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Last week EarthSave board member Rip Esselstyn and EarthSave CEO Jeff Nelson traveled to the small rural town of Mercersburg, PA, to undertake a unique project. Rip had been invited by local Mercersburg physician, Liz George, MD, who was inspired by Rip's book, The Engine 2 Diet.
In July, Dr. Liz, who is a Board member of the Tuscaroral Area Chamber of Commerce, had convinced several business leaders in her little town to join her in trying Rip's 28-Day plant-based Engine 2 Diet Challenge. The results were impressive, both in terms of weight loss, cholesterol-lowering as well as other biomarkers that indicate health improvement in the participants. So Dr. Liz decided to try to roll out the Engine 2 program into a wider portion of the local population.
To assist in the effort, Rip flew into Mercersburg for a whirlwind speaking tour. Over the next 48 hours, Rip spoke to nearly a dozen different groups, including 700 students at the local high school, 100 blue collar employees of a manufacturing plant, employees at a local bank, teachers and students at a local prep school, and to members of the Mercersburg Chamber of Commerce. Rip also gave talks open to the public in a local tavern which offered a 100% healthy vegan menu -- and which has agreed to serve Engine 2-approved entrees at every meal during the 28-day challenge, making it even easier for townspeople to participate in the vegan challenge.
The result is that starting next week, over 100 people -- or about 5% of the town's population -- will be embarking together on the 28-day plant-strong challenge. Dr. Liz has organized all participants into teams, each being led by someone who already did the Engine 2 challenge in July. Most are having cholesterol, weight, blood pressure and other medical tests done prior to starting the program. Tests will be repeated at the end of 28 days of plant-based eating, so participants can document their improvements. Enthusiasm, support and expectations are very high.
Mercersburg PA is also a dairy town, with a significant portion of its population working on local cattle operations. Rip's plant-promoting talks attracted a great deal of positive attention everywhere he went -- and just a bit of concern from the local dairy industry. One issue this brings to the forefront: as the nation comes to grips with improving eating habits, how can local businesses be supported as we work to improve the health of the population? This is another discussion that may arise during the Mercersburg Experiment.
The excitement is very high for program participants, and this is a big opportunity for Mercersburg citizens to become shining examples of the benefits of a plant-strong diet. Even the Mayor has signed up for the 28-day plant-based challenge!
Watch the Video
EarthSave is documenting this experience on film with the intention of rolling out this program to other small towns around the US. Rip has another similar program starting soon in Michigan, involving over 100 full time firefighters. He may match the Michigan Engine 2 teams with teams in Mercersburg, for fun and competition.
You can watch a short excerpt from one of Rip's talks to the local high school. In this piece, Rip challenges the toughest, coolest kids and athletes at the school to compete with him in a pushup contest -- to see whether the kids are as tough as the 47-year-old plant-strong speaker: