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The Health Science Podcast | Episode 063. | January 18, 2024
063 Plant Strong 7-Day Turnaround with Rip Esselstyn
063 Plant Strong 7-Day Turnaround with Rip Esselstyn

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Renowned for his bestselling books, including “The Engine Two Diet,” “My Beef With Meat,” and “The Engine Two Seven Day Rescue Diet,” this week’s esteemed guest, Rip Esselstyn is nothing short of amazing.

Rip’s journey from a competitive triathlete to a plant-based advocate within the Austin Fire Department is proof that when the body is nourished with a plant-strong diet.

Advocating Plant-Based Living in a Firehouse

Rip Esselstyn, the man who coined the term “Plant Strong,” took on the challenge of introducing a plant-based lifestyle in one of the most unexpected environments—the Austin Fire Department. Overcoming culinary challenges in a traditionally meat-centric culture, Rip’s commitment to a whole food, plant-based diet became a catalyst for change.

Initially stationed at Fire Station One, which epitomized a meat-heavy environment, Rip’s determination led him to Fire Station Two, ultimately inspiring his book, “The Engine Two Diet.”

The Plant-Based Dance: Transitioning the Firehouse

Transitioning a firehouse to plant-based eating wasn’t an overnight success; it was a dance. Rip describes it as a gradual progression that commenced with shared lunches. The team started with hearty black bean burritos, focusing on the midday meal initially. This evolved over time into plant-based dinners, eventually covering all meals during their 24-hour shifts.

Rip is quick to point out that you have to meet people where they are at. Not everyone is ready for a 100% change from meat-centric eating to a plant-based diet. Yet, he could see opportunity to have an impact with his own culinary choices.

Saving Lives through Plant Strong

The turning point came when Rip encouraged fellow firefighter JR to adopt a plant-based diet to address high cholesterol and a family history of heart disease. JR’s remarkable results—a significant drop in cholesterol, weight loss, improved digestion, and enhanced overall well-being—sparked a wave of interest among other firefighters.

The Plant-Strong Firehouse Legacy

The Plant-Strong movement at Fire Station Two gained momentum, transforming into a celebrated lifestyle. Recognized by The New York Times, the firefighters garnered attention from literary agents and publishing houses. Awards, radio shows, and a “Vegan Friendly Firehouse of the Year” accolade from PETA followed.

A Plant-Strong Revolution Beyond the Firehouse

The success story extended beyond the firehouse doors. Rip’s book, The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter’s 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan that Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds, became a New York Times bestseller, and the team found themselves receiving recognition while driving the fire engine through the streets. The movement gained additional momentum with the release of the documentary “Forks Over Knives” in 2011.

Rip Esselstyn’s journey serves as a testament to the transformative power of a whole food, plant-based lifestyle. From a competitive triathlete to a plant-based advocate, his Plant-Strong legacy continues to inspire individuals worldwide to embrace healthier, compassionate living.

Current Activities

Not to leave well enough alone, Rip says his driving force is knowing he has the potential to change countless lives. His activities are far-reaching and diverse.

CEO of Plant Strong Foods: Rip is the CEO of Plant Strong Foods, a company that offers a range of plant-based products, including Salt-Free Broth, chilies, stews, pancake and waffle mixes, pizza crust kits, cereals, granolas, simmer sauces, and more. These products are available in stores across the United States and can also be purchased through the company’s e-commerce website:

Podcast Host: Rip hosts the PLANTSTRONG Podcast, where he interviews guests and shares insights on plant-based living. The podcast is available on his website ( and popular podcast platforms.

Organizer of Plant Strong Live Events: Rip is involved in organizing live and virtual events focused on promoting the whole food, plant-based lifestyle. These events cover various aspects, including nutrition, fitness, and overall well-being.

Author: In addition to his current bestselling books, there are likely many more inside this multitalented plant-strong man.

Active Lifestyle: Rip continues to lead an active lifestyle, participating in activities such as mountain biking and a “mean game” of pickleball.

Episode Highlights

[02:15]                         A premature start to life!       

[05:00]                         Feeding elite athletes on the S.A.D. is an eye opener.

[07:00]                         Ranked in the top 10 elite athletes on a plant diet.

[10:15]                         Breaking away from the family tradition of medicine.

[15:15]                         From traditional firefighter cuisine to plant-strong meals.

