In November 2019, I took a Friday off to drive down to Memphis Tennessee to pick up some things for my Jack Daniel’s Collection, on the way to/from I listened to some episodes of The Forward, a podcast from Lance Armstrong. One of the guests on an episode was Rip Esselstyn, author of the Engine2Diet book, and the 7 Day Rescue diet. You can find him in documentaries such as Forks over Knives and The Games Changers, as well as at PlantStrong.
I wasn’t actually thinking that I would be changing my diet or trying anything new, but the conversation that Rip had with Lance was intriguing and motivated me to look further into what Rip was preaching. The short of it, Rip preaches the benefits of following a whole food plant based diet. Basically Vegan everything, but cutting back, or removing, processed foods. After my road trip I got back and purchased Rip’s book, The Engine 2 7 Day Rescue Diet on Kindle. This was Mid-November, right before Thanksgiving and the Holidays. I decided I was going to read the book, and once complete, I would give this diet a chance.
I wasn’t doing this for some of the typical vegan reasons such as “to help try to address global warming”, or because “meat is bad, the animals are hurting”, blah blah blah. I was doing this for me. I don’t expect anyone else to do this, but if you do, I think you’ll find it isn’t as hard as you think, and you can improve your health by doing so.
So a little background, I’m a PICKY eater, I eat like a 5 Year Old, cheeseburgers, nothing on them, etc. I rarely eat healthy. We get take out too many times a week, and I drink a lot of diet coke. I’m a big milk drinker, and love a good sharp cheddar cheese. Vegetables are not my thing, so this “going vegan” thing was going to be challenging. I’ve also recently had high blood pressure (I blame that old pesky job), earlier in 2019 my doctor put me on BP meds, which I took for a few weeks, but stopped, because who wants to take meds for the rest of their life? I want to control this myself.
In 2019 I managed to get down to around 240lbs, in late May/Early June as I was training and partaking in the Dirty Kanza gravel bike ride, but after that my weight slowly climbed back up to between 250-255lbs, and remained there. It was pretty common for me to eat desert each night, be that cookies, ice cream, or something else, well after 9 or 10pm at night. It was easy to keep my weight up by just eating whenever and whatever I wanted, not so easy to bring it down because I didn’t allow myself any self control to stop eating junk.
I started reading the book in November, and slowly chugged along through it over the holidays and the first month of the year. In an honest review of the book, I would mention that it is not the easiest of reads. Rip tells you why you should do things like 1) not eat meat, 2) cut out fats, 3) cut out added sugars, 4) no oils, but he would then tell you 35 thousand (slight, BUT ONLY SLIGHT, exaggeration) different studies that backed up his recommendation. That made for a hard long read, I already believed, I didn’t need to be forced additional info over and over again.
In early February I finally finished up the book, right after the Super Bowl. I figured this was as good a time as any to kick my test of this diet into gear for a couple of reasons.
- My blood pressure is too high and I have my annual doctor’s appointment scheduled for early March
- I have a 100 mile gravel bike ride on March 14th in Stillwater, OK
- I have a 200 mile gravel bike ride on May 30th in Emporia, KS
- It’s just time
Armed with a little bit of information from Rip’s book, and a very vague plan, I went shopping at Whole Food’s on Sunday February 9th. One side note: Rip is now employed (or was in the past) by Whole Foods, and they carry a number of items from his Engine2Diet food line. I picked up LOTS of different things, some of which I ate this week, some of which I didn’t. Lots of greens, arugula, kale, broccoli, whole grain pita, potatoes, brown rice, Engine2Diet Square Burrito, Engine2Diet Ravioli, brown rice vinegar, and loads of other things.
Sunday afternoon I took the kids out after my daughter’s gymnastics competition and we grabbed Steak n Shake one last time for me, while the service was amazingly excellent, the food didn’t leave me feeling fulfilled. Sunday night we went out for a family birthday and had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, this would be my last meal before making the switch to being vegan. It included orange chicken, brown rice, and of course, a piece of key lime cheesecake.
Monday morning I started out by stepping on the scale, and taking my blood pressure, these would become my starting numbers which I would measure my progress by:
Starting Weight: 254.1lbs
Starting Blood Pressure: 156/90
I’ll cover what I ate for the week in another blog post, but throughout the week I did my best to follow the: whole plant based diet, no added sugars, no oils, and no processed foods. I believe I was able to successfully follow those rules, and managed to not completely go insane while doing so.
Each day I stepped on the scale, the first day losing 3.9lbs (a lot of that was the load of food I took down at The Cheese Cake factory on Sunday night).
My blood pressure was pretty constant throughout the week, hovering around the original numbers (Tues-147/95, Wed-143/97, Thur-149/97, Friday 145/92).
This week was a great week for me to do this 7 day diet, the main reason being, I’m currently in a state of unemployment (not for long, fyi) that allowed me to completely eat at home (except two days, see below) so I could very easily control what I had for food options, not having to dance around menus and schedules.
Two days were different though, Saturday afternoon I had to head to Jefferson City for my Son’s hockey game(s). I took a load of air popped popcorn and water for me to drink/snack on for the road trip, and then after the game when we all went out to a pizza place for dinner, I tore into the salad bar and had lettuce, cucumbers, green peppers and carrots, but no sauce/dressing of any type.
Sunday I had plans to do a gravel bike ride in St. James, MO, either 32 or 62 mile distance options. I was pretty concerned about this, not sure what distance I would be able to do, how would I fuel myself, and how would I stay hydrated without deviating from the strict no processed foods diet. I managed to get the ride in, drinking around 90 ounces of water, and filling myself, best I could, on these Blueberry Banana Bars that I made on Friday.
I ended up doing the 62 mile route, which showed me where my nutrition needed help. I managed to bonk and get cramps for the first time on a bike ride, running out of food, and running out of water right at the end. It was a good test though, as it showed me I need to figure out better hydration options for my upcoming events. After the ride I had a large honey crisp apple and was brought back to life quickly by the natural sugars. Dinner Sunday night was LARGE, potatoes, kale, brown rice, pasta, but not near enough to offset all the calories I burned on the 62 mile ride.
Late Sunday night I checked my blood pressure and was pretty happy with the result, but decided I wouldn’t be satisfied until I got up on Monday morning, after a full 7 days, and compared the starting numbers to 1 week later.
Throughout the week I did my best to track all my food intake via MyFitnessPal, I will be using that to document exactly what I ate over the last week. According to MFP, I was low on calories every day except Wednesday (with a target intake of 1680 calories, apparently something I set in MFP years ago and never used).
So, let’s get to it, the numbers after The Engine2 7 Day Rescue diet:
Starting Weight: 254.1lbs
Ending Weight: 241.4lbs (down 12.7lbs)
Starting Blood Pressure: 156/90
Ending Blood Pressure: 123/78
I didn't track cholesterol as I haven't typically had high numbers to worry about, but we'll see what it looks like in a few weeks with my annual check up.
What’s Next? More. More of the same. I’m planning on sticking with this diet for a while. I don’t expect that I will stay vegan for the rest of my life, but I am curious how long I can/will. I will try to maintain it at least through my doctor appointment in early March. I have a weight goal of trying to get to 220lbs, I haven’t been near that weight since probably freshman year of college, but that’s my goal for now. I will try to keep this diet going, following the same basic principals, whole plant based diet, little to no added sugars, little to no oils, no processed foods.
I’ve started an Instagram account for this process, you can find it at https://instagram.com/stlplant I figured I would post things there with pictures of my food because I didn’t want to bother blowing up my regular Instagram and Facebook feeds with food photos.