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The Engine 2 Challenge review

May 31st, 2011 | 9 Comments »

The E2 challenge is over, at least in theory. To celebrate, I had a thick hearty beef sandwich, ice cream, frozen yogurt and half a dozen slices of wonderful bread spread with sweet butter. Then I had a serious tummy ache.

We had 28 days of consuming a plant-based eating plan, which went far, far smoother than I ever anticipated. In fact, it went so smoothly and I saw such amazing results that I am committed to continuing this regularly. This type of eating, this nutrient dense, delicious way of life is just what this lady needs. I expected that tummy ache from going back to some of my past ways of eating and it was a way of reminding myself what this challenge has really shown me.

So, did I learn anything from this challenge? Besides what I already has taken away from it?

I sure did.

~~ Even being as good in the kitchen as I am, changing my focus from a meat oriented meal to a non-meat option proved to be a bit challenging, mostly because I simply default to meat as the main item and then filled in around that. Changing it to a plant based option requires a complete 180° switch. And it’s a learning process for all of us. I found a terrific cookbook at Half Price Books that is helping me with plenty of ideas but I need a few more books and resources to stimulate my thinking. Thankfully, this won’t be hard at all. I’ve revamped my eating habits before and know that new habits sometimes take a bit of time to stick. The best part is that it’s been such fun to experiment and stretch the focus of what we eat.

~~ The near complete cessation of menopausal hot flashes and tummy troubles solidly affirmed in me that this is a much, much better option for my body. I do like meat, and with it being grilling season, the temptation of eating meat will always be there so I don’t plan to deprive myself completely. I simply won’t be cooking much, if any at home, and won’t make it the focus of any meal in other situations.

~~It’s made me even more aware of what I am putting in my body and what it does for me. I had no clue that the daily digestive issues had anything to do with what I was eating. I just thought it was the way it was going to be as I got older. It was really eye-opening for me to think I had simply settled for feeling less than 100% all the time and got me thinking how many other people just sit back on vague and unexplainable symptoms without one thought to finding out if they can be cured. This challenge has gotten me to really examine the foods I eat, even more than I did. The choices I make for what I consume sometimes are completely automatic, self-ingrained habits that can begin before I even know what’s happening. Every time my hand goes to my mouth, I force myself to stop and think about what I’m doing and I’ve caught myself in situations where I am eating without one thought to what it is. That mindless consumption had thrown me off many times, forcing me to be a lot more conscious of it and of learning to avoid the pitfalls and traps.

~~ I am in complete control. I knew this before going in to this challenge but it’s really made me aware in the last month that everything I need for my health and my well-being is within my ability to manage. And no one is helpless; we ALL have the ability to better ourselves through our eating habits. We all can make wiser choices. I’m committed to a healthier lifestyle, plain and simple. I feel better. I don’t need anything more than that. No one is forcing me to pick up and eat any type of food except me.

~~The most important thing I’ve taken away from this challenge is that there is nothing…. and I repeat, nothing lacking in a plant-based eating plan. Absolutely nothing at all. There’s this odd mentality that you can’t be satisfied from your food if you don’t eat meat, or that those who consume only plant-based foods are sadly noshing on tofu and plain brown rice, remorsefully dreaming of a sizzling steak and nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve had some amazing, delicious and truly satisfying meals this past month, with a dizzying array of color, texture, flavor and most of all, ease. Since you’re eating nutrient dense, low calorie foods, you can consume larger amounts when you eat, yet you’re taking in far less calories and I’ve never gotten to that point of being so full that I’m really uncomfortable. I calculated out a large chopped salad I ate for lunch recently, with red and green cabbage, apple, carrot, cucumber, radishes, red pepper, garbanzo beans, a little brown rice and some almonds and although it was a huge amount, the overall calories of it came in just around 500. And talk about flavor!!

So overall I’m sold, 100% sold on this, and I was so ready to take my eating to another level. I’m very grateful to Whole Foods for asking me to participate in this as it was just what I needed to kick me over the edge.

What do you think of this challenge? Would you ever consider stepping up to a healthier way of eating? Have you ever been troubled by vague physical symptoms that you can’t explain?