[18:00]                        Fire Station 2 gains the reputation for being hardcore plant-based.

[23:00]                        Life turns upside down when the crew goes plant-based.

[27:00]                         7 Day Rescue gets equally great results as the 28 day program.

[35:30]                        What’s on the horizon for Rip and Plant Strong?

[41:30]                         Inappropriate application of a method is no reason for abandoning it.

About Rip Esselstyn

Hailing from upstate New York and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Rip Esselstyn’s journey is a testament to his dynamic evolution. Beginning as a three-time All-American swimmer at the University of Texas at Austin, he seamlessly transitioned into a decade-long career as one of the world’s premier triathletes.

The pivotal shift came when Rip embraced a role in the Austin Fire Department, infusing his passion for a whole-food, plant-based diet. Rip’s commitment to rescuing a fellow firefighter’s health became the cornerstone of his advocacy. Documenting this success led to the creation of the national bestseller, “The Engine 2 Diet,” that was a New York Times bestseller.

As the founder of PLANTSTRONG, Rip channels his dedication into developing and implementing diverse programs and events globally. These initiatives aim to educate, inspire, and cultivate plant-strong living for individuals, families, and organizations.

Beyond his written works, Rip holds roles as an executive producer of “The Game Changers” movie, a podcast host for PLANTSTRONG, and a world-record holder for the 200-meter backstroke in the men’s 55-59 age category. His multifaceted contributions continue to propel the plant-strong movement forward.

Rip’s extensive experience spans from being an All-American Swimmer and participating in the Olympic Trials in Swimming in 1984 to achieving world-class triathlete status from 1986 to 2002. His tenure as a firefighter with the City of Austin from 1997 to 2009 added another layer to his diverse background. Notably, Rip served as Whole Foods Market’s healthy eating partner from 2009 to 2020, making significant strides with his Engine 2 PLANTSTRONG food line, available exclusively at Whole Foods Market from 2011 to 2020.

Rip’s commitment to health and plant-based living is further reflected in his role as the founder and host of five and seven-day medical immersion programs since 2010. In addition to “The Engine 2 Diet,” he authored other impactful books, including “Plant-Strong” in 2015, “The Engine 2 Seven Day Rescue Diet” in 2017, and “The Engine 2 Cookbook” in 2018.

His endeavors extend to executive producing “The Game Changers” movie in 2019 and hosting the PLANTSTRONG podcast, recognized as a best seller by Apple Podcast in the category of New Shows & Nutrition. Rip’s unwavering commitment to health, athleticism, and the plant-strong lifestyle continues to inspire individuals worldwide.

About Dr. Frank Sabatino

As a recognized authority on the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle, Dr. Frank Sabatino has cared for and inspired thousands of people for over 40 years. Dr. Sabatino has a PhD in cell biology and neuroendocrinology and has done extensive landmark research on calorie restriction, stress, and aging. He currently is on staff at the TrueNorth Health Foundation in Santa Rosa, CA, and serves as the Director of Health Education at the NHA.

Dr. Sabatino’s passion and life’s work include raising awareness about the benefits of whole-food, plant-exclusive nutrition (without added salt, oil, or sugar), health rejuvenation and stress management.

About NHA

The National Health Association (NHA), founded in 1948, is a nonprofit organization that promotes the benefits of a plant-based diet. The Association provides educational materials, educational events, and services to thousands of people around the world.

The mission of the National Health Association is to educate and empower individuals to understand that health results from healthful living. The NHA recognizes the integration of all aspects of health: personal, environmental, and social.

The NHA also provides travel experiences around the globe through the NHA Plant-Based Travel and cruise division.

More information:


A unique benefit of the NHA Conference is the selection of two medical students who receive a full scholarship to the conference.

Contact Wanda Huberman for more information on how to apply for the scholarship.  [email protected]

NHA membership

For a very nominal investment, you can enjoy incredible benefits of the NHA membership.

Members of the NHA enjoy a subscription to the award-winning quarterly health journal, Health Science, access to the “Members Only” section of the NHA Website (which contains all 43 years of back issues of the magazine),  the ability to download for free many classic out of print eBooks on the history of the Natural Hygiene Movement, including Fasting Can Save Your Life and The Greatest Health Discovery, discounts on books, and early notice of the NHA events.

Only $35 a year for basic membership within the United States.

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