February 16, 1963
Upstate New York, New York, United States of America.
|Occupation||Health activist and food writer|
|Alma mater||University of Texas, Austin|
|Subject||Low-fat, whole foods, plant-based diet|
|Notable works||The Engine 2 Diet (2009)|
|Relatives||Caldwell Esselstyn (father), Anne Esselstyn (mother), Jane Esselstyn (sister)|
Rip Esselstyn (born 1963), a former firefighter and triathlete, is an American health activist and cookbook author. He is the author of The Engine 2 Diet (2009), Plant-Strong (2016) previously published as My Beef With Meat (2013), and The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet (2017).
Esselstyn is known as an advocate of a whole food, plant-based diet, one that omits meat, fish, eggs, dairy and processed foods. He calls it a "plant strong" diet, a term he has trademarked. He appeared in the 2011 documentary about plant-based nutrition, Forks Over Knives, as well as the 2018 documentary The Game Changers.
Esselstyn was born in Upstate New York, named after Rip Van Winkle, and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. He is the great-grandson of George Washington Crile and the grandson of George Crile, Jr. His father, surgeon Caldwell Esselstyn, is one of the early promoters of a whole foods, plant-based diet in the prevention and reversal of heart disease.
Esselstyn graduated from the Mercersburg Academy in 1981 and attended the University of Texas at Austin on a swimming scholarship from 1982 to 1986. During that time he was an All-American swimmer. After college, he became a triathlete and competed for approximately ten years. 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. Esselstyn eventually retired from firefighting to focus on becoming an advocate for plant-based nutrition.
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. He was also inspired by Dave Scott, who was a vegetarian. 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.
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). The Engine 2 Diet appeared on The New York Times Best Seller List and was endorsed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who made a public appearance with Esselstyn in January 2013. In 2010, Whole Foods Market included The Engine 2 Diet as a "Healthy Eating Partner".
In 2013, Esselstyn released another book, My Beef With Meat. 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.
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.