Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead (a review)

Friday night was a celebration of being far enough ahead in my classes to reward myself with a movie. Having already determined that the DVD I had from Netflix was terrible (Time Traveler's Wife...ugh. I am way too much a scientist for that crappy movie. No offense if you liked it), I went to the internetwebs to find something that might be streaming. I found 'Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.'

To be honest, this was actually not a typical movie choice for me. I might be a food/healthy lifestyle blogger, but there are a lot of movements that I don't generally buy into. For instance, I'm not a huge fan of 'The Biggest Loser'. Why? I think they do a great service for morbidly obese people to get them to a point where they can then do 'normal' activities without difficulty, but the lifestyle they teach is not something that can be maintained in the long run. There have been finalists and winners that relapse back hundreds of pounds. Those people go back to their jobs, their families, and their food and need to be able to cope when a literal and figurative carrot isn't dangling in front of them.

I also really dislike one-sided arguments. Michael Moore movies bother me (I don't like people who yell a lot in general). I have read Michael Pollan's books, and the best thing about them is that in one he admits that he doesn't have all the answers. Because I think food, food policy, and the social aspects of food complicate the story in ways that he never gets to. I will say that I really enjoyed 'Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution' series, but that's because he really exposed America's problem with food in a new way and had to 'learn on the go' how to reach people.

Ok, so now I've let you in on why I generally wouldn't choose this movie. But I did, and so you probably want the synopsis and the review.

Joe Cross suffers from an autoimmune disorder that is making his life miserable. He has tried all of the modern and alternative medicines that he can find, and nothing is helping. He decides to drastically change his diet via a 60 day juice fast, which he does while facing his enemy in the food-lover's haven: the USA. Along the way he interacts with a variety of people, talking about food, lifestyle, and morbidity and mortality. He also recruits two 'real world' examples of everyday people to try his method.

Hopefully I didn't give too much away! Ok, the review: 

-Joe Cross is likeable. He doesn't come off as pompous. He's a little self-depricating. He's understanding when people disagree with him. 

-He seeks and acquires the correct medical supervision. 
-The auto-immune disorder gives him a good case for removing unnecessary stimuli in the form of food from his diet. 

-He talks with experts. One expert, Joel Fuhrman, who is a medical doctor, has built his career around a new food pyramid with a plant basis. This isn't a vegetarian or vegan food pyramid. It's just a new way of thinking about food consumption (and the fiance will attest: even though I had no idea about this pyramid, it's how I cook and eat). Here is the pyramid: 

He also did a study correlating diet to weight loss, cardiovascular health, and metabolite counts (like cholesterol, triglycerides) from patients following this diet vs. a traditional food pyramid diet over 6mos-2 years in treatment. Those patients following this plant-based pyramid lost and kept off the most weight. Here is a link to the study summary: Plant based High Nutrient Diet and Weight Loss.

-He gets regular people to try it and they like the results. They stick with the program. This will become more important when I get to the things I wasn't crazy about.

-He never talks about calorie consumption. He isn't trying to sell you a 1200 calorie diet. One of the regular people weighs over 400 lbs. He gets to start by drinking more juice. Obviously, 400 lbs requires more fuel than a 200 lb person. 

-The juicer he uses isn't fancy-schmancy. It's a Breville. You can buy them at any big-box store. He does have this battery generator that lets him juice out of the back of his car, but that's not neccesary. One of the regular people in the film just juices enough to fill a pitcher in the morning and carries it around with him for the rest of the day. It shows two reasonable ways to juice all day if that's what you're going to do.

-He doesn't demonize specific foods or the people who eat them. 

Not for me
-Juicing as your only source of food? I don't think it's necessary. However, juice does contain less fiber than whole fruits and vegetables, so it will be better for people who are transitioning from a low-fiber diet. One of the regular people talks pretty candidly about her GI problems when transitioning to the juice fast. The influx of 'micronutrients' really does a number on the osmotic pressure in your intestines. Diarrhea is a normal side effect. (Want more details? How diarrhea and food poisoning works)

-He never talks about calorie consumption. We all know that if you want to lose weight, calories in << calories out, right? Well, that's never addressed. The experts claim that you don't really have to measure calories because the nutrient dense foods keep you full, but I'm going to say that people can still gain weight with that mentality. I am a bigger fan of the counting calories (at least initially) or listening to your body and understanding how that correlates to calorie consumption.

-He's really very wealthy. He can fly to the US on almost no notice. He's spent his lifetime building his wealth, and while he does work, he is the boss of his work. In fact, only one of his regular people continued to work during the fast. And one of his regular people actually decided to change jobs because of this lifestyle change (was a truck driver, now works at the YMCA). This is probably not a good lifestyle for those of us who work 40+ hours per week or are in a transitional period of our lives because it requires so much dedication and control.

