We have seen a lot of diet creators that have had an extensive background as dieticians or journalists, but what about firefighters? There is one diet out there that has been designed by a former firefighter from New York named Rip Esselstyn. Esselstyn was working his job when he decided to change up what he was eating, completely removing all meats, as well as eggs and dairy.
While that might sound like the makings of your standard vegan diet, Esselstyn says that it is “plant-strong,” going as far as slapping a trademark on the word as he says the word ‘vegan’ tends to turn people off. Esselstyn also began working out as a triathlete, where he won first place at the 2001 World Police and Fire Games and has won a combined 14 titles at the Capital of Texas and Escape from Alcatraz Triathlons.
Finally, in 2009, Esselstyn realized that he had success in helping his fellow firefighters reduce their cholesterol with his way of eating through the years. He decided to go mainstream with the plan, releasing his book called “The Engine 2 Diet”. Since then, it has been one of the more popular diets out there, and has even been backed by some big names. So what exactly is the Engine 2 Diet? Let’s break it down, and see if it’s the right plan for you.
It’s no secret that red meat can add to higher cholesterol, but can also contribute to an increased weight due to higher calorie counts. Esselstyn says that using his diet, everyone in his department lost weight, with some losing more than 20 pounds over the 28 day span. Cholesterol levels all also dropped for everyone, and it was all from plant based foods.
The diet includes a lot of foods that are rich in whole grains, as well as fruits, nuts, vegetables and seeds. Those that aren’t ready to part ways with meats will probably be hesitant to get started with this plan, since there is no meat at all. However, you will be getting plenty of protein by following the diet if that’s your main concern. Spinach, mushrooms and beans are all very high in protein, and eating enough of them can match the amount of protein you get from meat.
You won’t hop completely into the meat-free portion of the Engine 2 Diet right away, as that can have some unwanted side effects for your body. Instead, there are two different portions, broken down here:
Fire Cadet – You start off the first seven days with what is called the Fire Cadet phase. In here, you start to eat less meat while completely getting rid of some junk foods. You should be dropping your meat portion by 50 percent during this phase, and will no longer eat any dairy or processed food. There is also no soda, pasta, bread or rice during this phase at all.
Here is what the sample menu looks like for the first week:
- Breakfast – Spiced Pear Hot Cereal
- Lunch – Baked Spicy Tofu
- Dinner – Kale Pesto
- Dessert – Cocoa Peanut Cookie (No Milk)
Firefighter – After graduating from the Fire Cadet program, you’re ready to enter the 28 day Firefighter phase. You’re still avoiding all processed foods during the phase, and the big difference here is that meat is no longer on the menu and you start to add beneficial oils to your diet. While some diets would suggest that you use fish oil, that’s not suggested by Esselstyn. Instead, he says you should be focusing on flaxseed meal and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Here is what the sample menu looks like for the Firefighter phase. If you thought eating kale and tofu was going to be hard, this is the real challenge:
- Breakfast – Fruit Salad
- Lunch – Salad with Beans and Grapes
- Dinner – Chili with Diced Tomatoes, Vegetables and Beans
- Dessert – Fruit
If you’re worried about not getting enough energy, don’t fret, it’s a common belief that a vegan diet won’t give you enough. Esselstyn, though, is an accomplished triathlete, and he seems to have no problem getting enough energy. He says that energy on the Engine 2 Diet doesn’t have highs and lows like how you would normally eat, instead giving you a sustained source of energy throughout the day.
How Does the Engine 2 Diet Stack Up?
There are a lot of pros and cons when it comes to the Engine 2 Diet. The program overall is fairly healthy compared to a lot of popular diets out there. However, it is considered one of the hardest to follow. Where it stands out compared to the other diets is the fact that it is better for your heart, and is also beneficial for those with diabetes. There short and long term weight loss is also a bonus if you are able to stick to the plan for more than the 28 days that the challenge asks from you.
One thing that has made popular diets more popular than others is the amount of resources that are at your fingertips. The Engine 2 Diet definitely stands out in that regard as there are plenty of resources available. Esselstyn has written multiple books, as well as created a Facebook group that members can join for support. It’s also a private group that you have to be approved for by an Engine 2 member, so you don’t have to worry about internet trolls trying to sabotage your diet.
Every day, you will also get an e-mail on the program that offers up some new recipes, as well as motivation, challenges and tips on how to stay on track. Engine 2 also has a lot of videos available on their website that focus on meal preparation so you don’t feel completely lost. Even the popular grocery store chain Whole Foods has resources available at each of their stores as they have partnered with Esselstyn to point out Engine 2 friendly foods.
New challenges begin periodically in the Engine 2 community, with many signing up for the new year in January 2017. You can also add exercise to your program that will help your heart and also boost your weight loss, which only makes sense due to Esselstyn’s triathlon history. Esselstyn has uploaded plenty of free videos on YouTube to help you start sweating. To get the maximum support from the community, there is a fee of $9.99 per month, but many free resources available. The books can also be found for fairly cheap in bookstores and online.
Summing it Up
It goes without saying that if you aren’t completely ready for a vegan or vegetarian (or plant-strong) eating plan, then the Engine 2 Diet isn’t going to be the right one for you. If you don’t eat much meat as it is, or are already vegetarian, then this plan is going to be much easier to follow and the 28 days should go by in a breeze. Gluten-free people, diabetics, lactose intolerant people and those eating kosher will all be able to get through this with no problem, as well.
Unlike a lot of other diet programs, the Engine 2 Diet does not lay out a specific amount of calories that you need to eat each day. This gives you a lot of wiggle room in what you’re eating (as long as it’s plant based). Many of the sample menus hover around the 1,800 calorie per day mark, which is enough to lose a slight amount of weight per week if you are a male, but women that are trying to drop weight should lower the portions to match their calorie needs.
Also, if you are trying not to spend too much on a diet, this might not be the best plan. Many of the recipes are sort of behind a paywall, if you will, and sticking with the community will cost you money each month. Not only that, but fruits and vegetables are notoriously expensive compared to processed foods, and can go bad pretty quickly. This means a lot of trips to the grocery store, so it’s not the most wallet-friendly.
Overall, it’s a solid weight loss plan if you can keep yourself away from meat and every form of junk food and soda. That’s easier said than done for a majority of people out there, but it will almost certainly result in weight loss. How long you can stick to it is up to you, but that’s the nature of most diets around right now.