California nurse Jayne Strelecki had been searching for the “holy grail” of diets since she was an overweight kid — anything to lose the extra pounds that kept piling on. Countless failed attempts later, she found herself 61 years old, weighing 285 pounds, and taking more than 15 medications every day. Then, while visiting a friend, Jayne’s host smiled and said, “Pour yourself some coffee and I’ll tell you about an amazing new way to eat.”
Glancing around the woman’s kitchen, Jayne saw green stuff everywhere — on cutting boards, in colanders, steaming on the stove. She let out a skeptical chuckle — she had all but given up on losing weight — but a small part of her still hoped. Jayne gave her friend a weary smile and sighed, “Okay. Tell me more.”
Fast-forward 16 months, and Jayne is 125 pounds lighter, down from a size 3X to a small. She’s reversed her prediabetes and fatty liver. She no longer needs medications for fibromyalgia pain, asthma, chronic sinus infections, acid reflux, colitis, rosacea, arthritis, degenerative disc disease, or sciatica. “And it all happened effortlessly,” she insists, crediting The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet ($22.67, Amazon).
Experts aren’t surprised by Jayne’s transformation. According to George Washington University’s Neal Barnard, MD, low-fat, plant-based diet recipes found in approaches like Engine 2 are essentially a cure for obesity. In one study after another, “we’ve seen that people lose weight almost automatically — without limiting carbs or portions,” he notes. Folks even report losing up to 24 pounds a week.
As the weight vanishes, so do related conditions like type 2 diabetes. “The cause of diabetes is not excess carbs as we’ve long been told,” says Dr. Barnard. Rather. Per new Yale research, the cause is a buildup of fat particles in muscle and liver cells. “When fat gets in the cells, sugar can’t get in,” he says. “So sugar stays elevated in the bloodstream.”
A low-fat, plant-based diet is especially effective at reversing this problem. In a study led by Barnard, the approach reduced blood sugar three times more than the American Diabetes Association’s low-carb diet. “If you came up with a pill that powerful, it’d be a blockbuster. Our patients did it with kale, spaghetti, and beans.”
There’s also evidence that a plant-based diet can prevent and even reverse heart disease and Alzheimer’s. “The sooner you start,” says Barnard, “the better off you’ll be.”
How to Beat Hunger on a Plant-Based, Low Fat Diet
The Engine 2 approach is simple: Build meals around generous portions of unprocessed and minimally processed plant foods. That means everything from whole-grain cereal and pancakes to pizza and burritos. (The only limits: Skip oil and go easy on maple syrup, nuts, and avocado.)
“The goal is to get enough at meals to eliminate between-meal hunger,” says Engine 2 author Rip Esselstyn, a health advocate and son of Caldwell Esselstyn, MD, the Cleveland Clinic surgeon who pioneered the use of plant-based eating to reverse heart disease. “It’s common for people to increase their food intake by two to three pounds a day while still triggering dramatic weight loss and health improvements.”
How is that possible? First, each pound of unprocessed plant food contains about half the calories found in a pound of food we typically eat. Plus, every mouthful contains fiber, which makes your body work hard during digestion, boosting metabolism by 15 to 16 percent, explains Barnard. And compared to meat, plant foods provide about 64 times more antioxidants that increase fat burning, block calorie absorption, fight belly fat and more. As Esselstyn puts it: “You target excess weight from all fronts.”
The Engine 2 Diet: Before and After
“For the first time ever, I’m at a healthy weight. And I eat as much as I want,” says Jayne. “I wake up pain-free. I have energy. I’m a new person!” And you can be too. “You may not think you can eat this way, but you can do anything for seven days,” Jayne cheers. “Then two weeks, then a month. By then, if it makes you feel half as good as it made me feel, you’ll never go back. Incredible things happen when you put the right fuel in your body.”
Engine 2 Diet Meal Plan
Breakfast: Fruity Oat Bake: Mix 1 cup oats, 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla, 1 Tbsp. maple syrup, 1⁄2 cup berries, and 1⁄2 sliced nectarine. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes.
Lunch: Mix-and-Match Meals: Fill up on options like veggie sushi rolls, brown rice cakes with nut butter, baked chickpeas, salad with oil-free dressing and veggies with oil-free hummus.
Dinner: Baked Flautas: Warm corn tortillas in microwave; spread with fat-free vegetarian refried beans, then roll. Bake until crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with salsa and a large salad with oil-free dressing.
To eat like Jayne, get creative with natural plant foods. Choose from all fresh and frozen veggies (including potatoes and corn), beans, grains, and fresh or frozen fruit. Eat as much as you need to feel full, even if it’s a lot. Some guidelines to maximize results: Stick to 100 percent whole grains, and sneak greens into most meals. Also avoid oil, and limit calorie-dense options like maple syrup, dried fruit, whole-grain bread, nuts, avocado, and caloric beverages. As always, get a doctor’s okay to try any new plan.
Engine 2 Diet Pancakes Recipe
- 11⁄2 cups old-fashioned oats
- 1⁄2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 3⁄4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1⁄4 cup unsweetened applesauce
- Zest and juice of 1 orange
- 1⁄2 brown banana, mashed
- 1 cup almond milk
- Applesauce and fruit (optional)
- In blender, blitz dry ingredients to a flour-like consistency. Transfer to bowl and stir in wet ingredients, adding more milk if batter is too thick.
- Prepare pancake-style in nonstick skillet. Serve with additional applesauce and fresh fruit. Makes eight four-inch pancakes.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.