-While all three of the people profiled in this documentary had major medical problems that are not understood by modern medicine: migraines & auto-immune disorders. I definitely think a healthy lifestyle is a way to keep these problems under control and that weight loss is going to help regulate the way your body responds to stimuli, but I don't think a juice fast is the only way to do it.

-Finally, I am afraid this is going to become a weight-loss gimmick. And it shouldn't be.

Ok, so my final grade for this movie was B+. 

Not too much propaganda. Involved real, everyday people (from Iowa!) and was narrated by an approachable enough person. It was fun to watch. You wanted people to succeed. And there wasn't too much demonization of specific foods or the people who ate them.

What is your favorite diet or food and lifestyle philosophy?


  1. One of my friends watched this documentary & promptly went out & bought a Jack laLanne juicer. She & her family have been juicing twice a day since then and LOVE it. She says she feels better than ever--she has Hashimoto's & always watched what she ate.

    I agree with your synopsis. My husband thought it was weird that the guy just stopped people and talked with them about juicing, but I thought it was fine for a documentary. The guy certainly wasn't pushy or preachy, which I appreciated.

  2. Haha, well I read your comment about the Time Traveller's wife and refuse to read the rest of the entry. I absolutely LOVED that book - the BOOK not the MOVIE. It's a sweet idea and it's FICTION, it's a great story and it will make you appreciate all the time you have on this Earth. Okay... now I'll go read the rest of the entry.

  3. I don't really diet - I've always been lucky that I eat pretty healthy, and my body tells me when I need to work off some extra fat/sugar (hyper-ness, restlessness, etc). Lately (university life) I've found myself snacking A LOT and a 'diet' to me means consciously stopping myself from doing that. If I find myself looking inside the fridge between meals I ask myself if I'm REALLY hungry, and it usually ends there. I keep myself busy until dinnertime. So yay!

  4. @Suza: I'm sorry I inflamed you. I've actually heard the book is super good, and I like reading fiction. The movie was weird and jaunty, and I felt like everytime Eric Bana traveled through time he told people in the same monotone 'I'm a time traveller and I lose my clothes'. I did give it a fair shake, and I'll probably still read the book!

  5. It's dangerously unscientific to always need to hear two sides of every argument. What we should be seeking is evidence. Michael Moore movies bother you because they are one-sided? What about the evidence? Juice diets are not supported by real science (and, in many cases, are opposed by science), therefore the only evidence is anecdotal and not testable.

    1. If you watch Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, you will know that they juice only to get the nutrients into their system faster and do not advocate this extreme as anything more than a "reboot" to your system. This is not some chemically-made juice you buy in the store, either - it's made from raw fruits and vegetables that you juice yourself, and provides you with all the nutrients and calories you need throughout the day. After the initial reboot, you are then advised to eat a plant-based diet - something which is definitely supported by scientific evidence. Look up Dr. Joel Fuhrman (who is featured in FSND) and view the documentary "Forks Over Knives" if you want to see/hear about that evidence for yourself.

    2. Well FDA scientists say juicing is actually a proven method for weight loss! Actually the FDA scientists and what the FDA bosses think are usually in opposites. For instance they approved medical devices even though every FDA scientist said it was unsafe. Go ahead and research it.

    3. Can you please provide a link where the FDA says Juicing is a proven method for weight loss? I have googled and looked on their own site and I find nothing.

      Mr. Nielsen - in this case it is the pro-juicing side that is the only side presented, so I think it is a good point that some more scientific facts might be called for. As for Michael Moore, who I often agree with, I think the author is referring to pieces where it is obvious that the filmmaker comes into the project with an opinion, and only presents things that support this opinion. It is a different thing to look at all the evidence and present it fairly. Both sides needn't be presented, just the most objective info you can find.

    4. Who cares what anybody thinks?

      I juiced for 105 days after watching this movies. Do what works for you and forget everyone's opinion.

      All these people who write and comment about health never really cure anybody or themselves.

      I fasted while working its 100 percent willpower you must change your life and give up a lot to do it.

      You can think your going to be around food or parties or even just hanging out with friends during this time. Its only going to be you and your juice.

    5. Who cares about the FDA? They are the reason why everyone is sick and fat. The FDA is nothing. They are idiots just like you and me.

    6. I agree with you, after all is said and done, nobody has absolutely all of the answers. So, we should all do what we can to become educated and make up our own minds about what is best for our health (in conjunction with our physicians, if possible, especially when there is a specific condition involved.). Look, my take is this: Great health does not equal immortality, and all anyone can ever do, including doctors, is stave off death for as long as possible. It irks me that some people take things like juicing, and other methods of treatment, traditional or non-traditional, as "the cure" for everything. Juicing, and healthy nutrition is not a cure for anything, just a better way of caring for the body you have been gifted with. Doctors tell us that heart medications and surgery are not a CURE for diseases of the cardiovascular system, and most of us are willing to believe that, so why are people so duped into believing other extreme measures like juicing are miracle cures?

