The Daily Beet

17 May How Joel Got Healthier, Leaner, Stronger And Faster.

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Today, we want to introduce you to plant-strong firefighter, Joel. Joel took charge of his health and has started to change the way his department eats! We are going to ask Joel to guest blog from time to time, and hopefully share some of his tasty recipe creations!

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My weight has always fluctuated as a child and well into my mid-twenties. I’m the youngest of four children and my mother was a single parent. I was fed a conventional diet with the traditional Sunday “brunch” special consisting of the oversized French bread stuffed with mayonnaise, ham, bacon, eggs, cheese and chocolate milk on the side. Growing up Hispanic, I was no stranger to fried foods, meat and dairy. After many attempts of failed diets and point counting I decided to watch “Forks Over Knives” and “Engine 2 Diet”. After watching the documentaries, it made complete health sense to transition to a Plant-Based Diet.


Within my department, I am viewed as physically fit and very active. I graduated from the Fire Academy at 175 pounds and managed to reach 214 pounds at my heaviest because I succumbed to traditional Firehouse meals and snacks.  After transitioning to a Plant-Based diet, my dietary habits carried over into the firehouse. My shift mates progressively became interested in what I was eating. As I became much leaner, much more active and routinely cooked food for myself that would make anyone salivate, people began taking notice. This didn’t come without ridicule and aggression due to the automatic prejudice of the unknown. I had to educate myself on what a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet was because I was constantly being challenged. Tradition, like in most cultures stands strong within the Fire Department. Change is rarely accepted and most of anything a Firefighter does doesn’t come without humility. I enjoy constant challenge and welcomed all debates while continuously educating myself.
What initially won the stomachs of my shift mates, family and friends were my Plant-Based oil-free baked goods. Who doesn’t love sweets? The more I learned how to cook and prepare Plant-Based meals according to Engine 2 guidelines, the more accepting my dietary lifestyle became to those around me. I’ve found that the key to opening minds is good food. I learned to focus on what I can eat instead of focusing on what I can’t eat. Using that logic and the use of before and after photos of myself, I’ve manage to inspire many people who want to make a change but have never had insight on eating plants. My crew and many others crews within my department now have 2 menus to choose from, Plant-Based or conventional. In my Firehouse, the demand for me to prepare Plant-Based meals every shift is very high. Although some don’t share common interest in my dietary lifestyle, the change within my crew and other crews are clear. I feel it is my responsibility to spread the word of good health because I am not afraid to stand up for what is right. Due to the lifestyle change I’ve made, I am now healthier, leaner, stronger and faster than I’ve ever been.

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My name is Joel and I’m a 27 year old Firefighter Paramedic for Montgomery County, MD. I’m an adrenaline junkie and an aspiring personal trainer. I have a passion for fitness and health with a natural instinct to help people. I’ve been a Firefighter Paramedic for 8 years and have witnessed countless emergencies when the public is at their worse. Every shift I’m reminded of how unhealthy we are as a society when I walk into a patient’s home and witness the countless medications the patient is prescribed. I am reminded how many of my patient’s symptoms and diagnosed conditions could be prevented and/or reversed by a whole food Plant-Based diet. 17 months ago, I began my journey into a Plant-Based diet and have not looked back. I’ve made it my mission to live Plant-Strong and help lead others to a guilt-free dietary lifestyle.

  • Leah
    Posted at 03:33h, 17 May

    Awesome Joel! Great job leading by example! And all of those meals look AMAZING! I’ll just keep cooking away for everyone I know – you’re right, no one says no to food. 🙂

    • Melissa Manchester Rosario
      Posted at 06:54h, 17 May

      Or sweets. Our family has a major sweet tooth. His cupcakes and banana bread make me want to fight the crowds off.

  • Melissa Manchester Rosario
    Posted at 06:53h, 17 May

    That’s my baby brother!!! Very proud of him. Hoping to follow in his footsteps.

  • Jean Hayes
    Posted at 11:02h, 17 May

    Great story!

  • Stacy
    Posted at 11:17h, 17 May

    WTG Joel! Your food looks fantastic and so do you! The perfect plant-strong ambassador!

    • Joel Rosario
      Posted at 19:19h, 24 May

      Thank you Stacy. I feel I’m continuing to evolve everyday! 🙂

  • Ronald Tibbs 
    Posted at 11:17h, 17 May

    Inspirational story, Joel! Congratulations! When I saw the after pic for a second I thought I was looking at Frank Medrano! I’m sure you get that a lot in the Plant-Based community.

    Thank you for your service to your community and your continued fight to save lives, now, from the inside.


    • Joel Rosario
      Posted at 19:16h, 24 May

      No problem Ronald and thank you!

  • Kristen Cosgrove
    Posted at 11:28h, 17 May

    Would LOVE to see his recipes! Great story!

  • Jody
    Posted at 11:32h, 17 May

    why is it that all oils are eliminated?

    • Engine2Diet
      Posted at 14:56h, 17 May

      Oil is 100% liquid fat, there is nothing good about them, all the good stuff is removed. We believe in whole foods!

