AVERAGE JOE ON THE RAW  directed by Daniel Hayhurst (USA, 2013)

At the age of 30, Seth Hayhurst was beginning to show the onset of middle age spread but could not by any stretch of the imagination be called obese.

Actually, you would say that he looked in pretty good physical shape. Mentally, however, was another story.

He’d gone through a messy divorce and ,although now in a good relationship, he realized he had ‘anger issues’  and attitude problems that needed to be addressed.  He declares that he wanted “to be shiny again”.

Above all, he felt his life was slipping into a mundane pattern in which he was destined to become just another average American with declining health and lower energy levels.

In the introduction to this documentary, directed by his brother Daniel, he says: “I looked in the mirror and saw complacency. I saw a man settling into normalcy ……so, I could just fall in line with the rest of the people on the assembly line of commonplace OR ….. I could make a push at my limitless potential. I could try to reset my intelligently designed body to heal itself!” 

 His radical solution is to ditch fatty meat orientated fast foods and embark on a 60 day raw vegan diet. Seeing how others who ate like this looked vibrant and alive convinced him that this was the life changing, clean living alternative he was looking for.

The film follows a kind of super size me type process whereby he has a medical check up at the beginning and end.
Pre-diet he was found to low in vital vitamins and to have a well below average testosterone level . On top of this, the doctor advised him that free radical damage posed a threat to longevity.

With the help of friends old and new,  he begins eating food “in its most natural state” and starts working out more regularly. He goes on a 6 day juice only fast and even undertakes a session of colon cleansing.

The time, energy and money involved is impressive but left me wondering what kind of day job he had to finance it all,.

He doesn’t shy away from the low points but there is no mention of any excess flatulence;- an issue that was addressed in an episode of Portlandia in which a couple take advantage of a ‘fart patio’ provided by a Vegan restaurant.

The medical tests at the end of the 60 days were very promising and he was particularly pleased by his more active sperm count. I expected Seth to strip off to show some impressive abs but you have to take it on trust that his flabby stomach has been flattened.

Above all, his emotional, spiritual, and relational life is shown to have been transformed in these two months, something that he concedes was not just due to his diet. The transition is also directly connected to his improved social life and revived sense of purpose.

The film rightly shows the benefits of a vegan diet  but also shows that you can fight apathy if you put your mind to it.

Personal wellbeing depends on eating well but I remain unconvinced that taking the extreme step of consuming only raw food is the answer.  Any balanced fresh food diet together with regular exercise and a lively social life would have brought the results Seth experienced.

This is a movie about taking responsibility for your own health and happiness rather than being simply a propaganda film for the raw food movement.