Rip Esselstyn

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Rip Esselstyn
Rip Esselstyn.jpg
Rip Esselstyn speaks at an event in Oakland
Born 1963 (age 51/52)
Upstate New York
Occupation Health activist and food writer
Nationality American
Alma mater University of Texas, Austin
Subject Low-fat, whole foods, plant-based diet
Notable works The Engine 2 Diet (2009)
Spouse Jill Kolasinski[1]
Children Kole, Sophie, and Hope[1]
Relatives Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn (father)

Rip Esselstyn (born 1963), a former firefighter and triathlete, is an American health activist and food writer. He is the author of The Engine 2 Diet (2009) and My Beef With Meat (2013).

Esselstyn is known as an advocate of a whole-foods, plant-based diet, one that avoids meat, fish, eggs, dairy and processed foods.[2] He calls it a "plant strong" diet, a term he has trademarked.[3] He appeared in the 2011 documentary about plant-based nutrition, Forks Over Knives.

Background and early career[edit]

Esselstyn was born in Upstate New York, named after Rip Van Winkle, and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio.[1][4] He is the great-grandson of George Washington Crile and the grandson of George Crile, Jr. His father, surgeon Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, is one of the early promoters of a whole foods, plant-based diet in the prevention and reversal of heart disease.[5]

Esselstyn attended the University of Texas at Austin on a swimming scholarship from 1982-1986.[6] During that time he was an All-American swimmer.[7] After college, he became a triathlete and competed for approximately ten years.[3] In 1997, he retired from being a pro-triathlete and turned his attention towards becoming a firefighter and Emergency medical technician, joining the Engine 2 of the Austin Fire Department.[1][8] Esselstyn eventually retired from firefighting to focus on becoming an advocate for plant-based nutrition.[9]


While he grew up eating the standard American diet, Esselstyn switched to a whole-foods plant-based diet in 1987, cutting out meat, fish, eggs and dairy.[10] He was also inspired by Dave Scott (triathlete), who was a vegetarian.[6][11] Esselstyn describes his approach as "plant-strong" and has trademarked the term. He says he avoids the word "vegan" in case it discourages people, and believes that "plant strong" sounds healthier and more inclusive.[3]

The Engine 2 Diet (2009)[edit]

In 2003, when a co-worker at the Engine 2 fire department discovered that his cholesterol was very high, Esselstyn encouraged the Engine 2 team to switch to a whole foods, plant-based diet to help their colleague. This experience eventually led him to write the The Engine 2 Diet, which begins with a foreword by T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study (2005).[9][12] The Engine 2 Diet appeared on The New York Times Best Seller List[13][14] and was endorsed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who made a public appearance with Esselstyn in January 2013.[15] In 2010, Whole Foods Market included The Engine 2 Diet as a "Healthy Eating Partner."[16]

My Beef With Meat (2013)[edit]

In 2013, Esselstyn released another book, My Beef With Meat.[17][18][19] It was a New York Times best seller ("Advice, How-To, & Miscellaneous List") that reached the #1 spot for the week of June 2, 2013.[20]

Forks Over Knives (2011)[edit]

Esselstyn appeared, along with his father and T. Colin Campbell, in the 2011 American documentary on whole foods, plant-based eating, Forks Over Knives. He later developed and starred in the follow-up documentary, Forks Over Knives Presents: The Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue with Rip Esselstyn.[21][22]



  • Forks Over Knives Presents The Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue with Rip Esselstyn (2011)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Rip Esselstyn biography,
  2. ^ Deborah Blumenthal, "Firefighters Gone Vegan? Even Austin Is Impressed", The New York Times, March 26, 2006: "The five firefighters of Team C at Firehouse 2 — Rip Esselstyn, James Rae, Matt Moore, Derick Zwerneman and Scott Walters — now eat vegan".
  3. ^ a b c Howard Lyman, Mad Cowboy Interview 07: Rip Esselstyn (Part 1), The Mad Cowboy, undated.
    • Kerry Lengel, "Firefighter puts out 'plant-strong' message", Arizona Living, May 12, 2011: "'I like "plant-strong" as opposed to vegan or vegetarian,' he says. 'I think it's much more inclusive and embracing and friendly, and a more accurate description of what it is we're trying to do here, because it's about a whole-food, nutrient-rich, plant-based diet.'"
  4. ^ Howard Lyman, Mad Cowboy Interview 07: Rip Esselstyn (Part 2), The Mad Cowboy, undated.
  5. ^ Spector, Kaye. "Great-grandson of Cleveland Clinic founder offers his own advice for healthy living, The Plain Dealer, May 5, 2009.
  6. ^ a b INTERVIEW: "The Engine 2 Diet" author and "Forks Over Knives" star Rip Esselstyn, Philadelphia City Paper, May 19, 2011
  7. ^ Author/Firefighter Rip Esselstyn ’82 Promotes Health, Wellness
  8. ^ a b Esselstyn, Rip. The Engine 2 Diet. New York: Wellness Central/Hachette Book Group USA, 2009 :10.
  9. ^ a b Former fireman preaches 'plant-strong' gospel in doc. Winnipeg Free Press, June 2, 2011.
  10. ^ Kirkham R. Hamilton, "Rip Esselstyn Heart Disease Weight Loss And The Engine 2 Diet" (interview), December 30, 2009: "So in 1987 without looking back I dropped the meat and the dairy and the eggs and the fish and I ate all plant-strong and ... it has given me the edge not only as a human being but as an athlete."
  11. ^ Black, Rosemary. Texas firefighter Rip Esselstyn aims to save lives - through his new diet book. Daily News (New York), February 25, 2009.
  12. ^ Going Cold Turkey From Meat, CBS, April 26, 2009.
  13. ^ The New York Times Best Seller List, March 15, 2009
  14. ^ The New York Times Best Seller List, May 17, 2009
  15. ^ Engine 2 Diet gets Mayor Emanuel's endorsement
  16. ^ Health Starts Here™ launches at Whole Foods Market
  17. ^ "Words of encouragement: Better health through diet with My Beef with Meat." The Denver Post, May 7, 2013.
  18. ^ "Vegan firefighter on his 'Beef With Meat'." CBS This Morning, May 14, 2013.
  19. ^ "CNN SUNDAY MORNING: Winning Powerball Ticket Sold in Florida; More Severe Weather Expected Today; Report: North Korea Fires Another Missile; Digging Through Train Wreck Damage," CNN Sunday Morning, May 19, 2013.
  20. ^ New York Times Bestseller List, June 2, 2013
  21. ^ Forks Over Knives Cast
  22. ^ Forks Over Knives Presents: The Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue: Official Site

External links[edit]