The Engine 2 Diet

If anyone told you that you could lose weight, drastically improve your cholesterol levels, have the stamina and buff physique of a firefighter – all on a completely vegan diet – would you believe them? Rip Esselstyn, author of The Engine 2 Diet, thinks you can! We found a lot to love in this diet plan, but we also had a small bone to pick with it.

Do you love a good burger, dripping with mayo and cheese? Is your husband a real meat and potatoes man that resists anything remotely healthy? The Engine 2 Diet is a 28 day diet plan that is far from what you might expect a vegan diet to be. In case you are not familiar with vegan diets, this is a completely plant based diet. You not only give up meat, but you also give up dairy and eggs. On the E2 diet, you won’t be left with just carrot sticks and brown rice. You will eat tacos, fajitas, omelets, meat loaf, pizza, chocolate pudding and more! Don’t be thrown by the vegan label, and don’t think you’ll be malnourished on this diet. The plan is loaded with protein, calcium, and every nutrient you need.

Rip Esselstyn is a professional triathlete and firefighter that also lives a vegan lifestyle and has done so for more than 12 years He’s surrounded by steak-loving men in an Austin Texas fire house. How on earth could he convince his fellow firefighters to trade their steaks for tofu? It all started with a bet. While hanging around the firehouse, they all bet who would have the lowest cholesterol. After getting tested, they found many had very scary cholesterol levels. One member of the team, JR, had a cholesterol level of 344 and everyone realized this was a matter of life or death. The team rallied around JR, and Rip promised them all that they could lower their cholesterol if they would just change their diets. And so it began. Everyone switched to a plant based diet while on duty and their health improved. JR’s cholesterol dropped to 270. Then Rip bet him that he could make a dramatic change if he switched to a completely plant based diet both at work and at home. Just 3 weeks later, his cholesterol had dropped to 196!

From there, Rip created a 28 day plant based diet and volunteers put it to the test. Pilot studies showed massive drops in cholesterol, and everyone also lost weight. They did it by creating delicious vegan versions of favorite foods such as tacos and pizza. They also included a simple exercise program for overall fitness. The results were consistently good! Now the plan is available to you in a book, and the basics are even online for free.

The Engine 2 Diet makes switching to a plant based diet easy by providing recipes that mimic your meaty favorites and are just as good or better. We made the chocolate pudding and fed it to a group of kids and they begged for more! The ingredients were just silken tofu, unsweetened cocoa powder, agave nectar, and a smidgen of vanilla. It took just seconds to make in the food processor. We also served the family tacos using corn tortillas, Morningstar Farms crumbles, fresh salsa, and we spread the tortillas with hummus before adding the other ingredients. The hummus made a surprising difference and the tacos were addictive!

We suspect that most dieters are going to ask what they are allowed to eat on the E2 diet. Even healthy diet plans like South Beach divide fruits and veggies into good and bad lists. With E2, the only taboo foods are animal based. If it’s a plant then it’s OK, just prepare it in a low fat way. Don’t go nuts with nuts, oils, or higher fat plant based foods foods. It’s really that easy.

Engine 2 makes going vegan simple. The book and website are filled with guides that even seasoned vegans will find useful. But we are also interested in weight loss, aren’t we? Their studies showed that everyone who followed the diet lost weight. I guess if you are used to eating drippy burgers and cheese laden pizza, switching to a diet like this will automatically cause weight loss. But what about the rest of us that have been counting calories and measuring portions for a while now? Engine 2 is going to reduce your cholesterol and make you feel better. But the recipes don’t include calorie counts, and not all include serving suggestions. Vegan doesn’t mean calorie free, and we can only imagine how many calories are in the recipe for Sweet Potato Lasagna. Can we eat it and still have dessert? This is really the only problem we had with the Engine 2 Diet. We don’t mind figuring out portion sizes and calories on our own, but many dieters prefer the details and find it makes a new diet easier to grasp.

If you are interested in learning more, you can buy the book from Amazon, watch the video on the official Engine 2 Diet website, or sign up for a free membership on the E2 Academy website and get free recipes, a free menu plan, and even a grocery list to get you started. We think it’s worth checking out!


