clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Fashion Doctor: How Dr. Frank Lipman Became The Fashion Industry's MVP (Most Valuable Practitioner)

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

Secreted on the fifth floor of a non-descript office building on West 22nd Street, just off Fifth Avenue, is the office of one of the most important men in fashion. He's not a designer or a stylist or an editor or a publicist—he's Dr. Frank Lipman, a specialist in integrated medicine whose patient roster reads like a who's-who of the fashion industry.

We were referred to him by the ever-evangelical power publicist Kelly Cutrone. Designer Donna Karan sings his praises. His Be Well cleanses are the au courant dinner conversation subject of choice of every fashion and beauty editor we know—all of who claim Dr. Lipman changed their lives—and he's worked with actors including Gwyneth Paltrow, Kyra Sedgwick, Kevin Bacon, and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

We first heard about him two years ago from Cutrone, who told us he "changed her life." Last year, over dinner, a close fashion editor friend confessed her new glowing complexion and robust energy came from eating only what Dr. Lipman advised. A couple of months ago, we had lunch with a beauty director friend who'd dropped 15 pounds in two weeks on Dr. Lipman's Be Well cleanse. So, two weeks ago, over a quinoa (pre-bridesmaid) salad lunch, when Cutrone offered to introduce us to the miracle man himself, we could hardly resist the opportunity.

Here is what we asked him when we met face-to-face.

Racked: How did you become The Fashion Doctor?

Dr. Lipman: I don't know how it happened. I mean, I just was doing my thing and certain people came, and they referred their friends. and they referred their friends, and that's how it happened. Because I tend to help people who aren't being helped by traditional medicine, they think I'm fantastic because traditional doctors are just so narrow-minded—it makes me look good. The type of thing I do is optimizing function. I think what happens in the fashion world, a lot of these movers and shakers are working so hard and moving so quickly they need to function at a really high level, and what I do is improve function for people. I think people generally feel better from what I recommend. So that's maybe how it happened.

Racked:In general, fashion people tend to be quite slim and they tend to eat very little. What are some sort of general health problems you see in the fashion industry professionals you meet?

Dr. Lipman: I'm not quite convinced that fashion people are that different. I teach people to eat whole foods, to eat foods as close to nature as possible. I discourage calorie counting—it's about eating nutrient-dense food. And it's not usually about the weight. Weight loss is usually a side effect of what I do. Everyone wants to lose some weight, but I see it as more of a side effect of encouraging people to cut out the sugars and crap in their diets and eating nutrient-dense food. So that's the first thing.

And then I think giving them the right nutrients which help optimize function helps too. I see people across the board—it's not just fashion, I see a lot of actors and actresses. I think what's happened is people are not necessarily in high pressure jobs, but they need to be functioning at their peak. And Western medicine has no way of helping people function at their peak. You wait for the disease and you treat the disease. You don't know how to improve function, you don't know how to optimize function. I think that part of what I do—I call myself a wellness doctor—is improve that functioning so that people feel better, function better, look better, so maybe that's why it happened. Western medicine, you can maybe put on makeup or do Botox, or something superficial. What I'm doing is helping people look better and feel better from the inside.

Racked: What about your patients who are super-busy? You must have lots of clients who don't cook, or have 15 minutes in the day to look after themselves.

Dr. Lipman: That's why I developed these cleanses—that's why they're all in these packets. I've been doing cleanses for over 20 years. But I used to be more hardcore. It used to be powders, people used to mix powders and then, actually, Kelly was part of that process. She said, "You know, you've got to create products that make it easy for people. You can't be hardcore if you want people do really do what you're saying, you've got to make it easier." So that's why I developed these programs, put these products in packets to make it easy for people.

Racked: What about people who are already eating cleanly, or juicing, or vegan, or raw?

Dr. Lipman: The cleanse that I recommend is three shakes a day and two small meals—so you are eating. The problem with juicing is you're not supplying the nutrients that the body needs to help your own detoxification process. The body has is own sophisticated detoxification system anyway—that's mainly the lower and the gastrointestinal system. So when I talk about a detox, it's actually supporting those systems. The good thing about a juice cleanse is that you're taking away a lot of the toxins that you normally are putting, but you're not really supporting your own body's detox system and you're not killing the bad bacteria in the gut, which is a major source of toxicity—because many of us get an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut.

