It sounds like the firehouse is basically just an extreme example of why Americans are struggling with obesity.
You’re right. I think fire departments and firehouses are actually a little microcosm of what’s actually happening in the rest of America. I mean, the number one on-the-job cause of death for firefighters is heart attacks. And heart disease is also the biggest killer in America. There’s all kinds of parallels.
I think the good news is, though, it’s taken us getting this sick and this unhealthy and this unfit for us to all of a sudden go “what in the world have we done? What have we become?”
But now, we can rebuild our fire force and America like never before. All of a sudden, we make being healthy and eating more clean, plant-strong foods a total value that we absolutely embrace.
In a lot of these firefighters who are reaching out to me is indicative of that.
Why is it so important for firefighters, especially, to eat more whole foods, and more plants?
When you’re overweight, you’re a liability. Your performance is jeopardized. You’re supposed to go out, when there’s an emergency, but how can you help somebody when you can barely help yourself?
Do you think that firefighters are in a good position to lead, as role models? They’re already seen as heroes for so many people.
Definitely. Just to give you an idea of where we started, here in Austin, TX–the 14th largest city in America, with 44 fire stations–when I started eating this way in 1997, there were possibly one or maybe two people who also ate that way. And then we had the scare with JR (a fellow firefighter who had dangerously high cholesterol) back in 2005, and we all rallied behind him and started eating plants to get healthy, and then there were maybe six of us.
And then I wrote the book, and I got 15 or 20 firefighters to do it. And now, we’ve got the in-house fire department doctor, who’s totally on-board and telling the guys who come in with high cholesterol, check out Engine 2. Start eating more plants.
We now probably have 150-200 who are eating plant-strong (not vegan or vegetarian), and we have a culture now that has embraced this lifestyle. And so I can tell you that if a bunch of firefighters in Austin, TX can do it, any fire department or even house can do it.
Right, it seems like if firefighters can lead the plant-based way, others will see that and get in line with cleaner, more healthy foods, too.
Definitely. That’s what’s so exciting about these guys in Annapolis. They emailed me because I was coming to town and they asked if we could go to dinner after. And as we were sitting around the table, these guys were all like: ‘Whatever it takes. We want to help you get this country healthy. This is what’s cool. Being healthy is cool. Eating all this other nonsense is so uncool.’
These guys get it. And they’re going to start being role models.
Rip and the rest of the Engine 2 team will be joining forces with Forks Over Knives once again this year to bring a series of intensive, comprehensive workshops to a farm near you. Check back with the Engine 2 Immersions site for more details in the near future.
**Speaking of the guys from Annapolis, I found out that you can follow their journey on Facebook.
Images: The Engine 2 Diet