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The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet
Eat Plants, Lose Weight, Save Your Health
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The Engine 2 Diet has sold hundreds of thousands of copies and inspired a plant-based food revolution. Featuring endorsements from top medical experts and a food line in Whole Foods Market, Engine 2 is the most trusted name in plant-based eating. Now Esselstyn is presenting a powerful, accelerated new Engine 2 program that promises staggering results in record time. In just one week on The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet, readers can expect to:
- Lose weight (up to 14 pounds)
- Lower total cholesterol (by 32 points on average)
- Drop LDL cholesterol (by 22 points on average)
- Lower triglycerides (by 75 points on average)
- Lower blood pressure by an average of 10/5 points.
The week of December 13, 2004, began on a cold and rainy Monday in Austin, Texas. It was the start of some torturous days, but such moments are not uncommon for a firefighter.
Our first call came in to the Engine 2 station at 5:00 a.m.: "Lifting assistance." This meant that EMS needed us to help them lift and carry a patient into the ambulance. Unfortunately, this wasn't unusual. This call was like so many others in which we had to help EMS carry people who were morbidly obese. This time, it was a forty-four-year-old woman who weighed 450 pounds and couldn't walk; plus, the hallways in her home were so narrow and abrupt that the stretcher wouldn't fit. We lifted her onto a thick wool blanket, and then we had to maneuver her around tight corners and down the stairway. (Today, instead of blankets, fire departments use a "MegaMover," a compact, portable piece of durable material with fourteen handles that can hold up to 1,000 pounds, which was created specifically for the onslaught of lifting-assistance calls that fire and EMS workers respond to.)
It took eight of us to accomplish the task. We positioned two people on each side of the blanket, two people at the front of the blanket, and two people at the rear of the blanket, while one person guided us down the stairs from the front and the eighth person guided us from the rear. Down we went, one step at a time, until we reached the front door, at which point we moved the patient from the blanket onto a hydraulic stretcher and then into the ambulance. (Hydraulic stretchers can handle up to 500 pounds and take a tremendous burden off the backs of emergency service workers—we were throwing out our backs left and right before their existence.)
After we loaded the woman into the ambulance, I asked the EMS workers why she was being transported to the hospital. They told me she had a fever from an infection in her lower leg that wasn't healing and they needed the doctors to look at it. Along with being overweight, the woman had type 2 diabetes. Obesity is actually one of the biggest risk factors for diabetes, which is why the latest term for this one-two punch of obesity with diabetes is "diobesity." It is becoming an epidemic in North America.
Back to the station we went. As often happens, we weren't there long. We had many other calls involving medical issues that day, including a young man reported as either asleep or unconscious in his car. We slid down the pole—yes, Engine 2 is one of only two stations in Austin that still have a real firefighter's pole—and took off. When we arrived we found the patient shaking uncontrollably, freezing cold, and sweating profusely.
Glancing at his wrist, we noticed a bracelet that indicated he was diabetic. The very first thing we did was check the man's blood sugar. It was a paltry 19 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter). Anything under 50 mg/dl is considered low. Nineteen mg/dl is dangerously low. When a diabetic patient is unconscious, you can't give him glucose orally, so we waited for EMS to arrive. When they did, they immediately set up an IV and gave the man a shot of glucose. In less than a minute he shot upright and asked, "What the hell is going on?"
We told him his blood sugar had fallen down to 19. He replied that he couldn't believe it. He had felt tired, decided to take a nap, and that was the last thing he remembered. He said he had been diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic four years previously, at age fifteen. Fifteen! We gave him some solid food to help keep his blood sugar levels elevated for a sustained period and told him to be really careful in the future—this was a matter of life and death.
Another typical call that week came from one of the University of Texas dorm rooms, where an eighteen-year-old female was suffering from generalized sickness. As is routine, we took her medical history, whereupon she told us that on the advice of her family physician, she was taking 10 mg (milligrams) of Lipitor daily to deal with her high cholesterol levels.
