Want to eat better in 2017? Try ‘The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet’

Plan a trip to help endangered sea turtles with this guide from Melissa Gaskill


Former firefighter Rip Esselstyn says cholesterol, blood pressure and weight drop when you eat plant strong.

Public can join Engine 2 Seven-Day Diet challenge during January to get support.

Melissa Gaskill’s book features vacation destinations where people can volunteer to help sea turtles.

The destinations are located all over the world and include two places in Texas.

Back in 2009, when “The Engine 2 Diet” first came out, I jumped on the fire truck, trying an eating plan that focuses on plants, eliminates meat, fish, dairy and added oils, and limits sugar, salt and fat.

For 28 days, I became a bean-, tofu- and vegetable-eating machine, and blood tests showed that my cholesterol dropped 40 milligrams.

I felt great but struggled when it came to sticking to the program. I still eat plant strong, but some old habits have slipped back into my lifestyle. I eat meat a few times a week, and I love ice cream, buttery popcorn and cheese.

I need a reboot!

Luckily, Rip Esselstyn, self-proclaimed Head Lettuce of the Engine 2 program, has released another book, “The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet: Eat Plants, Lose Weight, Save Your Health” (Grand Central Life & Style, $27).

Esselstyn and I swim on the same team here in Austin, so I see him almost every morning. He also leads a post-practice core-strengthening session, where we toss medicine balls and do all kinds of crunches.

I asked him why he wrote a second book.

“Back (when the first book came out), I thought it took at least 28 days to make any significant changes to internal biochemistry, getting blood pressure under control, ratcheting off medicines and losing significant weight,” he says.

By doing blood tests on participant’s weeklong Engine 2 retreats, Esselstyn discovered that changes occur in less than a week. Participants’ cholesterol levels dropped an average of 30 milligrams; triglyceride numbers and blood pressure also plunged, and participants lost an average of 3 pounds.

“This, to me, is a way for people and physicians to realize that food has the ability to heal us and nurture us and it’s the best prescription out there for everything that’s ailing us as far as chronic diseases,” he says.

The book, he says, is designed for people who have never tried a plant-strong diet, people who need a refresher, and people who want to take their current vegetarian diet to a whole new level. “In seven days, this allows people to take a test drive of this lifestyle and get results,” he says.

Esselstyn has set up a Seven-Day Rescue Diet challenge. During January people can try the program for free for seven days, get tips to help them through it, and join a Facebook for more online support. They’ll also learn how to make easy-to-prepare breakfast, lunch or supper bowls.

“These bowls are the hot diggity dog,” Esselstyn says. “This is what people want. They don’t have time to cook, and it’s super simple.”

To join the challenge, sign up at engine2.com.

Combining turtles and travel

Does patrolling a beach looking for sea turtle nests sound like your idea of the perfect vacation?

Check out Melissa Gaskill’s book “A Worldwide Travel Guide to Sea Turtles,” which includes information about 60 or so travel destinations around the planet where visitors can help look for sea turtle nests, watch releases of baby turtles or do volunteer work to help researchers make sure these endangered creatures survive in the wild.

Gaskill, who also penned “Best Hikes With Dogs: Texas Hill Country and Gulf Coast,” first got interested in sea turtles after visiting Baja California with her children about 10 years ago. A journalist with a background in biology and a love of scuba diving, she began writing about turtles, met top experts and ultimately teamed up with biologist Wallace J. Nichols and ecotourism expert Brad Nahill to write the book.

“A highlight of a dive is whenever you see a sea turtle,” she says, and it’s true.

Meeting a curious turtle the size of a car tire, having one bump you on the shoulder or just watching one nibble food along a coral reef ranks pretty high on the scuba diving thrill-o-meter.

“They’ve been here for millions of years, since the dinosaurs, and play an important role in our ecosystem,” Gaskill says. “They’ve been so successful until people came along and we almost wiped them out. But we’ve also done a pretty good job of trying to save them, too.”

The places featured in the book are all legitimate conservation and research projects, where volunteers can join, provide financial support and show communities that sea turtles have value. Don’t expect plush digs; some of the places are quite rustic, Gaskill says.

The book is divided into geographic sections, including the United States, the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, South America, Mediterranean, Africa and the Indian Ocean. Here in Texas, people can head to Padre Island National Seashore or South Padre Island.

“More people are into doing meaningful things when they travel, and this is one way to do it,” Gaskill says.

The book sells for $25 and is available online or locally at Tom’s Dive & Swim.

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