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Posts By 3FC
  • mm

    I just had to comment on your review: “Vegan doesn’t mean calorie free, and we can only imagine how many calories are in the recipe for Sweet Potato Lasagna. Can we eat it and still have dessert? … We don’t mind figuring out portion sizes and calories on our own, but many dieters prefer the details and find it makes a new diet easier to grasp.”

    I’ve been eating the Engine2 way for 6 months now and have lost 30 lbs (and yes, cholesterol etc is lowered too). I’m not hungry. I don’t weigh or measure or count or anything else.

    That’s the whole point of eating this way! You do not have to count calories or points, weigh & measure your food, or any of that other stuff we’ve all been doing for years. It took me a good month or two to really accept that I could eat this way, and not feel “guilty” when I had a huge bowl of oatmeal for breakfast and then 2 huge burritos for lunch.

    I’ve been on Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Atkins, South Beach, ediets, and probably others I’ve forgotten about, and never lost more than 8-10 lbs because I was always HUNGRY and also got sick of all the counting/measuring. You do not have to deprive yourself of food when you eat the Engine2 way, because what you will be eating is real, filling, satisfying FOOD.

    If I don’t lose weight for a couple of weeks, I know to cut back treats that are high in sugar or fat, or are more refined: like soy pudding, “vegan” cookies, peanut butter, etc. Those are the only items where you still need to exercise “portion control.” However if you truly eliminate fats and sugary stuff from your diet (including hidden fats & artificially sweetened crap) you will quickly find that you lose your taste for that stuff.

    You can eat until you are full, and eat again when you are hungry… as long as you eat real food. That is, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes, without added oils, and not going overboard on the sugars. This isn’t a “diet” in the conventional sense; it’s a way of eating that will train your palate to love real food that nourishes your body instead of harms it. And it’s point isn’t to be vegan; you can be vegan and live on pop-tarts and diet coke. The point is to eat foods that promote health and eliminate the foods that cause disease.

    So, can you have your dessert too? I have dessert every day, often twice a day. Absolutely, but you change your definition of dessert from ice cream to sorbet (ever had Ciao Bello Blackberry Cabernet Sorbet or Chocolate Sorbet? Believe me girls, you will NOT feel deprived!). Cookies mean whole-grain chocolate chip cookies made from the Engine2 recipe or any of the many other recipes out there (,,, etc) instead of the Toll House recipe.

    Sorry for the long post, but I just HAD to let you know that your worries are unfounded.

  • david ray

    Its strange when I was young I got swept up into the Vegan diet, not for health reasons but for animal compassion reasons. The Vegan diet dropped a considerable amount of weight but more importantly I felt so alive, energetice, and clear headed. when I came home my parents wondered what had happened to me, when I told them of the diet they became worried I was not getting enough nutrition and they were not supportive of my dietary choice at all, even going so far as to tease me about it. Fast Forward around ten years, I had long since dropped the vegan diet and I had ballooned 50 plus pounds. I come home to visit the parents and my mom is holding the engine 2 diet book, and tells me about its vegan diet, before I can even say anything, she admits I was right all those years back. Now I am going Vegan not for the animals but myself. I know there is all types of reasons a Vegan diet can be helpful to the human body, like lowering the cholesterol and preventing such things as cancer, but honestly no one thinks of that stuff till it actually happens to them. I myself gained a physical ailment because of my excess weight and that is I have lower back pain, and I know its because of this big belly I am hauling around. Anyways, I know for myself and my body physiology that a vegan diet works.

  • Nancy Mehegan

    The Engine 2 diet is it!! Eliminating dairy and white bread was the trick for me. I unlocked the secret finally! Am feeling so much better. Read book review I wrote on our blog called VABOOMER:

  • Stacia

    I’m going to try it. I’ve been meaning to go vegan for a while. I’m currently a lacto-ovo vegetarian, but lately, I’ve been noticing that anything animal based makes me feel weighed down and icky. It’s even gotten to the point that I can’t eat dairy without getting sick. I noticed that I feel better when I eat vegan meals (but not on purpose).

    I’ll let you know how it goes!

