Rip Esselstyn TED talks on Plant-Strong & Healthy Living (Transcript)

In this TED talk, Rip Esselstyn, a former firefighter and author of The Engine 2 Diet, advocates a plant-strong diet to combat chronic diseases. Esselstyn inspired his fellow firefighting crew at the Austin Engine 2 station to follow a plant-based diet and dramatically heal their health. In 2012, Engine 2 and Whole Foods Market unveiled the Engine 2 food line. 

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Rip Esselstyn

So I’m wearing my shirt inside out and a lot of you have pointed that out to me. And I do this from time to time, and when somebody says it, I say: “I know… I’m wearing my shirt inside out. I’m doing it on purpose and I’m doing it to help people turn their health around.

And they say: “Well, how do you do that?”

And here is the story. So, I became a firefighter to help people, to save lives, and to slay dragons.

Now, obviously, we are not slaying real dragons, but that’s our term for slaying fires. And a fire is really a living, breathing entity, and it’s hell-bent on creating all the destruction and devastation that it can. And so, we as firefighters have to use all of our wit and we have to outwit, outsmart it and outlast it, and whether it’s an offensive fire or a defensive fire, there are certain tactics.

But the essence of basically killing a fire is: “You got to put the wet stuff, on the red stuff” and it doesn’t matter if it is a house fire, an apartment fire or high-rise fire, or if it’s a wild land fire, we got to put the wet stuff, on the red stuff.

Now, I retired from firefighting a little over 3 years ago. So, I’m no longer fighting fires, but I now and still, I am helping people, I’m saving lives, and I’m slaying – I’m slaying a different type of dragon.

The dragon that I’m slaying today, is what I call “The 5-headed chronic western disease dragon” And This, over the last 100 years, has gained more strength and power and momentum and it is flying around, and it is creating more death and destruction on different individuals, families, cities and states in this country, it’s just absolutely amazing.

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5-headed dragon

And let me introduce you to this 5-headed dragon.

So, right here we have the leader of the pack, we have heart disease. 100 years ago, heart disease wasn’t even on the map as one of the top 10 killers of Americans. Today, it’s first and foremost; 1 out of 2 of us will die from heart disease.

Here we have breast cancer and prostate cancer. Cancer will overtake heart disease as the number one killer of Americans if the trends continue. In the back row here, we have diabetes, and we have obesity. Close to 50% of Americans by 2030 will be either pre-diabetic or diabetic and over 70% of Americans is now overweight or obese.

This dragon is playing for keeps, okay? It’s playing hardball. And the current paradigm that we are using to try and slay this dragon, is having absolutely no effect whatsoever. There is a saying: You can’t break a glass bottle from the inside.

And what we are currently doing, with pills and procedures and more legislation and more doctors. We are not going to break that glass bottle. We have to think outside the box, and the answer is plant-based nutrition. Something so simple, yet so profound, and so inexpensive, that we can absolutely lay waste to this dragon that now comprises 75% of this country’s healthcare costs.

Right? 5 diseases, 75% of our healthcare costs and we know beyond the shadow of a doubt, every one of these diseases is either preventable, or reversible with plan-based nutrition.

Now, let me tell you why I have so many ripples of hope about what we can do as a country going forward. We did something really remarkable at a little fire house in Austin Texas. We had an event that led to the discovery that one of our own was basically a dead man walking. And so I challenged these guys for 28 days, let’s eat all plant strong fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans, some nuts and seeds and these guys, in 28 days morphed themselves from medical time bombs, into healthy superheroes.

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It was absolutely amazing and it was the spark that we needed and the confidence that these guys needed to start a wellness revolution at a firehouse in Austin Texas… the land of beef.

And so we just fed on this and — and the reason we were so successful is because we made health a habit at the fire station. And some of the things that made it easy is the guys at the fire station: they are my second family. So we had tons of support. We had an amazing amount of love between us, compassion, respect and admiration. So we had the support that you need.

We developed routines. Every day we come in and we have a plant-strong lunch that we share together. Then we’d have a crossfit workout in the afternoon. Then we’d have a dinner, a plant-strong dinner and we would alternate who would buy and shop for the food and then together we would cook it and eat it and then clean up afterwards.

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