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