Rip Esselstyn is the author of The Engine 2 Diet, a plant-based diet that promises to help lower cholesterol, significantly reduce your risk of disease, increase physical fitness - and drop the pounds. All in just 4 weeks. To purchase your copy of The Engine 2 Diet, click here.
Professional athlete turned firefighter, Rip created a life-saving plan for members of his Austin, TX fire department in dire need of healthy changes. Here's how he did it and how you can encourage the heroes in your life to fight the fat.
How you were initially able to get your firefighting coworkers to try your "plant-strong" diet for 3 weeks? How did you help them overcome their objections to the diet change?
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 one of our fellow firefighters 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.
A lot of men say, "I'd never give up meat." Do you have any strategies for helping them to see that eating meat has nothing to do with masculinity?
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 (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 be the arteries going to the penis. In addition, one of the first signs of heart disease is ED. Men, drop the Viagra and reach for plant-strong foods; save your erections as well as your heart. Real men eat plants, not meat.
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.
Can you answer some of 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. It's not necessary 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 fan of 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.
Do you remember back to when you first started eating a plant-based diet? If so, what were the difficulties you had in transitioning?
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 for not only health reasons but also to enhance my performance and give me the edge as I started a career as a professional tri-athlete. I've never looked back.
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.
- 1/4 cup raw old-fashioned oats
- 1/4 cup whole-grain cereal
- 1/4 cup bite-size shredded wheat
- 1/4 cup high fiber-cereal
- 1 tbsp ground flaxseed meal
- 2 tbsps raisins
- 1/2 handful of walnuts
- 1 banana, sliced
- 1 kiwi, sliced
- Segments of one grapefruit and juice
- 3/4 cup milk substitute of choice
Toss all ingredients except the grapefruit and milk substitute into a bowl. After cutting the grapefruit in half, use a small, sharp knife to remove the segments. Add the segments to the top of the bowl and sueeze in the juice. Top the bowl with milk substitute.
Lunch: Leftovers from dinner stuffed in several pita pockets.
Dinner: Black beans and brown rice extravaganza: simple yet amazing.