Before The Engine 2 Diet became wildly successful, author Rip Esselstyn was a professional athlete best known for being the son of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. His father is a famous doctor and advocate of plant-based diets for the prevention of heart disease.
Now Rip has a vegan empire, complete with cookbooks, food products, and highly motivational groups dedicated to helping people get healthy with a vegan diet. The term "plant strong" has taken over the world and I absolutely love how it has made the plant-based diet less intimidating and accessible to entirely new groups of people.
When the Engine Two Diet first became popular, he was featured in the documentary Forks Over Knives touting the fact that a "plant strong" diet means you can be ripped like Rip. Before that, there was a stereotype that men couldn't really be on a vegan diet and still be muscular.
When I mentioned to Rip that some men buy into the idea of meat making them more manly, he said, "Actually, eating meat is making men less masculine. The excessive meat and dairy in the American diet has created an enormous amount of erectile dysfunction or ED. The first set of arteries to clog up from animal fat, animal cholesterol and animal protein are the smallest ones, which just happen to bethe arteries going to the male penis. In addition, one of the first signs of heart disease is E.D. Men, drop the Viagra and reach for plant-strong foods and save your erections as well as your heart. Real men eat plants, not meat."
A former triathlete, Rip worked as a firefighter. He was inspired his fire fighting colleagues to just try out a plant-based diet for three weeks. At that point he'd been a vegan for many years and he worried his coworkers were risking their lives with their animal-heavy diets.
Several had dangerously high cholesterol levels, overweight, and some had family histories of heart problems. Though these men loved the taste of meat, they loved the idea of living more, and so they agreed.
Rip said it wasn't hard to convince them to try eating a vegan diet, "In addition to being firefighters we are a close knit family. And as a family we wanted to do everything in our power to prevent firefighter James Rae from following in the footsteps of his heart attack prone male ancestors--that’s how the whole thing started. When food is hearty, tasty, and beautiful, firefighters are happy and healthy people."
After three weeks, their cholesterol went down and they lost so much weight that they agreed to continue on.
Rip then assembled a group of willing participants for a six-week study of the same diet, and found the same stunning results. That study formed the basis for The Engine 2 Diet.
The Engine 2 Diet basically works like this:
Rip believes that "Genetics is the loaded gun. Diet pulls the trigger." If, instead of pulling the trigger, you keep your hand away from the gun, you can avoid disease and live a healthy, balanced life.
The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter's 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan that Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds
My Beef with Meat: The Healthiest Argument for Eating a Plant-String Diet (140 Recipes)
Plant Strong: Discover the World's Healthiest Diet (150 Recipes)
The Engine-2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet: Eat Plants, Lose Weight, Save Your Health
The Engine 2 Cookbook: More than 130 Lip-Smacking, Rib-Sticking, Body-Slimming Recipes to Live Plant Strong
1. Is there anything different that men need to do to maintain muscle-tone and avoid becoming too skinny on a plant-based diet?
It’s simple. Eat enough calories and work out intelligently. The best way to build muscle mass is by stressing the muscles and then allowing them to recover. Eating a plant-strong diet that has the perfect amount of complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and the leanest protein on the planet will allow you to get just as big without sacrificing your health.
2. What do you find are the biggest objections people have in general to the idea of eating a plant-based diet?
"Where will I get my protein?" Calorie for calorie, some of the best sources of protein come from plants (baby spinach is 51% protein).
"It’s too expensive?" Most people find they are saving 25% on their grocery bills. You don’t have to buy organic.
"I don’t have time to cook?" Most of the recipes in The Engine 2 Diet. are super easy and take a minimal amount of time to prepare. In addition, I’m a big fanof leftovers for lunch the next day and even dinner.
"What will I eat?" 99% of the food on the planet comes from plant-based sources. A measly 1% comes from animal based sources. There is a wonderful world of plants out there waiting for you to say hello and become their friend.
3. Do you remember back to when you first started eating a plant-based diet? If so, what were the difficulties you had in transitioning?
Not really. My parents started eating this way in 1984 when my father started his research to show people they could prevent and reverse their heart disease. I was away at college but when I came home for the holidays I kept getting exposed to this “new” way of eating. By 1987, it made complete sense not only for health reasons but also to enhance my performance and give me the edge as I started a career as a professional triathlete. I’ve never looked back.
4. What's your favorite "go-to" meal for days when there's not much time to cook?
Breakfast: The first recipe in my book; Rip’s big bowl. I’ve been eating this 4-5 days a week for over 20 years and love, love, love it.
Lunch: Leftovers from dinner stuffed in several pita pockets. Easy peasy, Japanesy.
Dinner: Black beans and brown rice extravaganza. Simple yet amazing.
The Engine 2 Diet interview: 11/18/2009
Thank you Rip Esselstyn!