At 40, Joe Cross, was 100 pounds overweight, overindulgent and suffering from an autoimmune disease called urticaria, which caused painful hivelike breakouts all over his skin.
Committed to making a change, the Australia native turned to a juice fast. For 60 days, he consumed only fruit and vegetable juices and traveled across the United States documenting his journey while doing it. Along the way, he dropped the extra weight, gained clarity and saw a complete loss of his urticaria symptoms, he said.
After “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” was released in 2010, Cross founded Reboot with Joe, a health and lifestyle brand that provides information and support to people looking to make diet and lifestyle changes.
On Saturday, Cross will be the guest of honor at the East Hampton Wellness Foundation’s annual Summer Benefit. The Wellness Foundation is a community organization founded in 2005 to provide community support for those interested in moving to a plant-based diet and healthier lifestyle.
We caught up with Cross via email (he was traveling in Southeast Asia this week) about his lifestyle changes, the benefit of juicing and his advice for others:
Can you give our readers a quick idea of what your lifestyle was like before you turned to juicing?
I reckon I was the poster boy for excess — if I liked something, I couldn’t get enough of it. I lived on pizza, hamburgers, fast food of all kinds, tons of sugary soda, and all consumed quickly and with almost no impulse control. And as with so many people, it including smoking and drinking, too.
How soon after you started the juice fast did you start noticing differences in your body and overall health?
Well, the first three to five days, I felt like a truck hit me — and then reversed back over me again! My body was detoxing from years of sugar, chemicals, caffeine and processed food and let me tell you, it wasn’t happy about it. But after five days of just consuming fresh fruit and vegetable juice, I started to feel really well. In fact, better than I had in years. I had a kind of mental clarity and calm that I hadn’t experienced before. The whites of my eyes brightened up, the weight started falling away and I had this new level of energy that was exhilarating. I call it Human 2.0.
Had you tried other diet changes before and why did you commit to a juice diet?
I had tried everything, but only in fits and starts. I think I was able to commit to juicing because of its efficiency. There was no gray area and, in order to change my behavior I really needed that clarity. Also, my experiment was really about reclaiming my health and not just about weight loss. I wanted to test the theory that Mother Nature would do her job beautifully if I just got out of her way. Juicing was the easiest and fastest way to do that since all you are doing is consuming what I call liquid sunshine.
If the body can heal itself, why can’t it do so on the standard American diet?
Well, the standard American diet of processed food, animal foods and a meager 5 percent allocated to fruits and vegetables means that we’re both overfed and often nutrient challenged. Plus, much of what we consume is the problem — and it would be hard to heal from anything if you were reinjuring yourself three times a day.
Since releasing the film “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead,” you’ve continued to travel around the world to promote juicing and I understand you’re working on a second film. In all your interactions, what has been the most surprising thing you’ve come across?
People’s desire to change, and the importance of community as they make those changes. The most gratifying aspect of what I’ve been able to do at www.rebootwithjoe.com is create a community of hundreds of thousands of people who are supporting each other and making those behavioral shifts possible.
Look, people aren’t dumb. We know that much of what we eat isn’t good for us. I’ve never met an overweight person who looks in the mirror and doesn’t realize there’s a problem. What people need is a clear path to follow, and the help of some like-minded souls. With that, amazing things are possible.
What is the single best change a person could make to start improving their health today?
It’s so simple. Get more fresh fruits and vegetables any way you can. I happen to believe juicing is a powerful, fast and easy way to do that. If you look at the 2 to 3 pounds of produce that go into a juice, you can’t imagine eating it. But by juicing it, you are getting all of those amazing nutrients, enzymes and phytochemicals quickly and easily. And over time if you do something as simple as add one juice per day, you will start to see a difference in how you feel — and nothing motivates as well as results!
Tell me about your diet today. All juice all the time?
My diet is about 80 percent plant-based, with tons of vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans and seeds; some whole grain; and sometimes a bit of animal protein. I do indeed have one (if not more) juices a day, and my favorite it still my Mean Green Juice. But that leaves enough room for me to indulge when the occasion or mood suits me. So yes, there’s turkey and potatoes at Thanksgiving, and birthday cake at a party.
What is the status of your illness now?
Happily, I haven’t had a reoccurrence of my illness since I did the reboot chronicled in the film. And I’m still medication free.
A juice fast seems pretty straightforward, but is there a way to do it wrong?
Getting more vegetables and fruits into your diet is always a great idea, but if you are going to do a Reboot, we recommend that your juices are comprised of about 80 percent vegetables, 20 percent fruit to make sure you’re not getting too much sugar into your system.
Find out more about the Wellness Foundation of East Hampton and its summer benefit at www.wfeh.org.