The Wellness Foundation of East Hampton is forging into its ninth year with another summer benefit this weekend. This year, the organization will honor nationally known health advocate and best-selling author Rip Esselstyn, who also sits on the Wellness Foundation’s Advisory Council.
The author of “The Engine 2 Diet” and “My Beef with Meat,” Mr. Esselstyn, a former firefighter in Austin, Texas, will receive the Illumination Award, bestowed annually by the foundation.
Funded by donations, the Wellness Foundation, based on Dunemere Lane in East Hampton Village, states that its mission is to empower individuals in the community to maximize their wellness potential. It does that by offering a series of programs, including the Wellness Challenge, a six-week program that guides participants in losing weight, lowering cholesterol and eating healthy.
The foundation also offers lectures, healthy recipes and listings of local restaurants with Wellness Challenge-approved menus.
Born in upstate New York, Mr. Esselstyn, 51, was an All America swimmer at the University of Texas and a world-class triathlete before becoming an author and wellness advisor. He promotes a whole foods, plant-based diet and has partnered with Whole Foods market to help raise awareness and educate people about the benefits of healthy eating.
“I started helping people to the best of my ability starting in about 1987, but that was just friends and people who would ask me,” Mr. Esselstyn said in a phone interview. “I really took it to the next level in 2006, when I decided to write the book. I did all kinds of studies. That’s when I retired from firefighting and went full-time into being an ambassador for plant strong nutrition.”
A plant-based diet, according to Mr. Esselstyn, is not just about eating plants, but also about eliminating the types of foods that are considered harmful to one’s health, such as white breads, sugar and processed foods.
“In my opinion, it’s what’s going into your mouth three or four or five times a day—that to me is the single most important factor in determining your health destination,” he said, citing the variety of diseases that plague many Americans like cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. “I think the science is very definite,” he said.
Jennifer Taylor, the Wellness Foundation’s executive director of education and programs, said the foundation is excited to honor one of its own. “Rip is a shining example of what one person on a mission can accomplish,” she said. “Rip’s passion for plant-based eating is contagious.”
The Wellness Foundation’s third annual summer benefit will take place on Saturday, June 21, from 6 to 8 p.m. at a private residence in East Hampton Village overlooking Hook Pond. Tickets are $150 per person. Anyone interested in attending should call (631) 329-2590.
“I love what they’ve started,” Mr. Esselstyn said of the Wellness Foundation of East Hampton. “I love that they’re doing everything they can to kind of leave a legacy in East Hampton.”