The Economist magazine, in its “The World in 2019” special edition, declared 2019 to be the year of the vegan. Author of the article, John Parker, says that right now 25% of the US population in the 25-34 year old demographic identifies itself as vegan. As attitudes are changing towards making health a priority, it is only fitting that Rip Esselstyn, creator of the Engine 2 Diet, kicked off his 2019 speaking tour in the Sarasota area this week.
He began a multi-city tour on January 8th with stops in Tampa and Clearwater, before heading down to the Suncoast on January 9th to share his inspiring message of health and fitness.
Rip created the Engine 2 Diet in 2003 when he was a firefighter in Austin, Texas. He wanted to help his co-workers combat their high cholesterol and prove that diet and exercise, specifically, a whole foods, plant based (WFPB) program, was the key to lowering cholesterol and improving health. After the phenomenal success with his Engine 2 firefighters, he authored the first Engine 2 Diet book. Several books followed, including My Beef with Meat, The Engine 2 Seven Day Rescue, and most recently, in late 2018, The Engine 2 Diet Cookbook, which he co-wrote with his sister, Jane. Rip partnered with Whole Foods Market after the success of Engine 2. Those familiar with his programs believe that the WFPB way of eating is the healthiest lifestyle. It was evident when I arrived at the talk this morning.
Rip greeted the standing room only crowd of at least 200 eager people who were either “already” WFPB, those that are new to this way of eating, and the “veg-curious”. Dressed in a “Beet my Thyme” t-shirt, Rip quickly engaged his audience with humor, describing cheese as “dairy crack” as well as taking a serious turn explaining the critical health crises our nation faces with the pandemic of obesity, heart disease and the multitude of other chronic diseases.
The next hour of his talk was devoted to the details of the “7 pillars of health” he has created in his Engine 2 Seven Day Rescue book. He discussed the ‘whys’ of his program; such as “why we chew our food” and “why we care about calorie density”. He crushed the protein myth. For example, he told the crowd we only need 5-10% percent of our calories from protein. Rip has been WFPB since 1987; as a professional triathlete, he competed successfully solely on a plant based diet.
After about an hour of book signings, I had the opportunity to sit down with Rip to ask him a few questions.
I asked him about motivation, and he said people need to find their “why”–– some people will eat this way for the animals, some will do it for the environment and some will do it for their health. He stated that it does take an inner strength because others will stand in your way and fight your choices and decisions to adopt this lifestyle. He likens this lifestyle to being a “unicorn”. He spoke to at least 8 people in line who basically told him they were “at the end of their rope”. They had tried everything else––but this. Hopefully today’s talk had enough impact for them to make a change.
He also had some great suggestions for anyone who adopts this lifestyle and still wants to enjoy a restaurant meal. He uses the acronym FAB. F––figure out what you can eat (if it’s a steakhouse, order the sides, like broccoli or a baked potato). A––Ask for what you want. Don’t be a shrinking violet when the server comes to that table. B––Bring your own. Stash a small container of dressing in your purse or bag. You have to be an advocate for your own health.
And lastly I asked what’s on the horizon for the Esselstyn family. He was excited to share that they are starting an Esselstyn Family Foundation in the coming year. It will be a 501(c)(3) public charity which will likely focus on outreach and education to underserved populations and spread the WFPB message to as many people as possible. Rip proudly thanked his parents, Dr. Caldwell and Ann Esselstyn for being shining examples and pioneers of the WFPB lifestyle.
Rip concluded by saying, “Make a commitment to your health. Do not make a commitment to your excuses.” You can find more information about Engine 2 and sign up for the FREE 7 Day Challenge on their website.
Photos by Heidi Schild