Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead – should you watch it?


Joe Cross, Joe's juice reboot

Joe Cross’ documentary, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu

I heard the name of this documentary bandied about quite a bit by various health-conscious friends before I watched it. My response was that it sounds horrid. The title can be off-putting – it’s going for shock value and hardly leads you to expect any subtlety or profundity. But don’t let that put you off.

The minute you start watching you understand that it’s the literal truth of where the man at the centre of the story is at the beginning, and its totally apiece with the direct, upfront and no nonsense Aussie star of the film. A man who will cheerfully tell us at the beginning while showing a topless photo of himself that he looks as though he ‘swallowed a sheep’.

It’s Joe Cross’s lovely, generous personality that really makes this documentary as we follow him on his quest to get slim and healthy by undertaking an extreme 60 day juice fast. Though referred to as a ‘fast’ of course technically it isn’t. It’s the healthiest liquid diet possible.

You really get the sense right away that, for Joe, this is his last chance to restore his health: it’s do or die.

For a documentary about a diet, it’s extraordinarily entertaining. While he fasts, Joe travels round America interviewing people about their eating habits, and telling them about his crazy juice fast – spreading the word.

At first I felt this was a gimmick: go to the fattest nation in the world and ask them about food. But now it strikes me that in listening to everyone else’s struggles around food (the word mentioned over and over again is ‘self-discipline’ – usually in the context of ‘Yeah, I have none’) what Joe is doing is connecting with others, reminding himself and his viewers that they are not alone.

There’s just enough science to keep us happy and reassure us this guy isn’t just a total loon, yet one of the things I love most about this documentary is that Joe is very clear that this is something that he needs to do, not necessarily that everyone should. It doesn’t seem to be selling any sort of miracle cure all plan, unlike many health related documentaries, just a simple way we can all improve our health by drinking some juice (not necessarily giving up all other food).

Of course, it is in fact the perfect ad for Joe’s wellness plan and he’s now the poster boy of the health revamp, with ‘Joe’s juice reboots’ no doubt making a tidy profit for him now, but it’s such a benevolent business and so clearly trying to help people that it’s hard to be cynical. (And Joe didn’t turn to wellness to make a fast buck: he was already making one in finance, before he switched to his new vocation.)

At the very centre of the documentary is one simple idea: cut the crap we put into our bodies and max out on the good nutrients, the ‘liquid sunshine’, as Joe calls his fruit and veg juice. One of the central tenets of his philosophy is that the body can heal itself if you let it: indeed during the course of his 60 day journey Joe overcomes the rare autoimmune condition that he’d been stuck on steroids for over the preceding 8 years.

The story of Joe’s journey making this documentary is remarkable.

It consumed four years of his life and a vast amount of his own cash, (especially when he doubled the filming schedule after meeting the lovely Phil Staples - whose story adds a whole extra dimension to the film) and then it wasn’t selling. Even after a further year of touring with it, in 2010, it wasn’t selling. One man and a dog came to one of his launches. Joe had just about given up and during a dark night of the soul told a friend that maybe he shouldn’t even have made the film and he'd thrown away 5 years of his life on a failed project.

The next week, it got picked up by a new streaming company that Joe had never heard of: Netflix. Within two weeks you couldn’t by a juicer in the whole of the United States: the stores had run out.

Yes, I bought a juicer the day after I first watched it, and you probably will too, and it’ll be one of the best investments you’ve made.

Verdict: A kind, honest and helpful voice in the bewildering plethora of health and get-thin-quick plans and lectures out there. I’ve watched it perhaps once a year for the last four. At the very least, it tells anyone who may be struggling with food that they are not alone. (Click the picture above to go to Joe's site.)

Should you watch it: Yes! (Then go buy a juicer…)


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