Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead

A scene from FAT, SICK AND NEARLY DEAD, a film by Joe Cross. Photo credit: Michele Aboud. Picture courtesy Reboot Media. All rights reserved.

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead

Executive Producer:
Photography Director:
Music Supervisor:
Production Company:
  • Reboot Media

* Most external filmography links go to The Internet Movie Database.

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Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (2010/2011)

Opened: 04/01/2011 Limited

Quad Cinema/NYC04/01/2011 - 04/07/20117 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

Websites: Home, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube

Genre: Documentary (English)

Rated: Unrated


100 pounds overweight, loaded up on steroids and suffering from a debilitating autoimmune disease, Joe Cross is at the end of his rope. In the mirror he saw a 310lb man whose gut was bigger than a beach ball and a path laid out before him that wouldn't end well-- with one foot already in the grave, the other wasn't far behind. FAT, SICK & NEARLY DEAD is an inspiring film that chronicles Joe's personal mission to regain his health.

With doctors and conventional medicines unable to help long term, Joe turns to the only option left, the body's ability to heal itself. He trades in the junk food and hits the road with juicer and generator in tow, vowing only to drink fresh fruit and vegetable juice for the next 60 days. Across 3,000 miles Joe has one goal in mind: To get off his pills and get healthy.

While talking to more than 500 Americans about food, health and longevity, it's at a truck stop in Arizona where Joe meets a truck driver who suffers from the same rare condition. Phil Staples is morbidly obese weighing in at 429 lbs. He is a cheeseburger away from a heart attack. As Joe is recovering his health, Phil begins his own epic journey to get well.

What emerges is nothing short of amazing -- an inspiring tale of healing and human connection. Part road trip, part self-help manifesto, FAT, SICK & NEARLY DEAD defies the traditional documentary format to present an unconventional and uplifting story of two men from different worlds who each realize that the only person who can save them is themselves.

Director's Statement

Before I set out to make FAT, SICK & NEARLY DEAD, I had never made a film. I had zero training and no idea of the all-consuming nature of film production, much less the sheer enormity of what I was getting myself into by being both on and off-camera. I'm glad (now) that no one took me aside to let me know how really naive I was -- if they had, I might not have embarked on the journey that turned my life around and hopefully will help others in the same predicament.

The film is my story -- the story of how by the age of 40 I found myself professionally successful but physically bankrupt: fat, sick and nearly dead. Let me break that down for you, in case you think I'm exaggerating: FAT- I tipped the scales at over 300lbs. I wore size 44 jeans and only tucked my shirt if I was wearing a jacket (you learn these tips when you're a big man). SICK - I had an autoimmune disease that no doctor could trace back to a root cause, and took copious prescription medication for eight years, night and day. I would swell up and break out into hives on any part of my body that was subject to pressure, from a hand shake or sitting on a chair or lying in a bed. Anything could cause red blotches and swelling in the joints with crippling pain, and even gravity was my enemy. Normal things like carrying a shopping bag, holding a baby, sex and walking long distances all had an impact. If I dialed up the dosage of medications, I could participate in life more, but the long term effects of a higher dosage spelled a bleak future of ebbing strength and a shortened life-span. So apart from the walking time bomb I had turned my body into thanks to the extra 100 lbs. I was carrying, I was NEARLY DEAD.

When I turned 40, I realized that I had been all talk and no action for years, saying that someday I would change my life and do something to reclaim the robust health I had enjoyed as a younger man. It was a sobering realization -- I had focused my capacity for action, determination and discipline on nothing but creating wealth. It was time to harness those skills to create health.

It occurred to me that I was not alone. Yes, my disease was very rare -- but lots of people are sick. And you certainly don't need to be a rocket scientist to see that most of us in the developed world are unhealthily fat. Like lots of people, I had been outsourcing my health problems to doctors, but no one had been able to fix what ailed me. What if I could take control of the problem, and my own role in creating the situation? What if I could document the experiment and share it with people? That's when I decided to make a movie about my journey . . . and yes, selfishly, I knew it would keep me honest and focused on "doing" and not just "saying". Because let's face it -- it's a lot harder to cheat when there are 3 guys filming you falling off the Big Mac wagon.

A drastic problem requires a drastic solution. My steady diet of processed food in enormous quantities was clearly a problem. I had turned my back on Mother Nature. What would happen if I turned toward her at full steam?? What if I "rebooted" my life?

I committed to eat only food that was grown on trees or dug out of the ground, foods made by the sun, water and the earth. Because I'm an impatient man, I wanted quick results so I decided to only drink these foods for the first 60 days. Not blend . . . drink. That means extracting the juice, and separating the fibre from the plant. So with medical supervision (thank you, Dr. Joel Fuhrman) I started on a 60-day personal journey that gave me the basis for a movie. And since I always liked road trip movies, I decided to leave my native Sydney and juice my way across America. I bought a truck, a juice extractor and a generator to operate it. I loaded up the truck with a cameraman and a sound guy and for two months, I juiced my way across the USA. (Yes, the crew did eat and yes, I spent a lot of time in restaurant parking lots, waiting).

Along the way, I spoke to more than 300 Americans, from all walks of life, about what they ate, and (more importantly) what they didn't eat. I found a nation full of honest, hard working, friendly and caring people. My conversations would sometimes last 10 minutes, sometimes 2 hours. I heard the pain behind their stories and tried to be as honest about my own feelings as possible. I was amazed by their capacity to be candid and forthright with a complete stranger, to tell their stories and to listen to my own. I saw people who were desperate for a solution -- as desperate as I had been, and as ready to take action as I was. Along the way, a number of curious, adventurous individuals joined me in their own Reboot -- Phil Staples in particular had a story that was so inspiring, we doubled the shooting time of the film and followed his transformation as well.

Making this movie changed my life, opened my eyes and re-focused my mission on something that is startling simple and utterly effective: helping people reclaim their health and vitality as I did by consuming more fruits and vegetables.

The Western world is facing some big challenges right now, and perhaps the biggest challenge is the health of our populations. This monumental challenge doesn't have one quick fix or a single magic bullet. It requires each and every one of us on a personal level to make changes. And although it's fair to expect that government and big corporations can play a part in solving this (or at the very least, not thwart us in our pursuit of a solution) at the end of the day, the responsibility rests with each of us. My small role is to try to lead by example and inspire others to follow. Hopefully, FAT, SICK & NEARLY DEAD will move the audience not by telling, but by showing.

It is amazing what can happen. I can vouch for this by first-hand experience.

After 60 days of juice and another 70 days of eating just fruit, vegetables, nuts, beans and seeds I was 100 lbs lighter and off all medication. I've been that way ever since.

--Joe Cross