When EMS arrived, they cut us loose, but as we drove back to the station we all remarked on how crazy it was that someone so young could already be on the road to a lifetime of medications. If her doctor were truly effective, instead of being a glorified prescription writer, he or she would inform the patient of the benefits of eating well. The right diet can help avoid a cocktail of daily medications.
Later that same week, a call came in concerning an unconscious male at one of the University of Texas banquet halls. We arrived on the scene to find a forty-eight-year-old man, lying on his back on the ground, breathless and pulseless. We were told he had suddenly collapsed; as it turned out, he'd had a full-blown heart attack.
We immediately started chest compressions while two members of our crew got the AED (automatic external defibrillator) set up. We stopped chest compressions, placed the pads on the man's chest, and waited for what's called a shockable rhythm. This essentially gives rescue workers permission to shock a patient in hopes of restarting the heart. We attempted this two times without any luck, so we continued chest compressions until EMS arrived.
EMS intubated the patient, and then we worked in harmony to resuscitate him with a combination of shocks and compressions. After thirty minutes without success, EMS decided it was time to call the emergency room doctor and pronounce the patient dead. The sad reality is that every forty-three seconds someone has a heart attack; and every minute and twenty-three seconds someone in America dies from a massive heart attack. Over the course of my dozen years with the Austin Fire Department, we responded to more than fifty heart attacks and we were able to resuscitate only three patients.
We received more than a dozen medical calls during our shifts at the firehouse that week. It was a sobering week of medical calls, but we also had one chance to do what we joined the department to do—we fought a fire!
At 8:55 a.m. on a very cold Sunday, just as we were finishing breakfast, dispatch reported a house fire at an address 1.5 miles from our station. We jumped into the fire truck and immediately switched from medical mode to fire mode.
When we arrived, the house was almost completely engulfed in flames. We were the second engine company to arrive (Engine 3 got there first), so our job was to supply water to them from our 500-gallon tank and help deploy hose lines to fight the fire.
The flames were so high, and the wind so strong, that we had to put our truck in reverse and back up several hundred feet. As we did, the electrical wires in front of the house started arcing, the transformers exploded, and sparks flew everywhere. The smoke was so heavy it was almost impossible to see within a hundred-foot radius of the house.
Because the fire had grown increasingly dangerous in such a short time, the incident commander called a Mayday, which means that everyone must immediately get out of the building and move to a safe zone. He shifted operations from offensive to defensive mode as well, fighting the fire from outside the structure instead of from inside. He also called a second alarm, which resulted in two more fire engines and one more ladder company showing up—bringing more resources and more firefighter power.
The closest fire hydrant was inaccessible because of the immense heat and flames, so my co-firefighter Derick and I were asked to find another hydrant. We had to move more than 600 feet of 200-pound, 5-inch supply hose up a hill before we located one. While we were desperately pulling, Derick yelled at the onlookers to give us a hand; soon six good Samaritans were struggling along with us until we had access to an unlimited supply of water.
We did our best, but the fire was overwhelming. Engine 2 Company was now assigned the south sector of the fire and instructed to protect the adjacent house. We put several hose lines in place and shot tons of water onto the house to keep it from catching fire. Unfortunately, the heat and flames were so strong that one side of the two-story duplex adjacent to the burning house caught fire as well. Even road signs and cars parked on the street were melting; the emergency lights on Engine 3 melted—it was parked more than 100 feet away—and its windshield cracked.
After two hours the fire was finally put out by a group of tired, wet, and cold firefighters. We later learned it had all started with a cigarette. One lousy cigarette.
When I became a firefighter in 1997, I assumed that most of my job would entail fighting fires like that last one. Not even close! Most of what a firefighter does is take care of all the sick and ailing people who need help because they don't understand that their diets are causing their health to suffer.
