Lose Weight, Lower Cholesterol, Significantly Reduce the Risk of Disease, and Become Physically Fit--in Just 4 Weeks

Professional athlete-turned-firefighter Rip Esselstyn is used to responding to emergencies. So, when he learned that some of his fellow Engine 2 firefighters in Austin, TX, were in dire physical condition-several had dangerously high cholesterol levels (the highest was 344!)-he sprang into action and created a life-saving plan for the firehouse.

By following Rip's program, everyone lost weight (some more than 20 lbs.), lowered their cholesterol (Mr. 344's dropped to 196), and improved their overall health. Now, Rip outlines his proven plan in this book. With Rip as your expert coach and motivator, you'll transform your body and lifestyle in a month.

His plant-powered eating plan is based on a diet of whole foods, including whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds. This invaluable guide features:

  • Dozens of easy, mouthwatering recipes-from pancakes to pizza, Tex-Mex favorites to knockout chocolate desserts-that will keep you looking forward to every bite.
  • Pantry-stocking tips will take the panic out of inevitable cravings and on-the-fly meals.
  • Guidelines on menu choices that will allow you to eat out, wherever and whenever you want **Rip's simple, firefighter-inspired exercise program that will boost your metabolism and melt your fat away.

The Engine 2 Diet has typical self-help elements--personal success story, user testimonials, good advice, and bold claims for positive life-changing results. The advice is simple; Esselstyn summarizes it in just eight points.

Like the advice in most self-help books, it's been preached elsewhere. Esselstyn's contribution summarizes the evidence for significant health benefits from a "plant-strong" diet, adds a dash of exercise, and lays out how to identify healthful choices and fix a variety of dishes from breakfast through desert.

Esselstyn's "plant-strong" means vegan. Engine 2 adds strict limits on sodium, fat, and sugar. It may be smart to avoid the vegan label. Engine 2 is aiming for the mainstream. There's no mention of saving animals, just a healthy lifestyle saving people.

Another thing you won't find, there's no advice to limit how much you eat. The diet focuses exclusively on what you eat, claiming you can eat as much as you want of the allowed foods, be healthier, and lose weight.

I love many things about Engine 2. It gives people excellent goals for better health and explains in detail how to achieve those goals. I found the chapter on reading labels extremely helpful, especially the specific criteria for the grocery store aisles.

The large recipe section includes many simple everyday dishes and few elaborate dishes. It offers replacements for animal-sourced high-fat workhorses like mayonnaise, salad dressing, and sandwich fillings. The book's strength is showing how to live this lifestyle every working day.

The recipes are easy to follow, instructions are clear, and I usually end up with what I expect. I had trouble finding ingredients for some of the recipes, especially on the first trial, and had to substitute and omit. Substituting firm tofu for soft in the mousse was unsuccessful.

The result was grainy and runny--edible but not appealing. With the right type of tofu, this was very nice, not as rich as a high-fat dairy version but nearly the same consistency, very tasty, and totally acceptable to my household. Omitting nutritional yeast from the salad dressing changed the consistency only slightly and made an acceptable dressing.

The black bean sandwich spread, on rye with the fixing, will be a regular lunch. The curry-seasoned tofu sandwich spread was good with rice and chutney in a tortilla. The simple sweet potato fries didn't last long.

I really liked the meat-less loaf, although the rest of my household was less enthusiastic. The sloppy joes were easy and tasty, with nice serving suggestions.

Coming from a former professional triathlete, I expected exercise would get more coverage. Esselstyn gives a basic workout, fine if you aren't already exercising regularly.

He emphasizes that anyone can exercise without joining a health club or installing a home gym. I really loved this; I am living proof. Aside from one basic chapter on exercise, this book is about the diet.

Many readers will encounter real difficulties adopting the Engine 2 plan. The book glosses over difficulties and makes a couple of rather silly recommendations. Readers are to empty and refill their kitchens over a weekend to immerse themselves in the Engine 2 plan. I laughed out loud.

What working family can afford to throw or give away hundreds of dollars worth of food? Not mine. Engine 2 recommends that you get several medical tests to compare before and after results. What insurers will pay for medically unnecessary tests just to see if a new diet works? These put me off.

Readers who can't or won't mostly buy fresh and cook from scratch will find it hard to adhere to the Engine 2 plan. Finding Engine 2 approved packaged prepared foods as well as some specialty ingredients is a significant difficultly.

There's not much at my local Safeway. At My Organic Market (MOM), I find only a few canned and frozen foods that met the Engine 2 guidelines, even among the brands and products mentioned in the book. (And the stuff at MOM is pricey.)

There are other stores and the internet but this is starting to eat up considerable time and money. As an environmentalist, I object to extra miles driving from store to store.

Most readers will have to give up many foods we are currently eating. Even with strong motivation, it's hard to give up favorite foods cold tofurky. The promised benefits are great enough that my household will adopt as much of the plan as our resources and willpower permit.

But, it will definitely take much longer than 28 days and we will certainly make compromises between what Engine 2 recommends on one hand and what foods we can find, how much time we can devote to extra shopping and cooking, and what we can bring ourselves to give up on the other.

Instead of a 28-day sprint, this will be a longer journey for us.