Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead

Imagine if you could improve your life expectancy, quality of life, health, wellness, and appearance, all by including more fruits and vegetables in your diet  Doesn’t that sound like a pretty good deal?  Obviously!  Now question number two….Why aren’t you eating healthier?

I just finished watching the documentary Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.  It was recommend to me by a former roommate from the University of Delaware, and I’m passing it on to you.  Ryan and I have always had an affinity for reading each other’s mind, which comes in really handy when playing drums together or cracking jokes.  As it turns out, it also comes in handy when recommending documentaries to your health-minded friends who have a health and fitness blog.  If you’re wondering, it makes for some frustrating games of chess.

After Ryan recommended the film to me last night, I decided to watch it as soon as possible.  I was intrigued!  This is the synopsis off of the film’s website:

“100 pounds overweight, loaded up on steroids and suffering from a debilitating autoimmune disease, Joe Cross is at the end of his rope and the end of his hope. In the mirror he saw a 310lb man whose gut was bigger than a beach ball and a path laid out before him that wouldn’t end well— with one foot already in the grave, the other wasn’t far behind. FAT, SICK & NEARLY DEAD is an inspiring film that chronicles Joe’s personal mission to regain his health.

With doctors and conventional medicines unable to help long- term, Joe turns to the only option left, the body’s ability to heal itself. He trades in the junk food and hits the road with juicer and generator in tow, vowing only to drink fresh fruit and vegetable juice for the next 60 days. Across 3,000 miles Joe has one goal in mind: To get off his pills and achieve a balanced lifestyle.

While talking to more than 500 Americans about food, health and longevity, it’s at a truck stop in Arizona where Joe meets a truck driver who suffers from the same rare condition. Phil Staples is morbidly obese weighing in at 429 lbs; a cheeseburger away from a heart-attack. As Joe is recovering his health, Phil begins his own epic journey to get well.

What emerges is nothing short of amazing – an inspiring tale of healing and human connection.
Part road trip, part self-help manifesto, FAT, SICK & NEARLY DEAD defies the traditional documentary format to present an unconventional and uplifting story of two men from different worlds who each realize that the only person who can save them is themselves.”

At the beginning of the film, director/producer Joe Cross explains his battle with urticaria, an autoimmune disease that involves incessant rashes and hives across his body.  Visits to various doctors left him frustrated, as no cause or cure could be found for his situation.  He was taking numerous pills to support his poor health, including 15mgs of prednisone on a daily basis.  After several Western doctors had failed him, and traditional Chinese medicine and herbal therapy didn’t do the trick, Joe decided to let his body follow it’s own natural healing process.  After all, hasn’t it done that our entire life?

Do you remember falling off your bike and scraping your knee as a kid?  Sure, you could use ice and Neosporin to ‘help’ the wound heal faster, but we all knew that our body would heal itself.  Maybe the scab would itch a few times, but a week or so later, we were good as new.  Our body has evolved to heal itself!  Unfortunately, it hasn’t evolved fast enough.

The vast majority of chronic illness is caused my mankind’s own inventions.  We’ve created toxic habits, such as alcohol consumption and tobacco use, and toxic foods, which offer little nutrition and a significant caloric surplus.  It would be hard to design a worse diet than the typical American diet.  On average, Americans eat 60% processed foods, 30% animal products, 5% whole grains and potatoes, and 5% fruits and vegetables.  During the ‘juice fast’ used in this film, fruit and vegetable consumption went up to 100%, and all other foods were eliminated.  Simple enough, right?

The results were spectacular.  Joe Cross, the producer, helped numerous people participate in a juice fast to ‘reboot’ their body, to miraculous results.  According to Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, LDN, Senior Clinical Nutritionist at Brigham & Women’s Hospital:”So juice fasting, you’re still eating something, you’re drinking nutrients.  Particularly, a lot of micronutrients that are coming from fruits and vegetables, and because it’s a liquid, it’s more rapidly absorbed.  So it’s a quick, easy way of giving your body a potent source of healthy nutrients.”  It makes perfect sense!  The reason that Joe went with with a juice fast was because of the high quantity of fruits and vegetables that would be ‘fit in’ to a relatively small glass; More nutrients for less calories.  That’s a key goal of choosing healthy foods.

