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Plant-based powerhouses to speak at VegFest 2009

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August 31, 2009

Marsha Rakestraw, NW VEG vice president

This year's Portland VegFest features three speakers who rock the world of healthful living: Dr. John McDougall, Kathy Freston, and Rip Esselstyn.

"I'm the luckiest doctor in the world, because my patients get well. Other doctors give people pills; I'm the doctor who takes them off drugs." -Dr. John McDougall

Our keynote speaker is John McDougall, M.D., a board-certified internist and nutrition expert who is renowned for his residential nutrition program focused on a healthy plant-based diet and lifestyle changes. Dr. McDougall has been speaking for more than three decades about plant-based health and the impact of our food choices on disease.

McDougall has heralded his program as not only a great strategy for maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle, but also as an important tool in the reversal of serious illnesses, such as heart disease and diabetes. McDougall grew up eating the Standard American Diet (SAD). Even a stroke at age 18 and a cholesterol level of 338 mg/dL at age 22 didnít spur him to change his eating habits. It wasn't until he moved to Hawaii to begin practicing medicine that McDougall became cognizant of the connection between diet and health.

McDougall noticed that first-generation Japanese, Chinese and Filipino workers, who ate a mostly plant-based diet, were much healthier than their kids, who ate a typical animal product-centered diet. McDougall's observations led him to create his McDougall Program and inspired him to open his health and medical center in Santa Rosa, California, to help people lose weight and learn to live healthfully.

Dr. McDougall is the author of several national bestsellers including The McDougall Plan: 12 Days to Dynamic Health, McDougall's Medicine: A Challenging Second Opinion and The McDougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss. His most recent book is The McDougall Program for a Healthy Heart. McDougall also has created a line of nourishing plant-based convenience foods to help people more easily make the transition to a healthy way of eating. McDougall is one of the medical profession's leading advocates of dietary change as a positive means of preventing illness and maintaining health.

"We cannot thrive as individuals without tending to the ills of this world and all its inhabitants." -Kathy Freston

Health and wellness expert Kathy Freston first garnered mainstream media celebrity with her appearances on Oprah (Freston led Oprah through a 21-day vegan cleanse in 2008). Freston, a New York Times best-selling author and columnist for the Huffington Post, AlterNet and the Los Angeles Times Magazine, promotes a holistic, interconnected approach to health and well-being. She advocates a body/mind/spirit framework for achieving health and healing, pursuing the integration of a healthy diet, spiritual practice and emotional balance. Freston's strategy is to encourage people to "lean in," to set the intention to make healthy choices and then make incremental changes toward those goals. Freston has made numerous television appearances, and her work has been published in magazines from Vanity Fair to Fitness. Her books include Quantum Wellness: A Practical and Spiritual Guide to Health and Happiness, The One: Discovering the Secrets of Soul Mate Love and Expect a Miracle: 7 Spiritual Steps to Finding the Right Relationship. Freston's latest book is The Quantum Wellness Cleanse: The 21-Day Essential Guide to Healing Your Body, Mind, and Spirit.

Tackling topics related to health, environment and animal protection in a variety of ways, Freston's regular Huffington Post columns have helped vegan issues continue to break into mainstream discussion.

"I will put the Engine 2 diet up against any diet on the planet, and we will blow them out of the water." -Rip Esselstyn

As a professional-athlete-turned-firefighter, Rip Esselstyn is a motivated guy, so when he noticed that several of his fellow Engine 2 firefighters in Austin, Texas had high cholesterol levels and less-than-optimal health, he decided to create an easy, healthy, "plant-strong" whole-foods diet and exercise program to help them.

Esselstyn discovered that everyone who followed his plan lost weight, and many had significant decreases in their cholesterol levels. When he realized the continued success of the program, Esselstyn decided to publish his plan as a book for the average person: The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter's Save-Your-Life Plan That Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds. Esselstyn's book is a New York Times bestseller and has garnered him significant media attention.

Esselstyn grew up surrounded by a focus on healthy eating; his father is Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, a physician who is a pioneer in the study of the connection between disease and diet.

Esselstyn's book includes an explanation of the Engine 2 Diet, an outline of the benefits of a plant-strong diet, two types of eating plans, a variety of recipes and an exercise program. His plant-strong strategy not only advocates a diet without animal products, but also encourages no added oils or processed foods for the 28 days of the plan. Esselstyn has become renowned as a popular and powerful coach and motivator.

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