From the Publisher's Desk: Watch the movie, skip the popcorn

By Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate January 18, 2012 09:46 pm
This past weekend Rick and I watched the documentary “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.” We heard about the film from friends who had just seen it and were inspired to change their diet dramatically. I was very intrigued and wanted to learn more.

Like several other movies I found thought-provoking and educational, the video store stocked only one copy of “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.” However the movies about hangovers or catastrophic future events each had about 20 copies on the shelf with most of them rented! I only needed one copy of my movie and it was available on a Friday night in Crescent City. Supply and demand at work.

The movie is about Joe Cross, an Australian who is about 100 pounds overweight and suffering from an auto-immune disease. Miserable, Joe comes to the conclusion that he’s spent more time worrying about his wealth than his health and sets out to reset his priorities. He “reboots” his body by going on a 60-day fast. He allows himself only juices he makes from fresh fruits and vegetables as he travels across the United States to distract him from his fasting. Along the way he meets and interviews many people including Phil, an obsessed man “just one cheeseburger away from a heart attack.”

I’ve probably lost half my readers at this point in the plot because most of us aren’t in Joe or Phil’s condition nor are we willing to trade food as we know it for two months’ worth of juices. One of the scenes of the movie I remember vividly is a fasting Phil watching steaks sizzle on a barbecue on the 4th of July. How could you trade a kale drink for that?

The fact that both Joe and Phil lose weight, cure the symptoms of their ailments and are transformed into healthier and happier men is just part of the story. The most important message, I think, is one about nutrition and what our bodies really need in order to outsmart the grim reapers like obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Apparently this movie is not all that new, although I hadn’t heard about it until a couple of weeks ago. It was screened at the Sonoma International Film Festival in April 2010 and won the Turning Point Award for a film most likely to make an impact on viewers. I’m not sure why it took so long for it to get on my radar.

After seeing it, I believe the turning point is NOT that we will all go on juice fasts to lose tons of weight and cure all our ills, but that viewers like me come away from the film knowing more about what foods are healthiest to eat.

Joe Cross’s physician, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D., presents a food pyramid that has vegetables – ½ raw and ½ cooked – as the base. Fuhrman recommends that 30-60 percent of our calories come from vegetables.

Next up on the pyramid are fruits and beans/legumes (10-40 percent of calories) followed by seeds, nuts and avocados (10-40 percent); whole grains and potatoes (20 percent or less of our caloric intake); eggs, fish and fat-free dairy (less than 10 percent), while he suggests we rarely eat beef, sweets, cheese or processed foods.

If you Google “food pyramid” you’ll find many different flavors. Television personality Dr. Oz’s pyramid builds up from vegetables, then grains, then fruits, followed by protein with dairy at the top (smallest percentage). Both his and Dr. Fuhrman’s pyramid are different from the USDA pyramid. And there are many variations out there. But it’s probably a given that if we were to follow one of these pyramids to the letter, with special attention given to portion sizes and number of servings, we would indeed be better off.

It’s known that portion control is a huge factor in a healthy diet. If you go to the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion’s web page you’ll find explanations and guidelines about servings and portions. This information is helpful for making good choices about how much to eat. For example, a medium order of French fries (4 ounces) is equivalent to 4 portions of vegetables on the USDA pyramid. If I’m trying to intake only 1600 calories a day, that 4 ounces of French fries represents 2/3 of the vegetables I should have in an entire day.

“Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” is just one movie out there that’s an eye-opener when it comes to getting healthier through the food we eat. If you haven’t seen “Food, Inc.” (2008) or “Supersize Me” (2004), I recommend a foodie film fest with this trio of films to start. There should be at least one copy of each at your local video store and perhaps even at our library.

Reach Michele Thomas, the Del Norte Triplicate’s publisher, at mt­ho­mas­, 464-2141 or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.