Now let me tell you about another week, six years later. By that time I had left the Austin Fire Department following the blazing success of my first book, The Engine 2 Diet. The book documents my personal journey with a plant-based diet, as well as the medical science behind it, and tells how I got a bunch of Texas firefighters to eat nothing but plants all day. I had discovered a deep desire to help people and save lives and was bringing those efforts to a whole new level by becoming a full-time crusader for plant-based foods. I began throwing Engine 2 events around the country. I wrote another book about the benefits of eating plant-strong foods. (I came up with the term "plant-strong" because plants truly are the strongest and healthiest foods on the planet.) I gave talks and seminars to thousands of people a year. And, I began an exciting relationship with Whole Foods Market as one of its healthy-eating partners in conjunction with developing a line of superhealthy Engine 2 food products.
As part of my partnership with Whole Foods Market, I started holding retreats for their unhealthiest employees (they had to medically qualify to attend), with Whole Foods picking up the tab. The company's CEO, John Mackey, who understands that a plant-based diet can prevent and reverse chronic disease, decided to allocate millions of dollars annually to educate his employees with this gift of health. The retreat programs were at first exclusively for Whole Foods Market employees, but after two years we broadened the program, opening it up to members of the public as well. For one week, these participants live and breathe the plant-strong lifestyle. They eat a delicious array of whole-food, plant-based meals. They enjoy morning exercises and afternoon hikes. They soak up entertaining and educational lectures given by the best plant-based minds in the world. They literally eat up the cooking demonstrations, and they bask in daily interactive applied-learning exercises with the other participants. Add all this up and it's a powerful formula that enables people to rescue their health. They now hold the keys to preventing and reversing the worst of the chronic Western killer diseases.
During one of these weeklong rescues, I met David Honoré, a forty-eight-year-old native of Philadelphia, who, like most of us, grew up eating the standard American diet, which is rooted in meat, dairy, and processed foods. But David didn't just eat meat daily. He ate it several times a day. And he loved it! "I was the king of meat," he admitted. "I ate enough for three lifetimes!"
However, David's body didn't love meat, nor did it love the other processed foods, fat, and dairy he was consuming. By the time he reached forty, David had developed several serious health issues, including type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, and he was having challenges "raising the flag." To remedy all this, he was taking eight different prescription medicines and was a candidate for even more.
It never occurred to David that his bad health might have been a result of his diet—that is, until he spotted a memo at work about an Engine 2 Rescue program. The memo explained the relationship between diet, exercise, and health and promised that the program could help restore well-being. After taking a good, hard look at himself, David realized that he was on a self-proclaimed "collision course with destruction."
He applied and was accepted into the program, and a few months later he flew off to Sedona, Arizona. His last animal-based meal was an oversize pork breakfast sausage at the airport.
David arrived in Sedona scared of what the program might ask him to do, and he was worried that he wouldn't like the food. Instead, he loved everything he ate and enjoyed the program immensely. Best of all, in just seven days David cut his total cholesterol level in half! It had been as high as 280 mg/dl, but his doctor had put him on statins, bringing it down to 180 mg/dl when he arrived in Arizona. By the end of the week, it had dropped all the way down to 95 mg/dl.
Not only that, but David's blood pressure improved, dropping from 142/83 to 134/74. His triglycerides fell from 133 mg/dl to 71 mg/dl, and his LDL ("bad") cholesterol plummeted from 112 mg/dl to 53 mg/dl. As a bonus, he dropped 8 pounds without even trying.
All in seven days!
David decided that if he could achieve these benefits in just one week, what could he accomplish if he gave it a year? So he did. As of today, he has lost another 70 pounds and is off every one of his medications. Best of all, his diabetes has disappeared.
David says he feels like a new person. He has energy again. His skin is no longer puffy. For the first time in as long as he can remember, his feet—which had become swollen and disfigured because of his diabetes—are now as attractive and svelte as the rest of his body, and he proudly parades around in flip-flops! Once a part-time opera singer, David found that his amazing tenor voice, which had been failing, returned, allowing him to perform with all the gusto of old. Furthermore, he enjoys food more than ever because his taste buds have come alive. He has even taken up running—he learned that exercise can be enjoyable and is the cherry that tops off the plant-strong lifestyle!