  • Michael in Maine

    I bought the book, read it and want to at least give it a try for four weeks. I wonder if others have the same concern as I have–a partner who is not sold on the diet and who does not want to “eat hay.” That’s got to be one of the major issues some people encounter. When you live in a family, especially, if you are not the primary cook, it’s hard to go off on your own on such a radical departure from traditional cooking and eating–breakfast and lunch are not problem, but when the main family meal of the day is dinner and the rest of the family is not ready to “eat hay,” that gets tricky. It can mean eating whatever is quick and easy (thereby missing out on some the great recipes) while the family eats “normal” or slipping off the wagon at dinner, in order to have a meal with the rest of the family. Any thoughts?

  • Meg

    I’m 3 months in – the first month, I followed the plan perfectly. After the month, I started eating lean meats occasionally – mostly when I’ve been invited to someone’s home for a meal. I’ve lost 20 lbs in 3 months with no calorie counting and very little stress – this is more of a lifestyle than a diet and I found the changes really easy; I was never a big meat consumer, but I did take in more fat than I realized. By cutting dairy and added oils, it became crystal clear how many calories I was unknowingly taking in.

    Re: Vegan doesn’t mean calorie free – it very nearly does if you aren’t eating sugars or fats outside of veggies. I’m eating more now than I ever have before – I started keeping track of calories to make sure I get enough. My bad food habit has always been not eating enough for breakfast/lunch, then eating high cal late in the day – I was 5’9, size 12, and not happy with a stomach that has slowly been developing since hitting my 20s. Just switching to a 450-600 calorie version of Rip’s Big Bowl most mornings has made a HUGE difference – I have to remind myself to eat in the early afternoon, b/c it has so much fiber that I’ve not been hungry til after two. A savory, flavorful, plant based dinner (love, love, love the enchiladas w/ black beans or my own multitude of indian or mexican inspired lentils and greens recipes) with a few small veggie or fruit centered snacks spread throughout the days, and I’m set. Oh and dark chocolate or the chocolate pudding a couple times a week 😉

  • Meg

    Oh, and Michael – my tip is to educate the people you live with. You can’t force them to change their habits, but you can explain (with help of the book or even your doctor) why it’s necessary for you to take control of your health – and how making a lifestyle change in how you view food will go a long way in giving you a long and healthy life.

    If you never want to hear about ‘eating hay’ again make the spinach/mushroom enchiladas (I leave out the potatoes, they just don’t do it for me) with a really good sauce. I serve simmered black beans (I do dried, not canned, to eliminate salt) with onion, cilantro, and green chilis on the side. Or, if you don’t like spinach, use kale. If you don’t like mushrooms, put the beans in the enchiladas. There are so many easy substitutes to make the E2 recipes your own. Make a desert with the chocolate pudding from the book and some summer berries. It’s a great meal and perfectly illustrates why you don’t need meat or oil to make a delicious, filling, satisfying meal. After a week on the diet, we were astounded – we’d eaten enchiladas, tacos (with chorizo! soy chorizo, but still), pizza, burgers (homemade white bean), chocolate, and beer -foods I never used to make regularly b/c they were too high cal! If you take the reins and start making healthy substitutes, there will be very few meals people will miss b/c there will be lots of new favorites to replace the old ones. And, after a week of an E2 menu, your family will never refer to it as eating hay again.

    Be careful with soy, though – soy is a natural estrogen and, for people who don’t cook from scratch or aren’t on the lookout, it’s really easy to eat A LOT of it. And too much of anything that can cause hormone imbalances (like meat and dairy as well) isn’t good.

  • Mary

    I bought the book and found that i couldn’t even start the diet. For those of you who are picky eaters, forget it. There is also a lot of research that shows meat is essential to the diet for good health. My book is going in the trash.

  • Taylor

    This is very exciting to see that so many people are really using this diet and how it is changing so many peoples ideas about how you eat. I have grown up having every Thanksgiving dinner with Rip and his family with there crazy recipes such as the tofurkey shaped into a turkey. I highly recommend everyone following the diet to join the email list because Rip sends out great recipes not found in the book and it just makes things a little easier to get a quick meal made for vegan cooking can become very difficult.

