This month we review a book that reveals the Firefighter plan to shed pounds and improve health.
The Engine 2 Diet:
The Texas Firefighter's 18-Day Save-Your-Life Plan
That Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away Pounds
By Rip Esselstyn
Wellness Central, 2008
To those who question his advocacy of a vegan diet as part of a healthy lifestyle change, he responds by demonstrating this is not an eating program for wimps but a regimen that he has practiced as a world-class triathlete and firefighter for more than 20 years.
Rip admits he was inspired to embrace this lifestyle because of research performed by his father, Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. The elder Esselstyn was able to reverse heart disease in 18 patients with serious coronary problems in a study carried out over a 12-year period. All but one participant suffered no coronary events during that time. The one exception was a person who deviated from the prescribed program.
Rip also felt that studies involving larger groups of people would clearly demonstrate a similar program would be an effective weight-loss tool and would also yield numerous health benefits. First he proved that by changing their dietary habits, his 58 participants could easily lower their cholesterol and realize other health benefits in a six-week study.
He then decided to create a four-week program he named the Engine 2 Diet. The diet stated these goals:
Those beginning the diet can choose between two methods or plans: Fire Cadet or Firefighter. The Fire Cadet transitions into the diet over a three-week period.
Week 1 eliminates all dairy items, even cheese, and all processed or refined foods. Processed foods include white bread, white rice, white pasta, and white flour as well as cakes, cookies, chips, and more.
Week 2 continues with the Week 1 plan and adds meat, chicken, eggs, and fish to the avoidance list, or as he writes, "Nothing with a face and nothing with a mother, on land or in the water."
Week 3 continues with the Week 1 and 2 plans and asks the dieters "to stop eating all added or extracted oils, whether they're olive, canola, coconut, or any other."
Week 4 adds no other restrictions, but emphasizes the mainstays of this diet -- "the best and brightest foods on earth: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds."
The Firefighter plan, on the other hand, jumps into this diet and combines Weeks 1, 2, and 3 beginning on the first day and continuing through all four weeks.
In a chapter titled Crazy Myths about Food, Rip dispels some of the common statements criticizing a plant-strong diet. These myths concern getting enough calcium and protein on this program. He shows that people don't need to take fish oil for omega 3 fatty acids. The diet is perfectly safe for children and pregnant women. Athletes need not worry about obtaining enough or proper nutrients.
Along with the "calorie-light and nutrient-powered diet," Rip advocates a strength training and exercise program.
For anyone embarking on a diet, label reading is essential. Rip not only presents some basic rules for reading labels, but also provides basic information on how to navigate through the Nutrition Facts information on packaged foods. Vital here is interpreting data on fats, carbohydrates, cholesterol, sodium, and protein.
The bulk of the volume, over 100 pages, is devoted to easy, plant-strong E2 recipes to simplify the dieter's task. Breakfasts include Sunday Morning Pancakes and Muffins while Easy Lunches feature sandwiches, wraps and salads. E2 dinners feature familiar comfort foods like pasta, pizza, stir-fries, and Tex-Mex Favorites. Dressings, Spreads, and Marinades receive their dozen-page treatment. Desserts focus on simple but delicious cobblers, cookies, pies, puddings and mousses. All recipes fall into the guidelines established at the beginning of the diet.
Readers are also invited to stay in touch with Rip by checking the Engine 2 Diet Website where they can write to him about their progress and read the success stories of others including their before and after photos.
The Engine 2 Diet explodes the myth that a plant-based diet is unhealthy and unpalatable. When a triathlete/firefighter can win competitions and surmount the rigors of the job, the reader knows that this diet is not only a weight loss tool but also an important step in helping to promote sound health and prevent many chronic illnesses. Rip tells readers that after reading this book, "You know more about nutrition than 99 percent of the world. You are on your way to a plant-blessed life. Now get out there and earn your health!"