Sadly, two months after David returned from the Engine 2 Rescue program, his mother died after falling into a diabetic coma. He wants to make sure he stays alive to see his ten-year-old daughter grow up to marry and have children. Most important, he wants to leave a legacy of health for the next generation of Honorés. And for the first time, he feels confident that he will.
All of this happened in seven spectacularly wonderful days. And it wasn't just David who had such an inspiring story to tell. What made this week so wonderful was that almost all of the other 90 people in David's group had similar, spectacular results! That's what happens when people start taking care of themselves and shift their diet to powerful healing plants. They no longer have to call the fire department for help. They are able to rescue their own health.
Myself, I have been living the plant-strong lifestyle for more than thirty years now. In that time I've been a world-class triathlete, a firefighter in the Austin, Texas, fire department, a husband, a father of three children, and a healthy-eating partner for Whole Foods Market. I have also written two best-selling books on the subject of plant-based nutrition—The Engine 2 Diet and Plant-Strong (originally published as My Beef with Meat)—and I have toured all over the world sharing this message of health and hope: that a plant-savvy diet is the best way to protect yourself from the onslaught of chronic Western diseases (which you will read more about in chapter 1).
Engine 2 started with a firehouse bet to see who had the lowest cholesterol level. This single bet inspired my fellow firefighters to eat a bunch of plants and motivated me to write The Engine 2 Diet. The research for the book and the book itself ignited a healthy-eating revolution within the Austin Fire Department that sent ripples throughout the country.
My knowledge of eating a plant-based diet came from my father (and my hero), Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., who, besides winning a gold medal in the 1956 Olympics for rowing, was one of the Cleveland Clinic's top surgeons, president of the clinic's medical staff, and chairman of its Breast Cancer Task Force. (The clinic was actually founded in 1921 by my maternal great-grandfather, George Crile Sr.) In 1985, after many years of being stymied by treating disease with conventional medicine, my father took a decidedly new approach: convinced that nutrition played an important role in health, he asked the clinic's cardiology department to send him patients coping with serious heart disease—among them they had suffered forty-nine coronary events over the previous eight years—and he placed them on a plant-based diet. A dozen years later all but one of the patients was heart-healthy! The only one who wasn't had strayed from the diet. For obvious reasons, my entire family then became plant-based eaters.
To back up the claims behind my first book, I decided to conduct my own study. I asked the participants to eat nothing but terrific, delicious plant-based foods for six weeks. Everyone who followed the program had amazing results. They lost weight, their cholesterol levels dropped, and they felt terrific. I arranged a second study, but this time reduced it from six to four weeks, and discovered that we could get equally excellent results in twenty-eight days—and thus the program for The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter's 28-Day Plan that Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds was born. My second book gave newly converted plant-based eaters a guide to answer every question they could ever ask about eating plants—and once again I toured the world sharing the message.
Along the way, in between all that touring and traveling and experimentation, I learned something that I could never have guessed when I started my initial studies back in 2007. I had assumed that twenty-eight days was the absolute minimum time necessary to see results. Boy, was I wrong! In 2008 I asked four of the firefighters at Station 4 to take the twenty-eight-day challenge. They said that twenty-eight days was just too long and wasn't going to "butter the biscuit"; however, they'd be willing to give me fourteen days. The results? After fourteen days they had all dropped their weight, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels substantially. At that point I knew the body could make profound internal changes in as little as two weeks. But I still never imagined anyone could budge their cholesterol, LDL, and blood pressure in less time.
Again, I was wrong. I learned just how wrong when I started hosting many more Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue programs, programs that have given more than 1,000 people the opportunity to improve their health, expand their minds, and activate their taste buds to levels they never dreamed possible. A quick look at the average drop in our participants' standard biometric markers over six years of throwing these seven-day retreats shows the breathtaking way the body can begin to heal and get healthy in just one week!
