Weight Loss Film Review: Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead

A 2011 documentary by Australian filmmaker Joe Cross, Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead has lent considerable popularity to a form of vegetarian dieting known as juice fasting.

Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead follows the story of Cross on a 60 day journey during which he didn’t chew a single bite of food. At 100 pounds overweight and on a number of prescription medications to treat resulting health problems, Cross reached a breaking point where he decided to do something about his weight. Something extreme. Cross committed to a 60 day juice fast during which he would consume nothing but fruits and vegetables that had been obliterated into liquid.

Cross spent the latter half of his juice fast traveling across the country talking to people about the diet. On the journey, he encountered a morbidly obese truck driver named Phil Staples who was suffering from the same rare skin condition called urticaria. Cross offers the stranger a sampling of juice and later flies back to the United States from Australia following the completion of his 60 day challenge in order to help Staples regain his health.

Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead is by no means a monumental achievement in filmmaking. There are certainly better documentaries out there. However, it does do a nice job of lending support to the importance of consuming high quantities of produce while avoiding processed foods.

Over the course of his 60 day juice fast, Cross lost a total of 82 pounds. Phil Staples lost an astonishing 202 pounds over a 10 month period during which he remained almost entirely committed to a vegetarian diet. Both lowered their blood pressure and were able to reduce their dosages of a steroid medication taken to treat their skin condition. In Cross’s case, he was able to go off medication entirely.

Watch Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead online for free at Hulu. Click here!

Benefits of Juicing

This film triggered a dieting movement by helping to popularize the notion of juicing fruits and vegetables. A juicer can turn any number of fruit and vegetable products into pure liquid made to drink. Juicers typically range in price from $80-$300.

As Joe Cross explains in Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, one major benefit to juicing is the ability to consume immense quantities of fruits and vegetables in a short period of time. When crushed into liquid form, one can consume an apple or a carrot rather quickly. It could take someone an hour to eat three apples and three carrots, but perhaps just a minute or two to drink after they’ve been juiced.

Juicing enables people to intake large quantities of nutrient-dense plant matter in a short period of time. We probably all resisted eating our vegetables as kids. They might not always be the most pleasant tasting, but when the chore of consuming vegetables is reduced to taking just a few big gulps, it becomes much more manageable.

Juicing can be a great aid for any diet to help people eat more nutritious plants. Here are some juicing thoughts and tips worth knowing:

  • try to keep some of the pulp, it contains healthy dietary fiber from plants
  • it’s best to consume juice immediately rather than storing it for later as pathogens can grow
  • a diet consisting of strictly fruit juice can lead to consuming too much sugar and not enough fiber
  • diversifying plant intake will keep things interesting and provide a wide array of nutrients
  • always wash produce, preferably with an iodine solution before consumption
  • get creative, adding ingredients like ginger, garlic or cranberries can help liven up the flavor of your juice
  • lemons and limes help to counteract the bitterness of certain greens
  • write down your juicing recipes as you make them and keep track of your favorites

Dangers of Extreme Dieting

A major criticism is owed to Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead for its support of unsustainable, extreme dieting. While the two men in the film experienced impressive weight loss results and improvements in overall health, they did so by effectively starving themselves.

Restricting calorie intake to extreme lows can cause a number of serious health problems including heart failure and death. Even in a best case scenario, near-starvation diets slow your metabolism since your body grows accustomed to not needing to digest food. This means it will have to work harder to digest solid foods once you begin eating normally again which could lead to gaining all of the weight right back.

One of the best weight loss tips we can offer is to choose a diet that is sustainable indefinitely. This gives you the best chance for long-term, lasting success in reaching your health goals. The problem with the juice fasting diet promoted in Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead is that it can be just as damaging and likely to lead to death if followed indefinitely as the diets consumed by the men which led them to the juice fast in the first place.

Small, realistic changes to your diet are much more likely to lead to long-term health success. It is hard to consume a sufficient amount of calories and protein needed for survival on a diet consisting solely of fruits and vegetables.

Joe Cross may have caught a lot of attention with his film for how juice fasting can lead to rapid and significant weight loss. But at the end of the day, juice fasting is just another form of extreme dieting that can lead to health problems. Consult your physician before attempting a juice fast of any duration.

The best lesson one can take from Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead is that juicing can be a great way to supplement your diet with more fruits and vegetables. When added to a complete diet that includes the intake of healthy, unsaturated fats and lean protein, juicing can go a long way towards providing your body with the nutrients and fiber it needs to thrive.

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