with one small change at a time.
*Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead can be purchased at Reboot Your Life, or viewed online on Netflix or Hulu.