In an odd twist, I am a fat guy who is taking advice from a man halfway across the world whom I have never met. It’s curious thing when new ideas can have a profound effect on how you think about your own life. It’s even more interesting to have that person actually affect your world. I am about to embark on a journey that I have been on before. Well… Sort of…
I am a movie fanatic with a Netflix obsession. In case you don’t know, Netflix has a little of everything and can lead you into some great features after you have rated other movies that you have already seen. It bases the suggestions on what you like and what you don’t like from your ratings. I started my subscription after a History of Documentary class that I had taken in my senior year at the University of Wyoming. It was an amazing course and I would recommend it to anyone.
My taste in documentaries has taken an interesting turn on my Netflix account. I have most appreciated the huge number of documentaries that highlight nature and anthropology. Recently however, I have leaned more toward documentaries about food and health (both physical and mental). One of my most recent finds has led me to try something that I would have thought to be ridiculous in the past. It is a little extreme for an admitted fat guy, but I felt the need to try to improve my health.
In the movie, “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” the subject and director, Joe Cross, makes a trip from his homeland of Australia to America for a period of two months. Joe has decided that his health is so poor, that he needed something dramatic to help him make a positive change in his life. He decides to make a trip to the US to talk to people across the nation about their health and food choices. Our subject is an almost-40 man who is obese and has a chronic skin disease for which he must take oral steroids. He had noticed that his overall health had rapidly depleted in recent years and he was ready to make whatever changes were necessary to improve his failing health. Joe took a dramatic approach with stupendous success.
Joe decided to do a fast where he completely cut out all animal products in exchange for nothing more than fruits and vegetables, all-day every day. In the documentary he talks about how, for thousands of years, we had a cycle that our bodies are still programmed for. It is the winter fast, when meat was hard to come by and so were fruits or vegetables of any kind. In these lean times, he explains that we are meant to lose a percentage of our body weight as part of a normal cycle. Cross talks about how without this part of the yearly cycle, our body’s rhythms can be disturbed and our health can suffer because of it. Cross decides that a cleansing, or fast, could potentially reset his hay-wired bodily systems and put him on the right path for a healthier life in the long-run.
Much of the first section of the movie explains the idea of a micro-nutrient rich diet versus a macro-nutrient rich diet. Cross goes on to discuss how many nations with weight issues consume diets that are high in macro-nutrients. Micro-nutrients are found in plant matter (fruits, vegetables, nuts, and roots) while macro-nutrients are found in animal products (meat, dairy, eggs, and bread).
Our subject postulates that by implementing this fasting cycle into his life, his body will have the ability to fully recover and heal itself from the many years of a macro-nutrient bombardment it has received. He also believes that if his health stabilizes, he will be able to wean himself off of medications and will no longer suffer from his skin disorder. I thought that it seemed like a bit of a stretch for changing your diet to have an effect on every malfunctioning body system, but the proof is there.
Joe sets off for America for 60 days to prove that anyone can rejuvenate their health by having a whole foods diet, without any processed food. Cross plans on fasting by juicing large amount of fruits and vegetables (mostly green). He decides that his journey will have two parts. For the first 30 days he stays in New York City and talks to a wide variety of people every day about their own health and what kind of foods they eat on a regular basis. He also keeps some of his juice mixtures on-hand for people to sample when he interviews them on the street. Largely, people are not interested in the health juices but some of them give it a taste with mixed reviews in regards to flavor. On the second 30 days, he gathers his juicer and heads out on the road. He leaves NYC on a mission to reach the west coast and spread his story to all of those whom he meets on his cross-country journey. In this section, he meets a morbidly obese man with the same chronic skin disease whom he offers to help after a lengthy and friendly conversation.
In the first 30 days Joe makes many comments on how he is feeling during each day of his experience and he takes the time to ask serious questions to complete strangers. As with any change in diet, his body puts up some resistance as he begins his two-month adventure. Despite what I had expected, his new diet shows massive results in a short period of time with relatively little exercise other than walking.
The second half of the journey sends him on the road to see the country and talk to people about his quest to control his own health. Halfway thru his journey he meets Phil Riverstone. Phil is a trucker who was once a scrawny kid but when he met Joe he tipped the scales at over 400lbs. Phil is a special case for Joe because he is the only person that he has ever met with the same chronic skin disease. After the men have a heart-to-heart, Joe offers his new friend Phil any help that he might be able to contribute. They both leave to finish their journeys, but Phil will soon play a major role in the film as a separate case with even more profound effects from Joe’s fasting process.
Phil was not the only person that found some form of healing from Joe’s methods, but his experience is the most dramatic. Another woman, who suffered from chronic, debilitating, migraine headaches, finds some relief from her symptoms after a 15-day period with micro-nutrient rich juices. She continued to enjoy the juices twice a week after she had finished her initial 15-day fast and she was able to kiss her migraines goodbye.
The story picks up a few months after Joe has returned to Sydney, Australia. Phil decides that he needs help and asks for help from Joe. Joe feels as though he can’t refuse to help someone that has the same problems that he had. Joe heads back to America in an effort to make Phil’s transition to a healthier lifestyle easier. The new friends head to a neutral location where Phil can relax, follow the program, and increase his physical activity. Phil jumps in without giving it a second thought and his results show his determination to have a healthier life.
At the end of the film you see, with a fresh eye, two men who have decided to change their lives for the better and have done so victoriously!
This cinéma vérité style of this film makes the viewer a part of the entire journey that Joe has undertaken. As a member of the journey, I think that the film has the potential to have a much stronger effect on the audience. I too believe that there is a natural order to our health that has been altered by our environment and our food intake. Therefore, I have decided to try and take a journey of my own to find myself with a better quality of life then I currently possess.
I am taking steps to change where I currently stand in regards to a proper balanced diet. I didn’t think that this change would be all that difficult since I enjoy fruit and nearly all vegetables. I am just getting started on my new journey and would like you to come along for the journey too. So please, stop back by — as I will be keeping tabs on my journey to better health over the next 60 days. I am not diving in head first into the deep end like Joe and Phil, but instead easing into it from the shallow end. I figure that easing into it will give me a fighter’s chance at leaving my fatter days behind me. Day 1 – 245 lbs