In addition to running the Engine 2 Challenge and working as the Whole Foods Healthy Eating Specialist in the Boulder store, Dani Little took on the task of what I do full time (except I do it with the help of a talented team). She arranged for Rip Esselstyn to come speak to all of us who are participating in the program, selected a beautiful venue with a large ballroom, ran a Powerpoint presentation, and worked with a staff of vegan chefs to provide appetizers.
Two hundred of us gathered around tables to hear Rip share his story about the firehouse and the firemen he works with every day in Austin, Texas. To hear Rip talk, you would think he’s just a typical fire fighter who likes to participate in (and win) triathlons and go home to his wife and son. But Rip’s passion to educate America on the dangers of Diabetes and heart disease stems from his childhood and being raised by his father, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, aka The Plant Perfect Doctor. In Austin, Rip and his fellow first responder buddies rarely get to douse flaming buildings like they thought they would when they signed up. The fact is, only ten percent of their emergency calls are fire-related. The rest are entirely associated with heart failure, heart attacks, and heart disease, or as Rip calls them, “food-related” illnesses. What keeps him motivated to travel and speak to large groups is to educate America on how to avoid sudden death-by-food. His argument is that a plant-based diet will not only halt the damage already done to our arteries and cells, it can actually reverse the negative effects of our unhealthy eating habits.
After Rip and Dani’s three-hour presentation, which included friendly competition and audience participation, I elbowed my way towards each of them and invited them to speak at Natural Products Expo. Not so much to convince a seemingly healthy industry of the benefits of a plant-based diet, but to tell other retailers, manufacturers, and distributors how to work together to establish a similar model for their regions. What if retailers appoint a certified healthy eating specialist (qualified, at least) to run an annual or quarterly healthy-eating challenge? What if that retailer approached their distributors and said, “Hey, look. I want to implement this temporary program in my store. I want you to supply these particular items as part of a package deal. I’ll put it on an end cap until the customers know where to find these products in their rightful place, and I want a discount on this package.” I consulted with our good friend, Bill Crawford, on this one, and he agrees there is no downside. He says distributors usually have a program director who would handle orders like these, and that the perfect time to implement this type of program is at the first of the year, for obvious reasons.
But Bill is right. There is no downside: The Retailer gets a deal on product and teaches The Customer how to use their store; The Customers depend on The Retailer as a resource for nutrition, buying items they would never normally purchase, so The Manufacturer/Grower sells more product. Meanwhile, The Distributor has a commitment from the Retailer and moves more product, while The Customer only gets healthier. There are no losers in this scenario (unless you count weight loss and cholesterol points).
I want to see this model take effect everywhere. I want consumers to take control of their lives and their food bill. I want to create demand for nutrition. I want nutrition to be widely available in all parts of the country. I want health subsidized in the form of government assistance programs for organic farms and Non-GMOs. I want a lot of things. But like Whole Food’s latest motto, “Health Starts Here,” we can all make adjustments where we’re at.
In light of the USDA’s recent decision to approve Monsanto’s GE alfalfa and sugar beets, which may inadvertently be fed to organic dairy cows and beef cattle, I feel empowered with the decision to opt out of consuming dairy and meat; a notion that would have seemed personally unrealistic 30 days ago.
Today I had my biometrics taken again to compare to my pre-Engine 2 diet. I am pleased to report that
• My Total Cholesterol dropped 31 points
• My Triglycerides dropped 20 points
• My LDL (bad cholesterol) dropped 32 points
• My Glucose (the thing that got me all wound up) dropped 18 points- down to 88!
• I lost about 3 pounds of total body weight, but weight loss was not a goal of mine. Others lost significant weight while I snacked on nuts and avocados (one man lost ten pounds during the first week!)
All this from eating plants for 28 days straight. I did not starve to death. I did not punish myself for mistakes or giving in to temptation once or twice. And I see this lifestyle as a sustainable means to keep healthy and slow the aging process (premature gray hair notwithstanding).
Side note, and totally unrelated. I happen to notice guys who eat healthy now. So, MEN, if for no other reason, eat healthy because the chicks dig it.