This book is unique in its genuine appeal directly to men who believe that real men must eat meat, and it’s a new approach that is desperately needed in the plant-based diet movement. I noticed my husband reading it without any prompting from me, and he has seen more than his share of plant based diet books already.
Rip Esselstyn is a Texas firefighter and a lifelong athlete, and he is also the son of the esteemed Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, who initiated a major study on reversing heart disease through diet and wrote Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease (2007).
After the book’s fiery beginning, we learn Rip’s personal story and family history. Like many such experts, Rip grew up eating lots of animal foods and changed only in 1986 because of his father’s research and examples of other successful vegetarian and vegan athletes.
What's Engine 2?
Engine 2 is the firehouse where Rip works. The Engine 2 program happened because of a bet between the firefighters over cholesterol levels leading to a healthy lunch wagon. The successes for the participants are truly motivating. The plan allows either a Cadet (gradual) or Firefighter (immediate) option to adopt a plant-based, low fat, whole foods, animal free diet for four weeks.
Why is this Texas firefighter qualified to sell a book on diet and health? I didn’t realise that firefighters are trained as Emergency Medical Technicians and are as likely to be performing medical rescues as fire rescues. So he has personally seen how common the familiar list of diet-related diseases (heart attack, stroke, diabetic attacks, severe asthma, obesity) have become for the population at large. You can learn the strategy for moving people who are over 400 pounds from this edgy book.
The basics and more...
In only ten pages, Rip provides a fully illustrated exercise program that requires only you and your own body weight (plus a chair or two). I admire this – but even when I learn this type of workout, I never continue as it is not very interesting.
Rip debunks food myths (e.g. “Carbohydrates make us fat”) and gives you an attitude checkup and a physical health checklist (weight, cholesterol, etc.). He provides practical shopping advice via Jeff Novick’s label-reading rules. Then he whips your kitchen into shape before listing more than 100 pages of recipes, split into meal categories and guided by a weekly planner.
The book is spiced with participant quotes and colourful language throughout:
“If you were to hold a triathlon based on the quantity of nutrients in each food, plants would cross the finish line and get a massage before meat, dairy, and eggs even had a chance to get off the bicycle.”
“Many of the Engine 2 Study participants also reported improved potency, including one who said that his erections “are now like blue steel.””
“[The myth that] Vegetarians are weak wusses who can’t play sports!”
"[The food manufacturers] could give a rat’s rump about your health.”Truly an enjoyable read!
Food for thought
I particularly enjoyed seeing the foreword by Dr T. Colin Campbell, as I’ve just finished his Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition. That study, like this book, focuses particularly on human health and nutrition and does not address animal issues. At least one recipe lists honey as one option for a sweetener.
Some vegans will object to this. But I suggested to the tutor and participants of the Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition that they consider animals not just as bad food choices but living beings, and I likewise suggest to you that if your own health is not a major factor in your vegan diet choices, you could learn a lot from this book.
Written originally for V Mag, Vegan Society of New Zealand, Spring 2011, The Environment Issue.