Wisconsin Firefighters Go Vegan
By Laura Hogg
From the FitChatter Blog Series
Welcome back to FitChatter! This week in the news: Inspired by the bestselling “Engine 2 Diet,” Wisconsin firefighters are turning to plant-based nutrition to improve their health.
There seems to be a prevailing stereotype that vegans are wispy, hemp-wearing hippies that only eat carrots and take every opportunity to lecture their peers on their eating habits. I’ll grant you – I’m sure a few people like that do exist, somewhere. (Well, except maybe the part about eating only carrots. That’s a one-way ticket to a hospital stay.)
But a growing number of people are defying those stereotypes – in a big way.
When you think of “manly” professions, firefighters have to be near the top of the list. Unfortunately, they’re also near the top of a different list: the list of the most stressful jobs in the country. (They came in second to the military.) It’s because of that stress that half of all firefighters killed on duty die not from the fires, but from cardiac issues.
I don’t know about you, but if my house were on fire, I wouldn’t want to have to worry that the firefighters were going to drop dead on the way over.
So, in an effort to combat the odds seemingly stacked against them, a group of Appleton, Wisconsin firefighters are taking their health into their own hands. Inspired by the documentaries “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” and “Forks Over Knives” – as well as the best-selling “Engine 2 Diet” developed by world-class triathlete and fellow firefighter Rip Esselstyn – over 20% of Appleton Fire Department has now opted to go vegetarian or vegan.
Instead of meat, eggs, and dairy, the firefighters have been loading up on whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts. The Engine 2 program is designed to change your lifestyle and your body in a mere 28 days – but its adherents don’t really look at it as a diet. “I look at it in a change of lifestyle and a change in eating,” said Len Vander Wyst, chief of the department.
One man has dropped 10 pounds. Chief Vander Wyst has dropped the same amount – and drastically improved his cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglycerides. Another man has dropped 15 pounds and 24 cholesterol points; yet another man has dropped 27 pounds and no longer suffers from arthritis pain. “The interesting thing is,” says Captain Jordan Steel, “I probably eat 50 percent more food.”
Talk about putting most workplaces’ healthy living initiatives to shame!
What does your workplace do to encourage healthy eating?
How do you try to eat right at work?
For more about the science behind the Engine 2 Diet, check out the trailer for Forks Over Knives:
And the trailer for Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead: