Friday Reviews: Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead


If you’re a foodie type person, you may have heard of this week’s selection. Fat, sick & nearly dead chronicles the journey across America of Joe Cross, an Australian who was once very heavy and suffered from an autoimmune disorder. In a quest to reclaim his health he started juicing and spoke to people around the country about dieting. He also tried to get them to start juice fasts. Along the way he found a few, including another heavy man with autoimmune disease named Phil Staples. During the film both men lost weight, and in Cross’s case, he was able to go off his medications.

First, I am going to give my review of the movie and then tell you why I feel that way. In a thumbs up/down sort of way, I give this movie a down, but I still would advise you to watch it. Juicing has become quite popular, and I disagree with many things said in this film. Now that I have seen it, I can tell you why I feel that way.

Juicing is not a panacea

I am well aware of the popularity of this method of getting plant matter in to the body. I like plants, I eat them every day. But I EAT them. While juicing in the short term may be a good idea, especially for people with digestive issues, chewing is a vital part of the digestive process. This is how we build both saliva and stomach acid which helps the body to take in all those nutrients. Plus I wonder how much of the fiber gets taken in with this method. If you can tell me for certain, feel free to comment.

Second, can someone please explain this fetish to put raw, cruciferous vegetables into their juice? Uncooked kale, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, and their cousins are rich in oxalic acid, which can cause kidney stones. Not something I would consider to be a healing food when consumed in large amounts. You are much better off cooking them. In fact, there is evidence that cooking food is a big reason why hominids evolved bigger brains.

Show me your agenda

A group called the Nutritional Research Foundation was a big influence in this film, and Cross is a member of said organization. You can see from their “About us” page:

Although the NRF recognizes that a vegan diet is not always necessary for everyone, we thoroughly believe in conducting our work with a humanitarian spirit and the utmost of scientific integrity.

I’m pretty blatant in my thinking that an omnivorous diet is the best option for the majority of humans, which is why I write this blog. I’m also up front about it, and will note that I receive no money from anyone to state my feelings. We’ve got a nice promotional piece from them here.

Food is not your enemy

I think this is my biggest issue with the documentary but also the best reason to watch it. We are seeing documentation of the warped, dysfunctional relationship people in our culture (and spreading around the world) have with food. Even the word “diet” carries a lot of weight. No pun intended. Diet, in its basic form, describes the type and amount of food consumed by a person on a daily basis. At its core, it is not a restricted eating plan meant to keep us skinny but also obsessing about what is “good” and “bad” to go in to our mouths. Incidentally, the subtext of this movie seems to be that meat and processed food-like products are both equally horrifying and should be avoided at all costs. Meat is not junk food! Consuming fat does not make you horrible! In fact, you’re going to need that fat for your micronutrients.

The doctors in the film loved praising micronutrients, and I will agree there. Getting vitamins and minerals in your diet is essential to health. But somehow they missed that some of these vitamins work best when consumed with a fat. Vitamins A and D are among the fat-soluble group, meaning you need to taken in a fat in order for them to function best. Also, no one must have told them about foods like oysters, rich in vitamin B12, or butter packed with vitamin A, or liver and its iron, or heart meat with CoQ10.

They also seem to forget the necessity of the macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat.

I also HAVE to cover the food relationship aspect more. One, that dieting bit I mentioned above? Has been proven not to work. Don’t believe me? Stay tuned to these reviews and I will give you a list of reasons why in a few weeks. Second, only relying on juicing for calories throughout the day seems like a great way to limit calories. Which also means sending your body into starvation mode and setting up the triggers which could make you gain more weight. But if we eat, we could eat too much too easily in this society (on that I will agree, again, more on that later this month), and if we eat too much we could get fat and that’s such a sin.

I don’t care how much I spoil the upcoming review. Thin does not automatically lead to good health, nor does being heavy mean you are doomed to a lifetime of health problems.

There was one scene in which a stomach was shown to have a small quantity of (liquid) oil in it and another full of produce. Both supposedly being equal to 400 calories and supposed to show that eating plants all the time will nourish you. Again, why the demonization of fat? Or the implication that a small amount isn’t filling? I don’t know about the rest of you but a small portion of protein and fat rich food does a great job of sating my hunger. Paté anyone?

“I’m tired and craving meat”

Some of the realities of the juicing shown in the movie sent up red flags for me. One of the women who was doing the juicing, who said she was not a big fan of meat in general, found herself craving barbecue during her fast. Several participants said that they were feeling low energy doing the fast. When your eating plan has you wanting to spend all your time in bed, there is a problem.  A woman interviewed on the street in the film said she had tried fasting but it did not work for her.

Not all fasts are created equal.

Cross mentions that some religions have a tradition of fasting during the year. This is true. We’re right at the end of Ramadan right now, the time when Muslims fast while the sun is in the sky. In a few weeks there will be Rosh Hoshana, when observant Jews maintain a similar fast. Lent for Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians also come with some strict rules as to what can be consumed.

But I don’t see juicing in any of those fasts. Nor do I see any of the people juicing in the movies taking time for spiritual reflection and retreating from the world. Cross has also said that he does his juicing plan (known as Reboot) several times a year. I have to wonder what kind of stress this can put on his body over the long term.

Which leads to another problem I have with this plan. People need to eat and need calories. A limited diet like this could lead to later problems, like the previously mentioned diet fail or even malnutrition.

How much is that juicer?

The tag line for my blog is “real food is for everyone.” Meaning that I think all people can eventually eat in this way and benefit. In the film, Phil Staples goes in to a few stores to buy his daily vegetables, ostensibly to prove how affordable it is.

How nice that he was given a juicer and did not have to drop a few hundred dollars for one.

Final thoughts

One, someone please find the man who was eating liver and onions in the diner!

Two, no one eating plan is going to work for everyone. I know plenty of people who have had great results following other diets, like gluten free, primal, paleo, dairy free, et cetera. You need to listen to your body and determine which foods benefit you and which cause problems.

I want to see some long-term tracking on Cross and Staples. Do they stick with the plan? Do they ever “cheat”?

Have any of you seen this movie? What do you think of it?

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11 responses to “Friday Reviews: Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead

  1. Great insightful article, Soli.

  2. I just have to mimic Matthew up there! ^ Great article! Thank you Soli.

  3. Juicing is a great short-term way to get healthy when you are ill or have a chronic sickness. The juice goes directly into the blood stream, bypassing the digestive process giving it a rest. The juiced veggies or fruits should be organic of course and carefully chosen to maximize their effects.

    • Wait…what? If you’re drinking it, then, no, it does not bypass the digestive system. It goes right in. It doesn’t go directly into the bloodstream unless it’s injected intravenously.

      Short term juicing may have some great benefits, but that’s not why.

      • Well, okay the juice goes into the stomach first! I think you knew what I meant!! According to the experts I’ve read, juicing gives the digestive system a rest, along with the liver, kidneys and other organs, and cleanses the blood. We detox, cleansing our system. Then, from a point of balance we can begin to rebuild health and vitality. This is totally why I juice from time to time. I’ve done this for over forty years, following Airola’s directions at the start. I’m 73 and healthy as a result.

    • but for anyone with a compromised digestive system, that raw juice is going to be more difficult to get nutrients from. I know that cooking can decrease some nutrients but it also makes others more easily accessible.

  4. I just watched this movie and you can get a good juicer for $150 or so which seems completely affordable when compared to what most people spend on junk food. Cross does talk about eating fats in the movie just in the form of nuts and avocados and the like wouldn’t that make it possible to absorb all those micronutrients? And wouldn’t consuming large quantities of fruits and vegetables prevent your body from going into starvation mode?

    • 1. Given that over 47 million people in the US are on some form of food support program I imagine that many of them would have trouble coming up with that $150.
      2. Nuts are also a major allergen. I used to have asthma issues if I ate tree nuts.
      3. I find it difficult to get enough to eat when relying a lot on produce. Meat, fat, and some carbs keep me sated much better.

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