28-Day Engine 2 Challenge Winds Down at Whole Foods DFW Stores

Go vegan in 28 days. If you’re not a vegan already – do you think you could do it? If you are, what do you remember about your first 28 days?

A group of plant-strong curious folks got to experience just that at Whole Foods Market’s “Engine 2 – 28 Day Challenge,” which began on January 23 at three DFW Whole Foods stores, including the flagship Park Lane store.


Rip Esselstyn (photo provided by engine2diet.com)

The Engine 2 Diet, popularized by triathlete, firefighter, and vegan Rip Esselstyn, leads participants on a steady progression to a fully “plant-strong” diet by gradually phasing out certain types of foods. Week 1 – all dairy is removed. Week 2 – all meat. Week 3 – extracted oils (vegetable oils, olive oils, etc). Week 4 serves to re-enforce what is learned the previous weeks and solidify the benefits of living on a whole foods, plant-based diet.

Karen Lukin, Media and Community Relations for Whole Foods North Texas, said the 500 participants that signed up for the program well surpassed their expectations going in. Participants came from all walks of life – friends, couples, old, young. A good number of Whole Foods employees attended, as well as a group from McKinney ISD. It seems there were no boundaries in people interested in improving their health with a plant-based diet.


John Mercer cuts veggies for a soup

So was going vegan for this group a simple walk in the park? I asked John Mercer, Kitchen Manager at the Park Lane location, what people had the hardest time giving up. “Probably the oil, they knew going in that meat would be gone fairly quick, and cheese and dairy. Pretty sure that cooking without oil might have shocked people more than anything else because they didn’t think it was possible, but we definitely handled that.” Indeed, giving up meat and cheese is one thing, but even the majority of vegans still eat oil. But for Engine 2, oil is an enemy. According to the Engine 2 website:

Despite popular belief that oils are good for you, especially Olive Oil, the truth is all oils provide the most concentrated source of calories on the plant. Up to 120 calories per tablespoon! “Heart healthy” olive oil is 15% saturated fat.

Mercer said there were definitely lessons learned by the group about a plant-based diet. Particularly the protein myth – “That most people are getting too much protein, I think that caught them off guard.” Also, it was news to many that cholesterol was only found in animal products – “That if they’re having cholesterol problems and they don’t eat it, their body makes what it needs and not anymore.”


challenge participants listen to the presentation

After visiting with Mercer, I attended the last of the program’s four meetup sessions. A group of almost 40 people gathered to sample Mercer’s new creamy potato salad creation, destined for the prepared foods case later this year, as well as learned about reading food labels. When asked whether or not a bag of whole-grain pretzels were good, participants responded “the fat to calorie ratio is too high…too much oil…too much salt.” Later, asking if anyone could name a type of sea vegetable resulted in multiple responses – “kelp…dulse…kombu.” It was apparent this group took the 28 Day Challenge seriously. When asked how many of the group planned on being plant-strong past the 28 days, almost the entire room raised their hands. It appeared the message of the program was getting through quite well.

Tickets for the program’s celebration event on Friday quickly sold out, but ninety plant-strong graduates will enjoy dinner and a visit from the Engine 2 founder himself, Rip Esselstyn. He will congratulate participants on completing the challenge and no doubt provide encouragement for a happy and healthy plant-based future.