At a recent Palisades Optimist Club meeting, director/producer/writer Joe Sichta spoke about his switch from feature animation to animation that educates us about good food for the body.
“The foods we eat can either be the cause or cure of our health,” said Sichta, who came to Los Angeles 25 years ago from Illinois. “I’m not here to tell you what to eat.”
Sichta, who weighed 250 pounds in high school and played football, recalled that his diet was basically “Pepsi’s and Twinkies.
We mostly packed it on like we were livestock.” He didn’t play football at Southern Illinois University, but his diet simply shifted to “pizza and beer.”
Despite his dietary habits, Sichta’s professional resume is filled with success in Hollywood. After receiving a degree in cinema, he came to Los Angeles and was hired by Warner Bros. Animation, where he worked from 2003 to 2008.
He was the director/screenwriter/producer for six Scooby Doo animated movies and he received the Humanitas Prize for Excellence in Children’s Animation for television.
He moved to Dreamworks/Wildbrain with the “How to Train Your Dragon” television series for a year, then became a producer for Genao Productions for a year before moving to Disney.
Sichta led a group of 14 people, but his body was falling apart. “I spent a lot of time sitting down driving back and forth between Burbank and Malibu. I was under a lot of stress,” he said. “I’ve always had a fair amount of energy, but I hit a wall.”
He said he knew there was something wrong and went to his doctor who told him about the book “The Inner Game of Stress.” (The book talks about the management of everyday stress including personal, professional, financial and physical.)
“I had battled depression, my sleep wasn’t good, I exercised some — and I looked at my diet,” Sichta said, thinking to himself, “There must be something I can do.”
He said he knew that bodies respond quickly to whatever we put in them, and then “I discovered something phenomenal – mitochondria.”
This tiny organelle is found in every cell and is responsible for taking nutrients from the cell, breaking them down and turning them into energy. “It is the powerhouse source of energy in our cells,” Sichta said. “Depending on what we eat determines how hard it is for our body to turn it into energy.”
He did more research and discovered that between the ages of 30 and 70, an individual will lose 50 percent of the mitochondrial efficiency energy.
“I left Disney  and wanted to create media around this topic [beneficial foods],” said Sichta, who graduated with his master’s degree in business from Pepperdine’s University’s Graziadio School of Business Management in 2018.
“The body breaks down healthy foods more easily,” he said, noting that kale, spinach, fish, nuts, seeds, olive oils and grass-fed beef and butter, which include Omega 3 and Omega 6 oils, are especially beneficial. “Gut health is important for overall health.”
“Pesticides [GMO’s are sprayed with pesticides] affect the bacteria ‘forest’ in your gut – and when that flora is destroyed, it can produce a leaky gut,” Sichta said.
Asked about probiotics, he said: “Think about it. You buy a product that is supposed to be refrigerated and the next thing you do is you put it in the ‘torture chamber’ called your stomach, which is about 100 degrees and filled with acids.”
Sichta started eating foods that are digested more easily (“Fiber works like mulch”) and stopped eating foods that were processed and high in trans fats.
“I woke up to what was happening to me,” he said, “and decided to take it one step further.”
He has since written and produced six animated videos–“How to Eat Food that Make you Happy”–that simplify and help people understand and rethink food and nutrition.
The videos are three to four minutes long and given Sichta’s background, colorful and highly entertaining.
This is the first digital project launched from Sichta’s Fortress of Focus Media. Visit: https://www.foodsthatmakeyouhappy.com/courses/foods-that-make-you-happy/lectures/10459633