We were pretty excited to meet one of our wellness idols at Punch Detox‘s 5th birthday party, the man behind the documentary that shook up the health world, Fat, Sick And Nearly Dead, and all-around international juicing celeb Joe Cross. We talk to him about the movement he helped start, what he thinks about health in Asia and what his next moves are.
You were one of the first people that helped juicing go mainstream and now it seems as if everybody has already tried a cleanse or at least knows someone who has. What is the biggest change, for yourself and for others, that you’ve observed since you made the first movie back in 2007?
When I was 19 years old, I was watching this band the Spandau Ballet in concert and I was in the second back row at the Sydney Entertainment Center. There was a girl behind us, she was dancing and her glasses fell onto my seat. I picked them up and put them on for a bit of fun. I said, “Oh my god, the purple haze is actually a drumset and I can see the guy down there from this distance. I’m supposed to be able to see that!” This was a huge turning point in my life. I realized that not everybody saw things the way that I saw them. My eyes were opened, literally.
I describe what happened to me in my journey, to change my focus in the consumption of energy from dead food to more live food, as putting light into me. Therefore my senses, be they sight smell, touch, concentration and all of those things, went to another level. Just like putting those glasses on. That would be the biggest change for me.
I couldn’t enjoy the rest of the concert because now I knew I was meant to be seeing something more. It’s the same thing I experienced health-wise- because most people walk around not realizing what health is actually meant to feel like- to live what I call ‘human 2.0’, to actually experience humanity.
There is a huge tsunami of change of consciousness that is coming. That is something that I’m not taking credit for- I know my content had a big place to play in the awareness part but at the end of the day, if my film had never been made this change would be happening anyway.
Why the sudden surge of interest in wellness?
There are a number of things but If I had to choose one, I would say probably to the disintermediation of the distribution of content. What does that mean? That means the advent of Youtube, of Netflix and of these digital mediums where people can watch content that they desire to watch and not be told to watch. Most people consume information by watching rather than by reading or going out and researching. It’s a ‘sit back and give me what you got, and if it is compelling I will continue to watch’ approach. You are learning and engaged. There are a number of films, short bursts of content on Youtube, on Netflix and on all these digital media platforms about health, diet and wellness. I think they are responsible, they are the catalysts of the change.
Go back to 2002: there was a New York Times magazine cover and the headline was “Eat Fat And Get Thin”. This was the beginning of the Atkins revolution. This was the cover and in two years time it was a billion dollar industry. Here was a media organisation that was alerting the world to a big story and then all of a sudden you have 22 million people in the developed world, in influential parts, watching my film, watching movies like Food Matters, Food Inc, Hungry for Change, Kris Carr’s documentary Crazy Sexy Cancer. You can go on Youtube and watch doctors talk about gluten-free or Ted talks.
And because each generation is a bit rebellious, the millennials look at their parents and the baby boomers and think: I don’t want to be like them and don’t want to be 20 stone. I don’t want to be on medication. There is a bit of that going on at as well.
Is there anything about the Asian urban lifestyle that requires a different approach?
I see the Asian lifestyle that exists in Hong Kong and Singapore and I think it’s difficult to be in any city today where there are elevators, cars, convenience, processed foods- this world is set up to fail. Unless you are conscious of that, and present and aware, you will break. I see that everywhere.
What is something that you could do 100 years ago or even 1, 000 years ago everyday that was detrimental to your health in 30 years time? And the answer is nothing. We have created a world today full of processed foods, cigarettes, alcohol, and so much convenience. The ability of all this consumption to set the human body up to benefit from all of this excitement and chase a dopamine high while stuffing ourselves with sugar, fat, salt, etc… It’s killing us slowly- death by a thousand bites.
I think that Asians need to be careful thinking that thin is healthy and fat is unhealthy, because there’s lots of evidence to suggest that skinny fat is not good. There are a lot of people that are lean yet unhealthy. You can eat a very poor diet but not a lot of it and be lean. I think there is a general misconception in that regard.
Juicing, like many other aspects of wellness, tends to be a female dominated industry. How much harder is it for a man to pass on the pint of beer or that big steak in favor of a green juice?
I think you’re right. If you look at wellness, most of the men in wellness are doing it on the exercise front- they’re not so much on the lifestyle front. They’re either doctors who have a core expertise, or they are about gym and exercise. I’m very unusual in the sense that most of my followers are women.
There is a certain predisposition with women that is much more about nurturing and taking care of themselves and there is a sense of yes, I want to look good because there’s a lot of pressures from females- mostly from other females, not from men! There can be fierce competition, looking for the edge, looking as best we can…
Also from a health point of view, my general view is that women are more sensitive to their bodies not feeling so good. A single man has a life expectancy that is eleven years shorter than a man in a relationship whereas single women have the same expectancy as women in a relationship. It’s an extraordinary difference. What you’re talking about is not specific to juicing but to wellness overall.
The attitude of the male to either go hard or go home. There’s this bravado: you’ve got to drink the pint. This is how we prove ourselves. I think that if it was two women making this movie, it wouldn’t have the same impact. It was me and Phil, that truck driver. It opened up the door for many men to say: I can give it a go.
What other projects do you have in the pipeline?
I’m doing another film at the moment and the plan is for this to be out by Christmas. The working title is Little Humans. It’s focusing on children and our definition is 21 years and under. It’s about what’s going on in the world with respect to stories about kids are that are making changes without adults. I don’t think this will be an hour and a half. I’m thinking about an hour for television so 45 minutes maybe? These days 90 minutes is a luxury that many people don’t have time for…
Edited from an interview. Photos courtesy of Joe Cross: Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead.