It wasn’t the type of movie you’d think would start a movement. One part road-trip documentary and one part extended infomercial, Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead followed an avuncular, overweight Australian futures trader named Joe Cross as he traveled across America on a 60-day juice fast. He extolled the benefits of fruits, vegetables, and micronutrients, whipping out his juicer when speaking to the average, frequently fat, folks he met along the way. When the movie debuted in theaters last March, it quickly disappeared.
But then a funny thing happened. In July 2011, Fat, Sick was released on Netflix streaming, where it racked up 110,000 ratings in less than a month. And Breville, the Australian company whose juicers were featured in the film, saw its sales jump. “Over the Fourth of July weekend, I was looking at our website traffic, and it had tripled,” recalls Rob Sheard, a brand director for the company. “I thought, ‘What’s going on?’ It kept going from there, and by mid to late July, all of our [U.S.] retailers had sold out of our juicers.”
At the end of the film, viewers are encouraged to visit Cross’s Reboot Your Life website, where they can register to do their own juice fasts. The number is up to around 200,000, says Cross.
“The Netflix launch blindsided me,” says Cross. He attributes its success in part to the simplicity of the film’s message, which he sums up as, “Eat more fruits and vegetables and you’re going to lose weight and be healthier and happier and live longer, and there’s a possibility that if you do this on a consistent period you’re going to get off meds.”
The popularity of Cross and his message reflects just how far juicing has come from the not-too-distant past, when it was regarded as the province of health nuts, yogis, vegans, hippies, and the odd model or celebrity whose juice fast made the pages of Us Weekly. Now it has joined the ranks of the Atkins diet, yoga, and kale chips: outliers that went mainstream. But is it here to stay?