Engine 2 Rescue Program Average Results
Cholesterol: –26 mg/dl
LDL cholesterol: –24 mg/dl
Triglycerides: –23 mg/dl
Blood pressure: –10/5 mm/Hg
Weight: –3.0 lbs.
Think about that. Seven days. That's 168 hours out of your waking life. Just 168 hours, and your life will change forever! I didn't believe it could happen until I started seeing it work in my Seven-Day Rescue programs, again and again, and with all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds.
I started hosting these Seven-Day Rescue programs in 2010. By 2017 we had completed eleven of them. And they were all successful. Of course, it's a dream when you can check out from reality for seven days in the mountains and you don't have to cook a meal, make a bed, wash a dish, or drive a car—where your only responsibility is to take care of yourself, soak up the information, eat delicious plant-strong foods, and bond with your fellow participants. But not everyone can take a week off from work and join me in the mountains of Sedona, so I decided I needed to test the merits of the program in the real world with people who were living real lives with real jobs.
Let me tell you about one pilot study in particular, because it's the most recent. This study took place when I partnered with an Ohio group called North Ridgeville Heart and Sole, which was working to decrease the rate of cardiovascular disease and chronic illness in its community through many different initiatives, and the group volunteered to help organize a pilot study for this book.
In October 2015, we placed an ad in the local paper looking for participants willing to test-drive the Engine 2 Diet for seven days. We also recruited North Ridgeville city leadership to join in this grant-funded experiment. We quickly found that the promise of real, measured results in just one week made even the most resistant skeptics eager to join. Within two days we had 60 people ready to start their seven-day journey and a waiting list of more than 100 more.
Participants included citizens from all walks of life in the community: teachers, lawyers, businessmen, school principals, firefighters, cops, students, and even the North Ridgeville mayor and his wife. The group was 36 percent male and 64 percent female, ranging in age from sixteen to seventy-one, with an average age of fifty-one.
All of the participants were required to take before-and-after biometric screenings so we could document their results, test the efficacy of the program, and collect the data for this book. We weighed them and took their blood pressure. We partnered with a laboratory and hired several phlebotomists to draw blood so we could test for total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and fasting blood sugar.
Every participant received an eighty-page booklet that contained an overview of the "Rescue," along with the same meal plans and recipe concepts you have in this book. They also committed to keeping a daily food log that they would e-mail at the end of every day to one of the Engine 2 Rescue program coaches. We found this to be imperative to people's success from an accountability standpoint, as well as giving the Engine 2 coaches the opportunity to offer guidance, feedback, course corrections, and encouragement.
At the end of the seven days we asked all the participants to show up at a centralized location after fasting for twelve hours for their post biometric screenings. Then we weighed them, took their blood pressures, and drew their blood just as we had done the previous week.
The results were more than consistent with the other studies we've done. In fact, I was flat out over the moon with the results!
Weight: One hundred percent of the participants lost weight. The average weight loss per participant was 6 pounds; the maximum weight loss was 14 pounds. For details on the participants' weight loss, please refer to the chart below.
Total Cholesterol: Ninety-five percent of participants dropped their total cholesterol levels. The average drop was 32 mg/dl, with a maximum drop of 76 points. Seventy-five percent of participants dropped their total cholesterol between 21 and 76 points.
LDL Cholesterol: Eighty-nine percent of participants dropped their LDL—or lethal, as I call it—cholesterol. The average drop was 22 mg/dl. The maximum drop was 50 points.