      • Lee
        Posted at 05:03h, 21 May

        It makes a huge difference. My husband and I have no major health problems, a healthy weight etc., and we’ve been doing the whole foods plant-based thing for over 2 years, we just cut out all “trace” oils that were in some spices we used, non-dairy milk, etc., and in the last month and a half like that we have noticed remarkable changes! Exercise recovery takes hardly any time at all (and it was already fast from the whole plant foods alone), I haven’t had any inflammation based headaches since cutting the last traces of oil (I used to get them at least once a week), and we’ve lost a few pounds. A tiny bit of oil makes a huge difference, we ourselves are shocked!

  • Chelsea
    Posted at 12:23h, 17 May

    awesome! Yes, would love some recipes – your food looks delicious! 🙂

  • Brian
    Posted at 12:33h, 17 May

    Post These recipes please

  • Sherisse Hartley
    Posted at 13:32h, 17 May

    Congrats! You are such a motivator to the people around you. And your meals look SO good!

  • JR
    Posted at 14:59h, 17 May

    I’m interested in the workouts and or the fitness regime.

    • Joel Rosario
      Posted at 19:32h, 24 May

      JR, I’ve lifted weights ever since I was 14 but I needed something different. When I became Plant-Strong I mostly trained doing conventional weight lifting in the beginning. Soon after I began training for my first ultra-marathon (52.5 miles) which I was able to complete in 11 hours with hardly any training at all. I feel so strong due to the food I consume that I became bored with traditional weight lifting and running. I joined crossfit because it was competitive and related to my career.

  • tlderr89 tds.net
    Posted at 15:49h, 17 May

    This is Day 4 for me…releasing pounds, satiated, and happy. Thanks for the encouragement.

    • Joel Rosario
      Posted at 19:20h, 24 May

      No problem, I’m happy to help inspire!

  • Terri Lynn Hall
    Posted at 12:13h, 18 May

    food looks great ! super story too. would love to know what the foods are, esp the strips on the cookie sheet, and is that tofu lower right

    • Joel Rosario
      Posted at 19:26h, 24 May

      It’s a BBQ veggie calzone and it was delicious!

  • EllenRebekah Altman
    Posted at 22:37h, 19 May

    Way to go Joel. I few up in MD too, in Annapolis. I moved to CA four years ago. Some might I’ve gone crunchy or hippie, but I know I just my best ever since going plant-based in Sept.

    • Joel Rosario
      Posted at 19:26h, 24 May

      Most people need to be inspired so continue to educate yourself and lead by example. It’s what I strive to do everyday. 🙂 Congrats!

  • Jill Ann McKeever
    Posted at 15:13h, 20 May

    So inspiring!

  • Jill Captain, FROMS
    Posted at 09:43h, 21 May

    Okay, I’m impressed. May 28th, Station 23, what time is dinner and what do I need to bring?

    • Adam, MCFRS
      Posted at 11:07h, 24 May

      I’m working at 35 that night, or I’d be there, too.

    • Joel Rosario
      Posted at 19:24h, 24 May

      Jill, bring your stomach I’ll do the rest.

  • Glory
    Posted at 12:28h, 22 May

    Love to have those recipes. They look delicious!! My husband and I just started on the plant-based diet 6 weeks ago and loving it. He had open heart surgery and I just had hip replacement because of arthritis. We wanted to eat for our health to reverse the diseases and some damage they have done. Melissa, you should be very proud of your brother. He is doing a great job!! Any firefighter in my book is a hero.
    Congratulations Joel on a great job!!

    • Joel Rosario
      Posted at 19:23h, 24 May

      I’m no hero, I’m just doing what I enjoy! Food and fitness are my passion and I feel I should begin to focus my attention on preventing the 9-1-1 call instead of responding to it. Thank you for your kind words and continue being Plant-Strong!

  • Adam
    Posted at 11:12h, 24 May

    Looking good, Joel! And to think, you managed to survive your stint at Station 14 without lasting damage…. Seriously though, really inspiring.

    • Joel Rosario
      Posted at 19:20h, 24 May

      Thanks Cap! None of those late night pizza deliveries phased me. lol

  • J D
    Posted at 14:52h, 27 May

    Joel, Great post! I am a firefighter out of Tucson AZ and have made the change, no looking back now, feel great, look great, and eat great too! Thanks for spreading the word……I know how a firehouse is and there is constant “discussions” and my house has made some positive changes with room to make so many more, keep up the good work!

  • Martin
    Posted at 00:46h, 06 June

    Hello Joel. Congratulations on your new life and also on becoming a new father!! I am curious if you are going to be feeding your newborn a plant strong diet as my wife and I are expecting our first at the end of the year and i would love to use a plant strong diet for all of us

  • Lillian Pereyda
    Posted at 22:17h, 10 June

    Keep up the good work. I too started my plant based foods journey and I’m feeling great my daughters and I are discovering a great way to continue for life to eat healthy. Thanks too “The Engine 2 Diet” book and now I’m reading “My beef with Meat”. I love the recipes. Congratulations firefighter. We are very proud of your work.

  • Julienne
    Posted at 10:53h, 28 January

    Joel can you list the meals/dessert from left to right, top to bottom in your picture?

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