  • Cindy

    Good comments. I haven’t started the diet yet but have read the book etc. My concern is similar to the original post about not having a calorie count. I am vegetarian and have gone vegan before for 4 weeks with no weight loss so I’m worried the same may happen again. Although I’m personally ready to be vegan now after being vegetarian for 3 years. As a vegetarian I have continued to eat eggs and dairy so that along with no oils, will be what I remove from my current way of eating with the E2 diet. So my question to all would be – has anyone that was vegetarian prior to doing the E2 diet lost significant weight loss? I am concerned that I can not track total calories with this diet without a lot of extra work. Thanks

  • Amy

    Cindy – something to realize is that this plan is focused on HEALTHY fats, unlike what most general, vegetarian, and vegan diets are. I nthis case, healthy fats are focused on whole foods like avocadoes, nuts and seeds. Cutting out the oil can make a HUGE difference – vegan or not. Just my 2 cents on why you should give it a try without too much concern. Just make sure you keep the calorie rich fats under control and focus on nutrient dense foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.

  • Gina

    My husband and I are starting this “diet” next week. I’ve read throught he book and am very excited about it. Admittedly I don’t eat much animal products now so I am expecting the switch to be not that hard. I hesitate to call this a diet as I feel it’s a lifestyle change moreso than how we think of diets.

    I understand that this diet may not be for everyone but I do have to say that if you aren’t willing to challenge yourself and try new things it’s likely you will stay where you are at. Currently our diet isn’t giving us the health, energy or in my case body I desire. I understand that I will have to try new foods adn exercise more to attain that. Obviously what I am doing now isn’t working.

  • G.Myers

    1-14-11 I began the total Vegan way of eating. My cholesterol had been really high & my Dr. had said I have a fatty liver. When I asked what I could do, he said stop eating anything that has a face, has babies, or gives milk. Go Vegan totally. So I decided to try it. 2 months later & my joints don’t hurt anymore! Amazing! I have had joint pain for last 30 yrs. I feel so much better. My daughter introduced me to The Engine 2 Diet & sent me recipes from book. It helped a lot. Don’t be afraid to try it. You just might feel better than you have in a long time! Thanks Rip!

  • Justin

    Hi folks. My lovely girlfriend and I have switched to this way of eating 5 weeks ago. I have cut out eggs, greek yogurt and all meat. My girlfriend often bakes with eggs and has milk in her cereal every morning. She doesn’t weight anything and so far her cholesterol levels are way below. She quit smoking 8 months ago and we both decided after seeing Forks Over Knives that we were going to make the jump. I must say that I am hungry every 2 to 3 hours. I cut out agave nectar as of today and cut out my morning black coffee. I found I was still getting those afternoon crashes and decided to make the cut. My only issue is working out. I like lifting weights and running but I’m still stuck on the old mentality of pumping in protein, before and after shakes, blah, blah….Although I have read the book and watched the DOC I find myself downing a bowl of lima or edmamme beans (spelling??) after I workout. I get the odd comment dropped at work from some of the bigger fellas telling me that it’s not good to carbo load. I’m eating too many carbs, I laugh for a bit and then as soon as I get home I pick up the Engine 2 book to make sure I’ve read everything right. LOL..I’m still not sure if I should be eating to fuel myself or eating to feed my muscle??? Any help would be greatly appreciated!!!!

  • Sue Garcia

    Justin, if your’e still trying to figure it out I’d have to suggest Dr Fuhrman’s website and researching there. I know Joe Cross was working out after breaking his 60 day juice fast (Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead) and that he just went into the plant based diet ‘prescribed’ by Dr. F and had no problems building up muscle, per the movie.

  • Veggie Guy

    No, Mary, there isn’t any credible research anywhere in the world that says that “meat is essential.” You are totally wrong. Too bad you “couldn’t even start” the diet: it would have helped. I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 30 years and, besides my excellent doctor’s reports, I have a closet-full of trophies from my chosen sport. Vegetarians move better, think better, work harder, sleep more restfully, live longer, and live better.

    No meat + no dairy = better health

    Justin, read Doug Graham’s book The 80 10 10 Diet also. Carbs give you energy: protein and fat take away your energy (needed for digestion). The more fruits and veggies you eat, the better. You said it right, it is a mentality. Now, you have a new one. 10% of calories from protein, that’s plenty.

    Make a shake of bananas. Throw 6 into a blender with some water. Boom! Now you have a healthy shake that will keep you going.