HDL Cholesterol: Eighty-eight percent of participants dropped their HDL—the "good"—cholesterol. The average drop was 9 mg/dl. The maximum drop was 34 points. Now, it is true that HDL cholesterol is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease, and some people and their doctors are concerned when their HDL levels decline. However, lowering HDL cholesterol when you lower total cholesterol is normal and a good thing. As your total cholesterol drops, both its HDL and LDL components drop as well. This is because as you clean up your internal chemistry, your body doesn't make as many of the HDL mopper-upper cholesterols. There's no need for them anymore! And the ones you keep become bigger, more efficient mopper-uppers. For more details on changes in cholesterol levels, refer to the charts in Appendix 3.
Blood Pressure: Sixty-seven percent of the group dropped their blood pressure. The average drop in systolic pressure (the upper number) was 15 points, with 25 percent of participants reducing it by 18 to 49 points. The average drop in diastolic pressure (the lower number) was 10 points, with 25 percent reducing it by 12 to 29 points.
Triglycerides: Sixty percent dropped their triglycerides, with 25 percent reducing them by 82 to 358 points. The average triglyceride reduction was 75 points. The maximum reduction was 1,438 points.
Fasting Blood Sugar: Twenty-three people started the week with a fasting blood sugar over 100 mg/dl, indicating they were prediabetic or diabetic. Of those 23, 8 dropped their blood sugar below 100mg/dl by the end of the week, indicating they were now in the "normal" range.
(For a complete analysis of the North Ridgeville Study, see here.)
The truth is, I observed statistically significant improvements in all biometric measures in our pilot group: total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, glucose, triglycerides, systolic and diastolic blood pressures, and weight. Moreover, nearly three-quarters of respondents said that they would remain fully plant-strong or remain plant-strong most of the time.
- "More than thirty years ago, when I was a general surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, curiosity led me to pursue the value of plant-based nutrition for halting and reversing disease. In time our entire family became plant-based, including our twenty-two year old son Rip. Little did I know then that not only would Rip embrace my studies with his usual unrelenting enthusiasm and spirit, he would become a leading proponent of my research and clinical strategies. As a doctor, I could not be more proud. As a father, I am even prouder."—Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease
- "More than 1,000 Whole Food team members have had incredible results going on the Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet. You can, too!"—John Mackey, co-CEO, Whole Foods Market
- "Rip Esselstyn makes it even easier to lose weight and improve your health - give him seven days and he'll give you your life back."—Neal D. Barnard, MD, FACC, President, Physicians Committee and New York Times bestselling author
- "Give yourself the gift of this process and see yourself transformed. Seriously... it works if you work it, and you are so worth it."—Kathy Freston, New York Times bestselling author The Lean, Veganist, and Quantum Wellness
- "As the author of How Not to Die, I promise you that Rip's seven-day program will teach you how best to live!"—Dr. Michael Greger, New York Times bestselling author of How Not to Die
- "Rip has done it again! He provides the latest science-backed research on conventional versus plant-based nutrition and he presents plant-based eating in an easy, fast, and tasty way, with a side of fun. Go, Rip!"—Suzy Amis Cameron, Plant Power Task Force and MUSE School
- "A plant-based lifestyle is the healthiest choice you can make for yourself, the environment, and animals. So why not make everyone happy by following this remarkable seven-day diet?"—Gene Baur, author of Living the Farm Sanctuary Life
- "Give yourself the gift of health, starting with just seven days that will change your life forever."—Alona Pulde, MD and Matthew Lederman, MD, co-authors of Forks Over Knives Plan and Forks Over Knives Family
- "Rip's The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet is perfect for someone who has yet to be inspired by the power of plants. Anyone can do it - and at the finish line, you'll never look back!"—Scott Jurek, New York Times bestseller author of Eat and Run
- "Rip to the rescue! This book is a sure-fire way to jumpstart our journey to health and well being through the healing power of plants."—Joy Pierson and Bart Potenza, owners of Candle Cafe restaurants in NYC
- "Follow the program contained in The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet and you will see positive results in your health, your fitness level and, most importantly, your life."
—John Joseph, Ironman/Cro-Mag, Singer, and Author
- On Sale
- Dec 27, 2016
- Page Count
- 320 pages