People like me think part of the obesity epidemic is the toxicity. So when you help with the detoxification processes of the body, it actually helps with weight. So weight is not as simple as calories in, calories out. It's the type of food you eat, it's how you process the food, it's the toxicity that's created, so all these factors.

Racked: How often do you, yourself, do a cleanse each year?

Dr. Lipman: I probably do at least three or four cleanses a year.

Racked: Seasonally?

Dr. Lipman: I used to, now I just do it. I'm going to do one after Labor Day Weekend, for example. That is seasonal, but that's because I'm going to be abusing myself, I've been eating too much crap.

Racked: What kind of crap do you crave?

Dr. Lipman: I love sugar, I'm much much better now, but it's my birthday today, for instance, so I'll be having cake. I've put on a pound or two and I just feel like I need to cleanse. So after that, when I've come back from vacation, after that I'm going to do a cleanse. I tend to do it when I feel I just want a bit of a kickstart again.

Racked: What is your typical food day?

Dr. Lipman: I have a shake in the morning—I have so many different shakes, I do a variations. Sometimes I do the powdered ones, but I make my own and mix my own. I usually have some protein and salad for lunch, and the same thing at dinner. And then if I'm behaving myself, I won't have something sweet afterwards, if I'm not I'll have some dark chocolate or I'll have some whatever. I'm on a path, me and my wife, to find healthier snacks and desserts, so she makes a chocolate avocado pudding with chia seeds, which are delicious, with cacao powder. So she tends to make desserts that are healthier.

Racked: Where do you eat out in New York?

Dr. Lipman: ABC Kitchen is my favorite. But we tend to try to eat cleanly, so when I go out, I tend to have fish. I do eat meat, but when I eat meat, I try to eat grass-fed meet. When I eat chicken, I try to eat organic chicken. It's becoming easier to get it these days. When I do have a steak, it will be grass-fed. I don't eat factory-farmed. I basically try eating what I recommend to my patients. I'm not perfect and I'm not obsessive about it.

Racked: Have you always been health-conscious like this?

Dr. Lipman: No, I used to drink Coca Cola, eat ice cream. I think during medical school, I ate crap. I used to eat pure junk.

I think early on I got disillusioned with Western medicine when I went to work in private practice, and people were coming in to see me. they were coming with digestive problems, with headaches, they were feeling tired, and my training in Western medicine couldn't help them. So I knew I had to do something. And a few of those patients, because it was an artsy practice—the doctor used to see all the artsy community in Jo'burg—they would see this homeopath and acupuncturist. There was only one acupuncturist in Johannseburg. And they were coming in and they were saying, 'I went there and I got better.' And that sort of started piquing my interest.

So I came to the United States and I got a job in internal medicine in the South Bronx, and soon after I started training, I got disillusioned. And there happened to be an acupuncture clinic next to the hospital in the South Bronx and I went to check that out. And I started learning, in 1984, and going to the acupuncture clinic. And then I saw that the future of medicine is mixing the two together. Because what acupuncture and Chinese medicine was good at, Western medicine was useless at. And what Western medicine was good at, Chinese medicine wasn't good at. So I knew then, that I was going to study both because the future was combining the two.

Why do these people come to see me? Because I'm practicing a paradigm of medicine that is the future. It's really looking to see what's going on, the cause of problems, and then optimizing function. As opposed to Western medicine, where you wait to give a name to something and you treat it. You're not really making people feel great, you're just cutting something out. For instance, if you have reflux, in Western medicine, you go to the doctor and they give you a drug, which is just a band-aid. For me, it would be 'What are you eating? Why is this happening?' So it's a medicine of Why.

So this is what happened, this is the model that I use, looking for the root causes, and underlying imbalances as opposed to just treating the symptoms. And I use a lot of music and sound.
· Be Well by Dr. Frank Lipman [Official Site]