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Sep 29, 2009 7:38 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Best-selling diet book author comes to East Hampton

Sep 29, 2009 7:38 PM

The message resonated like a fire alarm: The diet the majority of Americans have grown accustomed to is not just unhealthy but harmful. Rip Esselstyn, a firefighter, professional athlete and author of The New York Times best seller, “The Engine 2 Diet,” visited East Hampton last week to talk about the diet that is gaining national attention.

Mr. Esselstyn would rather not call it a diet at all, he told a room of about 150 people at the East Hampton Village Emergency Services Building on Thursday. That’s just something the publishers made him tack on, he said. Instead of counting calories and worrying about portions, the Engine 2 Diet requires relearning how certain foods affect the body, he said.

“The standard American diet is 53 percent processed, refined foods and 43 percent animal products and by-products,” he said. That type of food, he explained, contains the “demonic trinity,” artery-clogging saturated fat, plaque-building dietary cholesterol, and tumor- and cancer-creating animal protein.

Basically, the Engine 2 Diet, named for Mr. Esselstyn’s Austin, Texas, firehouse, requires reworking the commonly accepted food pyramid. The diet is made up of equal parts fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. That means cutting out all dairy, meat and oils, he said.

Mr. Esselstyn calls it a plant-strong diet and created it based on the research of his father, Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., who he said has produced the most profound evidence-based research on preventing and reversing heart disease. Mr. Esselstyn said the diet is not just about losing weight or lowering cholesterol, though in his case studies those things occurred in dramatic fashion. A plant-strong diet, he said, actually protects the body from disease.

“The standard American diet is no more effective in protecting you from Western disease than a Jiffy Pop is from protecting you from fire,” he said, referring to an analogy he used in his presentation that by the time a bag of popcorn would alert someone to a fire in their home, it would already be too late to get out alive.

Jennifer Taylor, executive director of the East Hampton Wellness Foundation, the organization that sponsored Mr. Esselstyn’s visit, said the information can be overwhelming at first, but that the foundation supports Mr. Esselstyn’s findings.

“When you first hear all of that it’s so easy to sit there like a deer in headlights,” she said. “For most people this means completely reversing the way they live their lives.”

And that’s exactly how it all started. When one of the men in the firehouse realized his cholesterol was at 344—Mr. Esselstyn says the magic number is 150—all of Engine 2 took action. The next day, the group of men whose diet Mr. Esselstyn said had consisted of pizza, cheeseburgers, fajitas and 
Blue Bell ice cream, went completely plant-strong. “The Engine 2 Diet” 
book explains the benefits of eating a plant based diet and includes more than 125 recipes. The plan requires 28 days of strict adherence, but after that, Mr. Esselstyn said, it’s up to each individual how plant-strong his diet should be.

Before writing the book, Mr. Esselstyn wanted to test his theory. He had 60 people in Austin try the diet for 28 days. The average man lost about 14 pounds and the average woman lost about 8 pounds, he said. Both men and women lowered their cholesterol by about 40 percent and specifically, their low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the bad cholesterol, by about 30 percent. Since then, Mr. Esselstyn has appeared on “The Today Show” and “Good Morning America,” he’s been on National Public Radio and Oprah Radio, and been written up in the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, among others.

Ms. Taylor has been eating a plant-strong diet for almost 14 years, since she was diagnosed with endometriosis when she was in her 20s and sought a natural way to fight it rather than have a hysterectomy. She said she never had the surgery and has been in remission for 13 years.

“When I looked into natural ways to reverse that disease everything pointed in the direction of getting away from all the foods that we put hormones into,” she said. “I was sold on this a long time ago.”

Ms. Taylor said she thought there was a positive response among the community to Mr. Esselstyn’s visit, which also included a presentation at the East Hampton Middle School assembly as the kickoff to this year’s “Bonac on Board to Wellness” program. At the end of both of Mr. Esselstyn’s presentations he tried to prove to people in the audience that they could still enjoy good food while staying plant-strong. He showed pictures of Engine 2 Diet meals including vegetable-heavy pizzas made with whole wheat dough, fresh fruit and oatmeal breakfast bowls and oatmeal and black bean burgers. From the adults he was met with approving nods. From the kids he received applause, bellowing hoots and pounding feet.

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This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By healthnets, Abingdon on Sep 29, 09 2:08 PM
Well, there certainly isn't anything new here about the health effects of a vegan diet! But regardless of whether or not Mr. Esselstyn's ideas are original, he speaks the truth! We simply eat too much processed crap and animal products. Why bother getting up in arms about healthcare reform if Americans refuse to give up the foods and lifestyle that are killing them in the first place?
By HEJIRANYC (32), Sag Harbor on Oct 1, 09 3:14 PM