Rip Esselstyn
Esselstyn in June 2013
Esselstyn in June 2013
Born (1963-02-16) February 16, 1963 (age 61)
Upstate New York, U.S.
OccupationHealth activist, food writer
Alma materUniversity of Texas, Austin
SubjectLow-fat diets, whole-food diets, plant-based diets
SpouseJill Kolasinski
RelativesCaldwell Esselstyn (father)
Jane Esselstyn (sister)
George Crile, Jr. (grandfather)
George Washington Crile (great-grandfather)
George Crile III (uncle)

Rip Esselstyn (born February 16, 1963) is an American health activist, food writer, and former firefighter and triathlete. He is known as an advocate of low-fat, whole-food, plant-based diet that excludes all animal products and processed foods.[1] He calls it a "plant strong" diet, a term he has trademarked.[2] He has appeared in two documentaries about plant-based nutrition: Forks Over Knives (2011) and The Game Changers (2018). He is the author of The Engine 2 Diet (2009), My Beef With Meat (2013), Plant-Strong (2016), and The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet (2017).

Early life

Esselstyn was born in Upstate New York on February 16, 1963, the son of Ann and surgeon Caldwell Esselstyn. He was named after Rip Van Winkle. He is the grandson of surgeon George Crile, Jr. and the great-grandson of surgeon George Washington Crile. His father is a former Olympic rowing champion who was one of the early advocates of a whole-food, plant-based diet in the prevention and reversal of heart disease.[3] He has a sister named Jane and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio.[4][5] He graduated from the Mercersburg Academy in 1981 and attended the University of Texas, Austin on a swimming scholarship from 1982 to 1986.[6] During that time, he became an All-American swimmer.[7] After college, he became a triathlete and competed for approximately ten years.[2] In 1997, he retired as a triathlete and turned his attention towards becoming a firefighter and emergency medical technician, joining Engine 2 of the Austin Fire Department.[4][8] He retired from firefighting to focus on becoming an advocate for plant-based nutrition.[9]



Whilst 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, 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.[2]

The Engine 2 Diet (2009)

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 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)

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

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]

Personal life

Esselstyn is married to Jill Kolasinski, with whom he has three children.[4]




See also


  1. ^ 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".
  2. ^ 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.'"
  3. ^ Spector, Kaye. "Great-grandson of Cleveland Clinic founder offers his own advice for healthy living, The Plain Dealer, May 5, 2009.
  4. ^ a b c Rip Esselstyn biography Archived 2013-08-19 at the Wayback Machine,
  5. ^ Howard Lyman, Mad Cowboy Interview 07: Rip Esselstyn (Part 2), The Mad Cowboy, undated.
  6. ^ a b INTERVIEW: "The Engine 2 Diet" author and "Forks Over Knives" star Rip Esselstyn Archived 2012-11-18 at the Wayback Machine, 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
  23. ^ Lifetime Records for Rip Esselstyn