By Aimee Kuvadia
Joe Cross had a choice: Get healthy or die.
“I’m 41. I’m fat. And I’m sick,” the Australian native humbly admits in his 2010 aptly named documentary, “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead.” “You don’t have to be Einstein to figure out what’s next.”
For more than 20 years, Cross was the archetypal businessman, caring more about his entrepreneurial endeavors than for himself. “I was focusing on my wealth rather than my health,” he laments.
His lifestyle was laden with short-lived pleasures: smoking, excessive drinking and food, most of which was processed. As a business expert, he should have known everything comes at a price.
Cross gradually began packing on the pounds, not stopping until he weighed just over 300 and found himself with a debilitating autoimmune disorder, one requiring him to take a panoply of prescription drugs — including the powerful corticosteroid prednisone — and often preventing him from doing such seemingly simple tasks as carrying a shopping bag.
At age 40, getting over the hill, Cross was finally able to look down at his life and realize that not too much of it would be left if he persisted on the same path. He decided to repurpose his business skills — “my capacity for action, determination and discipline” — toward benefiting his health.
As Cross was a man who preferred extremes, he went from a diet of predominantly factory-produced food to one of only food growing in the ground, which he didn’t eat but juiced. For 60 days, he didn’t consume anything but the pulp of fruits and vegetables.
Not eating for a few days, let alone two months, seems irresponsible if not downright dangerous. But unlike trend diets — many of which harm the body and promote only provisional weight loss — juice fasting actually promotes overall health.
Stacy Kennedy, a senior clinical nutritionist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston featured in Cross’ film, confirms juice fasting is indeed safe and a great way to reboot the body.
“So, in juice fasting, you’re still eating something. You’re drinking nutrients, particularly a lot of micronutrients that are coming from fruits and vegetables,” she says. “And because it’s a liquid, its more rapidly absorbed. So it’s a quick easy way of giving your body a very potent source of healthy nutrients.”
All food falls into one of two categories: micronutrients or macronutrients. Micronutrients, which are essentially vitamins and minerals, comprise vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and beans. They’re needed for both major and minor body functions, everything from building muscle and immunity to preventing the flu. Macronutrients are everything else.
With a typical American plate consisting of half meat, a quarter overcooked vegetable or potato, and a quarter of some other white, refined side, it’s no surprise Americans are lacking micronutrients.
The contemporary world eats too many processed foods and animal products, according to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, who specializes in treating obesity and chronic illness with nutrition therapy. It’s why so many people suffer with their health.
“The point here is we have an unprecedented opportunity in history to be healthier and live longer than before,” says Fuhrman in the documentary. “We simply don’t have to be demented when we get older. We don’t have to have a heart attack. We don’t have to get strokes. And we can dramatically reduce the risk of cancer.”
Fuhrman monitored Cross during his fast, advising him to get a blood test every 10 days. If committing to a strict dietary regimen that will likely alter the body permanently, a physician should be consulted, as everyone is different, and what is good for one person might be harmful to another.
Cross maintained a positive attitude throughout the 60 days, making his fast seem almost effortless. But it was far from that.
“The first few days are the toughest. Not eating … It’s kind of like you’re cutting yourself off from society when you’re not eating food,” he says. “It just doesn’t seem normal.”
For those who don’t need to lose a significant amount of weight, Cross recommends doing just a 10-day fast, which still does wonders for the body. A woman he recruited to try it felt a considerable improvement in her migraine headaches.
After two months of just juicing, Cross was virtually unrecognizable, having lost over 70 pounds. He also had achieved his primary goal of getting off all his medication.
It’s important to ease back into eating following a juice fast. Cross consumed only vegetables, fruits, nuts and beans for over six months, but an average person doesn’t require so extreme a transition.
Juicing, says Fuhrman, is a way to “retrain your taste buds.” A fast will have been successful if it motivates an individual to remain healthy for the long term.
“Permanent results only come from permanent change in lifestyle and diet style,” Fuhrman concludes. “You don’t get permanently well unless you permanently change the way you live.”
— Creators Syndicate Inc.