Joe Cross tipped the scale at 310 pounds when he came to a turning point: lose weight or face an early death.
The Australian businessman made the life-changing decision to go on a 60-day juice fast.
But first he would have to travel halfway around the world to the United States, home to some of the the fattest people in the world.
Under the supervision of a doctor, the 40-year-old drank his way across the country while interviewing Americans about their diet and attitudes toward food.
Joe’s physical transformation is chronicled in the film “Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead,” released in 2011.
Although increasingly popular juice-only diets are controversial and can be dangerous to some people, the film also delivers a powerful message about personal health and the larger obesity epidemic. (In December 2012 a report found that obesity eclipsed hunger as a global health crisis).
The full documentary is available on Netflix. We’ve pulled out the highlights in the following slideshow.
This is Joe Cross. Joe hails from Australia where he is an entrepreneur and investor. Joe's poor eating habits over the last decade have made him fat and sick.
His plan is to fast for 60 days by drinking nothing but 'green juice' made from fresh fruits and vegetables.
Well, Joe isn't just overweight; he also suffers from a debilitating autoimmune disease that causes him to break out in itchy, swollen hives.
Joe has to take loads of pills each day just to get by. He hopes a juice fast will naturally heal his body and allow him to get off the pills for good.
Joe's journey isn't just a personal challenge. It also draws attention to a serious public health crisis. Obesity is one of America's top-three killers.
More than one-third of American adults are obese, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. And just like our guts, those numbers are only getting bigger. Some health experts forecast that 42 per cent of the U.S. population will be obese by 2030.
Carrying a few extra pounds isn't necessarily a death sentence. But people who are grossly fat (a BMI of 30 or higher) run an increased risk for diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and certain types of cancer -- all of which are completely preventable illnesses.
Obesity-related conditions also come at a dollar cost. Preventable diseases like diabetes and pre-diabetes will account for about 10 per cent of total health care spending by 2020, at an annual cost of almost $US500 billion.
By talking to nutrition experts, Joe learned that most people want to eat more calories than they need.
The oils that make up junk foods like fried chicken make you feel less full than the same number of calories eaten in the form of fruits and vegetables because they take up less volume in the stomach.
Fruits and vegetables fill up your stomach and stop the craving for excess calories, the documentary claims.
The average American dinner plate is made up of 50 per cent meat, 25 per cent a white, refined carbohydrate and 25 per cent vegetable. In this diet, Americans aren't getting enough nutrients to stop craving more food and excess calories.
60-one per cent of the American diet is processed foods. That includes oils, sugar and flour. Foods lose more than 90 per cent of their nutrients in processing.
Only about 5 per cent of our diet is fruits and vegetables, which are the main part of our diet that provide micronutrients -- like vitamins and minerals.
Micronutrients in our diet come from vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and beans. They are important in helping our bodies stave off diseases.
Just about everything else is a macronutrient -- the chemicals in our diet that we are consuming way too much of. This includes the camp of fats and sugars that make up most of our daily diet.
And it's not just about what we eat. Modern conveniences and technologies have made humans less active, so we are burning a lot less calories.
Now back to Joe, who has started his crash diet consisting of nothing but the juice from fruits and veggies.
The first three days on pure juice were awful, Joe said. He didn't want to get out of bed and was grumpy.
Joe's favourite juice was the 'Mean Green Juice,' a mixture of kale, apples, lemon, cucumber, celery and ginger. However, it's important to vary your fruits and vegetables so that you're getting a range of colours -- and therefore different nutrients -- every day.
Most commercial juices are processed and lack the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients found in freshly juiced fruits and vegetables. That's why it's important to consume only home-made juices.
And remember, a juice fast is an extreme form of dieting. It can be dangerous for pregnant women and anyone with diabetes or other medical issues. You should always consult a health professional before starting a juice fast longer than three days.
After 49 days, Joe had lost 67 pounds. His total cholesterol dropped from 204 to 135. (Doctors recommend total cholesterol levels below 200). His LDL cholesterol (that's the bad cholesterol that builds up on the walls of your arteries and can lead to heart attacks) went from 132 to 86.
His story inspired others, including a morbidly obese truck driver with the same rare condition, to go on a juice fast.
The cost of a conventional juice fast is $US14 per day, according to the filmmaker. An organic juice fast runs around $US28.50 per day. You should also factor in the cost of the juicer, which range in price from $US100 to $US400.
It may seem expensive, but can be well worth the cost. Six months after finishing the fast, Joe is 90 pounds lighter and off his prescription drugs. Though back on solid foods, he's altered his lifestyle to include more fruits and vegetables and exercise (it's not clear what Joe's fitness routine was during the 60-day fast).
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