Sick­ness to health

Two in­spir­ing speak­ers at the Healthy Liv­ing Show are telling the story of a life-sav­ing raw food in­ter­ven­tion.

Element - - Food - By Sam Eich­blatt

Frank Fer­rante, the star of award-win­ning doc­u­men­tary May I Be Frank is, to­day, a trim, wise-crack­ing bun­dle of en­ergy, trav­el­ling the world pro­mot­ing the film, thought­fully and ar­tic­u­lately blog­ging at may­ibefrank­fer­rante.com.

How­ever, just four years ago, it was a dif­fer­ent story. Fer­rante weighed al­most 300 pounds. Af­ter a life­time of drug and al­co­hol abuse, he was on In­ter­feron treat­ment for Hep­ati­tis C, was pre­di­a­betic and bat­tling de­pres­sion.

The for­mer Brook­lynite’s phys­i­cal, emo­tional and spir­i­tual over­haul be­gan when he walked into Café Grat­i­tude in San Fran­cisco on a whim. He had, in his own words, noth­ing left. “I had played my last card,” he says now. “Ev­ery­thing in my life had landed me in this place where I just wanted to die.”

For Ry­land En­gel­hart, Fer­rante’s ar­rival rep­re­sented an op­por­tu­nity. His fam­ily had set up Cafe Grat­i­tude as the hub of a community based on holis­tic health prac­tices, a raw-food, ve­gan diet and sup­port­ive at­mos­phere I t had quickly be­come a San Fran­cisco phe­nom­e­non, open­ing seven restau­rants in eight years.

“It was af­ter Su­per­size Me had come out, and my fa­ther and I had been think­ing it would be neat to take some­one from sick­ness to well­ness, to pro­vide a con­trast,” says En­gel­hart. “The first day I met Frank, I thought, ‘This is the guy’. He was mis­er­able, and wanted a dif­fer­ent life. So, that was sort of awk­ward — ask­ing some­one if he’d like to sub­mit to three twenty-some­things and get a new life!”

The Café Grat­i­tude team, con­sist­ing of En­gel­hart and his friends Cary Mosier and Conor Gaffney, filmed Fer­rante’s progress over the course of a 42-day health plan. Their sub­ject turned out to be not only the per­fect case study, but the cam­era loved him.

Fer­rante put his life into the hands of his three youth­ful coaches, sub­mit­ting to an all-raw, ve­gan and or­ganic diet, with a gal­lon of wa­ter and three shots of wheat­grass a day, and reg­u­lar high colonics. The detox he ex­pe­ri­enced was at first so in­tense it left him bedrid­den, he says. “The change was rad­i­cal. I had been eat­ing in buf­fet restau­rants, eat­ing any­thing and ev­ery­thing. I was lust­ing for a sand­wich the whole time. I had no idea that food could be an es­cape. Even though I was eat­ing so reck­lessly, it didn’t oc­cur to me I was re­act­ing to the same ad­dic­tion gene that had prompted my other ad­dic­tions.”

He also signed a con­tract with En­gel­hart, vow­ing to be on time for all ap­point­ments and to ac­cept his guid­ance. He com­mit­ted to 15 min­utes of ex­er­cise a day and to keep­ing a spir­i­tual log-book, where he recorded self-observations and af­fir­ma­tions, and car­ried out spir­i­tual home­work: giv­ing thanks, laugh­ing out loud for a minute a day, meet­ing his own eyes in the mir­ror. He vis­ited holis­tic doc­tors and nu­tri­tion­ists for blood cell anal­y­sis and to mon­i­tor his progress.

Fer­rante’s pos­i­tive trans­for­ma­tion was not, in any case, only about eat­ing well. “I was very lonely when I met Ry­land,” he says. “The irony is that when you’re that fat, you feel un­seen. And these peo­ple were very kind. They saw me. So there was some­thing else be­ing nur­tured and that was my heart and soul.”

Above: The doc­u­men­tary ‘May I Be Frank’ has been a run­away hit.

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