Under the supervision of Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Joe embarked on a 60 day juice fast, with blood work done regularly every 10 days.  Over the course of these days he also reduced the quantity of medicine he was taking, to the point where he no longer took them!  During the documentary we also meet Phil, a truck driver with the same autoimmune disease Joe has.  Prior to his ‘Reboot’, Phil weighed in at 429lbs and was in constant pain and discomfort due to his weight.  After 10 months he weighed in at 227lbs, a weight loss of 202lbs.  Daily exercise and a healthy diet are a big part of Phil’s weight loss, and he’s no longer taking medicine for any chronic conditions.

I’ve inserted the extended version of the trailer so you can watch it to get a quick look at the film and the stories told:

Interesting isn’t it?  Now, before you think I’m about to tell everyone with weight or health issues to start an juice fast, that’s not where I’m going.  In his explanation of the film to me, Ryan said “I feel like you’re missing so much by just drinking juice.”  I totally agree!  More fruits and vegetables are going to be healthier for you, there aren’t any questions about that.  It’s if you can incorporate those into your diet that’s the issue.  If you’re just not the person to have a salad, but you can have a sweet potato, salmon, and a fruit/vegetable smoothie and feel satisfied, then why not do that?!  In fact, I had that for dinner last week, and finally get to use the picture I took!

Orange themed dinner!

If you’ve read any of my posts, you know that I’m a fan of smoothies and shakes to include ‘bonus’ fruits and vegetables in your diet.  It takes little effort to create delicious shakes, and if they’re going to contribute to your health, I think everyone should be including them in their daily diet.  The idea of juicing fresh produce isn’t a foreign one; Jack LaLane promoted it for decades.  Unfortunately, our society has turned to the pre-squeezed variety found in bottles and cartons, and we’re really paying for it.  As much as I love my blender, I’m going to be searching for an inexpensive juicer/blender combo so I can incorporate a greater array of vegetables and fruits into my diet.  There are times when I say to myself,  “Wow Harold, you eat like crap!”  It’s not true compared to the normal way of eating, but just like anything else, you can always eat better.

Towards the end of the film, Dr. Fuhrman says that we live in a “medically crippled society” that wastes money on diseases that we’ve created for ourselves.  Many of these diseases can be eliminated or controlled with sensible nutrition, but we’re a nutritionally ignorant (and in some cases arrogant) country.  Even as you read this, you may be saying, “Oh, who cares! I like what I eat!”, or “We’re all going to die anyway!” or “But I don’t like to eat fruits and vegetables!”

Those all may be true, but it’s also true that you’re more likely to contribute to your own death, which will come prematurely.  Essentially, we’re committing suicide by food.  Just as you could accept this as true and keep pounding frosted flakes flakes and pop tarts for breakfasts, with trips to McDonalds for lunch and dinner, you could also accept it as true…and change your ways.  If incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet could help you live happier and longer, what would you do with that time?

That very question is asked of the producer early on in the film, but an Oklahoman who’s content with limiting his life thanks to his eating habits.  The father of 4 would rather blame ‘fate’ for his untimely death then man up and take control of his own health.  This is common place in a country where 2/3 of the population is overweight or obese.  We’d much rather eat applie pie than apples.  I’m not quite sure why.

What I am sure about, is that eating more fruits and vegetables is going to make you feel better on the inside, look better on the outside, and live a longer, happier life.  If you make the efforts to include more fruits and vegetables in your diet, you’re going to see and feel the difference, and your children and grandchildren will thank you for it when you’re telling them to eat their vegetables.  Do yourself a favor, both in the present and for the future:

Eat more fruits and vegetables.  (And while you’re making your shake, grill a nice cut of steak as well!)

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2 Replies to “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead”

  1. I stumbled across this film a few weeks ago actually. I really enjoyed watching it and was saddened almost when I heard the country’s responses to when he asked them WHY they don’t clean up their acts. My only complaint was what you said, that it kind of pushes a specific diet on the viewers. Otherwise, it was great.

    1. He made great points about the link between both good and bad diets and health. You’re right, that his plant only diet isn’t the best idea. While too many people are still fat phobic and are indoctrinated to think that 6-12 servings of whole grains are the answer, promoting plant consumption is certainly neccesary…as long as it comes with some good ‘ol fashioned meat! Not fried, of course.

      The folks he interviewed has such a sad outlook on it, that they were going to die anyway. I’d take a healthy life to 90 over coronary artery disease at 40 any chance I got!

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