Like those photos above? Here’s where you’ll find them on the blog:
Top to bottom:
Farro Pilaf with Gold Beets
Roasted Apricots with Cardamom Brown Sugar Glaze
Grilled Guacamole

the Engine 2 challenge

May 9th, 2011 | 3 Comments »

May is looking a bit different around the kitchen. It’s a lot more green. And red. And purple. Don’t forget orange and yellow.

I was invited by Whole Foods to take part in a 28-day challenge of consuming a plant-based diet, based on the best-selling book The Engine 2 Diet, written by firefighter Rip Esselstyn, who designed the plan to help his fellow firefighters lose weight and combat health issues such as high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease. Whole Foods will be introducing this challenge to it’s customers in June, and four local bloggers will be chronicling their 28 days for the Whole Foods clientele to read about as they move forward with their own 28 day plan.

Rip’s book outlines all the benefits of a plant-based diet, and includes great testimony from people who have successfully used the plan to lose weight, lower their cholesterol and reverse the devastating effects of diabetes and heart problems. The premise of it goes like this; no processed or packaged foods, no added salts, no animal products, and no fats at all, including all oils. What you eat is a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes. The book comes with an extensive recipe collection, all simple and straight forward. There’s no need for any special cooking skills, or equipment or tools or anything. Just cut out the junk, and ramp up the intake of the good stuff.

I was intrigued by the idea of it, and enjoyed reading Rip’s book, sent to me free by Whole Foods. He’s got a lot of really bare bones information about the state of our health in the United States, and I don’t need to tell you that it’s really not a pretty picture. And I’m not going to get into any details. We all know how bad it is, even if we make like we don’t notice. My family eats really healthy foods, and I’m pretty diligent about purchasing items that I am comfortable with giving to my guys, but I’m always willing to do more and this challenge is giving me an opportunity to step up our game. As I see it, with what we do already, we’re about halfway there anyway, so taking it to another level won’t be that difficult. I don’t need to lose much weight at all, but we both have a strong desire to be as healthy as we can possibly be, and Mike has had issues with high cholesterol.

One of the nice things about Rip’s approach is that it’s really a very open-minded explanation, and it leaves a lot for each individual to interpret on their own. His suggestion, obviously, is to jump right in and start on the challenge, but he readily acknowledges that it’s often a tough step to take, and offers readers several options for easing in to it, and really, the best advice he gives is that it’s really something you can custom tailor to your own needs. And that’s what I did for us. Mike and I easily can give up almost all of our meat consumption, and so that’s where I’m taking our challenge. With the exception of a few social events for me where I’ve eaten meat, our home meals have all been meat free. With the gift card that Whole Foods provided, I stocked up on grains, brown and wild rice, lots of colorful vegetables and fruits and we’ve been enjoying some pretty amazing meals with our bounty. I’m not on board with Rip’s assessment of cutting out fat consumption, as I am firm in my belief and understanding that good fats are a necessity in good body function, for your brain and your autonomic nervous system. We need fat, and although there are many ways to get good fat through plant-based eating, I’ve kept the olive oil, but cut out the butter. I’m already missing my weekly popcorn fix.

But it’s a good thing though; we can all stand to do something better for our health. This is giving us motivation, and incentive to push to another level. We love vegetables, thank goodness, and it’s coming to the best time of year for vegetable love in Minnesota, as the Farmers Markets open and the bounty starts pouring in. And I made an agreement with my meat-loving son; I won’t mind if he wants to fix himself a piece of chicken, or a small steak if he’s willing to really try some of the new foods that come out of the kitchen. He didn’t even hesitate before he said ‘Yes’.

The first time Griffin tried quinoa he enjoyed it enough, even though he said the texture was ‘a little weird’. This time, when I loaded it with all sorts of grilled vegetables like baby bok choy, portabella mushrooms, red peppers and asparagus, he heaped his bowl full and really got into it. Upon finishing it, he sighed deeply and said to me “You know, that’s surprisingly filling.”

I don’t really have a ‘recipe’ for this. I made a simple balsamic vinaigrette that I brushed on the vegetables, then I grilled them, chopped them up and mixed them with cooked quinoa, salt and pepper. It was really delicious, and yes, it was surprisingly filling. Quinoa cooks in about 15 minutes and it goes with everything. If you haven’t tried this super little grain, I can’t recommend it enough.

Stay tuned for more posts about the E2 challenge!


Whole Foods provided the book and a gift card free of charge to me for agreeing to participate in the Engine 2 Challenge.
All opinions expressed here are mine.