Much of Rip's talk revolved around his personal story. During his formative years, Rip's family ate plenty of meat and dairy. His life journey is in four phases:
1) Professional Triathlete: In 1986, at the age of 23, Rip started competing in triathlons. At the start of his career, he switched to a plant-strong diet. He was influenced by two individuals: (a) Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, his dad, whose research had demonstrated that plant based diet was key to prevention and reversal of heart disease, and (b) Dave Scott, a legendary triathlete, who was vegan.
2) Fireman: By 1997, Rip had spent eleven years as a professional triathlete. He was 34 and decided to get a "real job". He became a fireman in Austin, Texas. At that time, he was the only plant-strong firefighter in the entire state of Texas! He was endlessly ridiculed by his fellow firemen for his food habits.
Rip noticed that 80% of firefighting was actually in response to medical emergencies involving diseases caused by modern diet and lifestyle. These includes cardiac arrests and alcohol related incidents.
One day, Rip had a bet with his fellow firefighters. They would all get tested and find out who had the lowest cholesterol levels. When the results came out, a fireman named "JR" had a cholesterol level of 340. JR was distressed. Out of solidarity for JR, his teammates decided to adopt Rip's plant strong diet for a limited number of days. Pretty quickly, JR's cholesterol dropped to 196. Others improved too. These changes encouraged Rip's team to continue eating plan-strong foods at the firestation. Rip described his "vegetarian firehouse" as an "island of health in a sea of fast food restaurants".
3) Writer: The story of a bunch of Texan firefighters adopting plant-strong diet was too fascinating. It was picked up by the local newspaper, then some other media magazine. Finally, the New York Times published an article: Firefighters Gone Vegan? Even Austin Is Impressed. Rip said that the publication of the New York Times article triggered an avalanche of phone calls and requests for media appearances and book writing. At first, Rip thought that he had no innate talent for public speaking or book writing. However, in a few weeks, he changed his mind and agreed to write a book. He felt that he had the potential to connect with at least some segments of the American population, especially the firefighting community. In fact, he felt that he had a moral obligation to reach out to others and help them improve their lives. The book writing effort took a few years, culminating in the The Engine 2 Diet (288 pages, 2009).
4) Partnership with Whole Foods: In 2009, Rip left his job as a firefighter. The book's success brought him in touch with Whole Foods, who has licensed the 'Engine 2 Diet' brandname and is now coming up with an impressive array of hundreds of products aligned with the 'Engine 2 Diet'.