  6. @Mr. Nielsen - Juice diets are not supported by real science (and, in many cases, are opposed by science), therefore the only evidence is anecdotal and not testable.

    So what is supported stuffing your body with chemicals is supported by real science? The way Pharma companies conduct their clinical trials in some 3rd world country is the only evidence that we need to accept?

    Just showing people that there are other alternatives is not bad.

  7. All I have to say is I'm glad this review was out here, it helped me find what I was looking for. I seen this video a long time ago and I loved it. I have a friend doing the Ketogenic diet and it is doing wonders for him (lost 100 lbs around 4 months in his diet). For me, I can't do the Keto diet... it such a struggle and I've been wanting to do this type of diet of just juicing. ~MC

  8. I'm a little late to this scene. A co-worker and I decided to try this last Friday. We went out and purchased $39.00 juicers. We juiced and corresponded all day Saturday. We had all of the symptoms described in the film. I even stayed in bed all day today. This morning I was down 3 pounds. I see myself continuing with this, but eventually cutting back to one juice a day and 2 meals. Even though it's hard, I'm going to try for ten days. Wish me luck!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Good luck! Btw, does a $39 juicer work well? I want to buy one and try it but I was thinking I should really get a good (expensive) one. Now I'm not sure. What's your verdict? JG

  9. Hello all,

    I've seen this documentary and have done the juice fast twice already, with supervision from my physician. The trick (for me) was to add a bit of the pulp back into the mix after everything had been juiced. This relieved a lot of the side affects - light headedness, headaches, hunger (initially) - as well as minimized the GI issues expressed in the film. The "Reboot", as it's referred to in the film, is not intended to be a permanent change, it is simply meant to be a way to clean up the way we eat as we retrain our systems.

    As expressed in the film, Joe juices because to eat that many fruits and veggies in their whole state 4 times a day would be overwhelming, I understood that this is why calorie intake wasn't mentioned: When we're used to eating a certain volume of food, taking in less than that is as much of a psychological struggle as it is a physical one. Not to mention the goal at first, especially for the obese and morbidly obese, is to just get better foods into the system, regardless of their calorie count. After doing a 10-15 day fast, when we go back to eating "raw" or "clean" diets - which are naturally lower in calorie count than the average American diet - we naturally get the calories back in line.

    As I mentioned, I've done the fast twice before, and am doing another one currently, and I'm not hungry. I don't do strenuous exercise while fasting - walking and yoga are part of the cleansing process for me for total mind/body health - and I make sure to listen to my body. Sometimes I'll add more pulp back in, sometimes I'll just do hot water and lemon if I'm all juiced out for the day. Protein intake is a struggle during this time. Which is why I keep away from other activities I enjoy like running, hiking, and ballet.

    The goal is to not be fanatical about it. Use it as a resource and not a saving grace, and ultimately learn YOUR body and how it reacts differently to certain stimuli.

    Juicing full time works for me, but my meat-n-potatoes husband's needs are different. When fasting, he supplements in "real" food, keeping it as clean and raw as he can, avoiding processed foods and caffeine. That's what works for him. We don't do it to drop any weight, though it's a nice side affect, we listen to our bodies and give them an extra boost sometimes. If anything, it's great stress-managment because it makes our health a priority, which allows us to make our family a priority.

    Those are just my observations as someone who's done it before. It seems to me that this can be a very "black or white" issue for most people - they're very clearly for it or against it, but I hope this helps add a little "gray" to the mix because realistically we're all different. Our chemistry, our environments, our stimuli, stress levels, lifestyles - all different. Thus it is IMPERATIVE that we listen to our own bodies when making major lifestyle changes, and keep a physician involved.


    1. I can't fast as I get migraines but I have started juicing as well as eating vegies in my meals.I have hashimotos and have been inspired by Joe Croft. I may start to lose weight soon but for me just to add more vegies in my diet will really help me. I thought to use the pulp in meat patties and any other ways to disguise vegies forthose kids who won't eat their vegies.

  10. Namaste, I like what you said. I'm going to try it. I need to lose 50 lbs and I feel better when I've juiced in the past. I hate most veggies but when I juice them I add a apple or two to the mix and it helps to take the edge off. Its sick that junk food is cheaper the healthy food!

    Good luck folks!

  11. I watched the movie fat sick and nearly dead and it gave me motivation to eat healthy and to make better choices. Lots of people are very unhealthy and overweight and although a juice fast might not be right for everyone I'm all for someone who is encouraging people by example and giving them a little insight to help them help themselves. Two thumbs up!

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