Chatting with Dr. Frank Lipman, Co-Author of The New Health Rules

You may have read about Dr. Frank Lipman if you've ever Googled "Gwyneth Paltrow diet." Or Arianna Huffington. Or Donna Karan. Or Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon. They are all patients of Lipman and fans of his wellness center, Eleven Eleven, which he established in 1992, well before alternative medicine became mainstream. Born in South Africa, Lipman first explored alternative medicine while working at Lincoln Hospital in Bronx, N.Y., eventually becoming the hospital’s chief medical resident. He's the author of two previous nutrition books, and his latest book, The New Health Rules, which he co-authored with Danielle Claro, offers intelligent tidbits on how to eat, how to sleep, how to breathe and even how to think. It’s what Lipman describes as a wellness guide for the modern age.

You're an integrative doctor. Can you explain the difference between that and a regular physician?

Frank Lipman: All "integrative medicine" means is we use the best of Western, modern medicine and the best of what is sometimes called "alternative" and incorporate acupuncture, nutrition, diet, supplements, yoga, meditation — anything that works to help patients get better. Western medicine is great for crisis care, i.e., if you’re having a heart attack, or break a bone, or have an appendicitis — it's wonderful. But for chronic diseases that are so common today, Western medicine doesn’t do a good job.

What's your overall philosophy on wellness?

FL: We don't have any methods or systems in Western medicine to get people healthy. It's a disease-care system; it's not really a health care system. What I do is really wellness medicine. I try to get people healthy. You start often by trying to get them to change their diet. Most people eat too much sugar, and gluten is a problem for some people. You take out the food that is the problem and get them to eat healthy foods, and that's a little bit different for everyone. You get them to start exercising, which doesn't mean you have to get them to the gym, and you get them to deal with their stress, even just breathing exercises.

What's your day like? What do you eat?

FL: I try to eat as little sugar and tend to stick to a low-carb diet. I don't tolerate carbohydrates all that well. For breakfast I'll have a shake or an omelet. When I have the shake I have protein and add a lot of good fats — coconut oil and some chia seeds — and maybe I'll add some blueberries. That's the usual breakfast of mine. For lunch I'll have a salad and maybe a piece of grass-fed meat or organic chicken, and dinner would be the same. I try to stick to as few carbohydrates. I get my carbohydrates from vegetables. I don't usually eat grains much. I have beans and lentils, now and then, and some fruit — not that much either, but that’s because I’m insular resistant. That's what happens as you get older: Many people become more carbohydrate intolerant. That's my food. I try to meditate in the morning. I ride my bicycle in the warmer months. I'm not a big-big gym person, but I try to do some yoga and some gym work now and then. I like hiking and getting outside. In the colder months I have to change my exercise patterns and do more in the gym.

How would a person be able to diagnose his or her issues?

FL: If you're having energy ups and downs during the day, if you're craving carbohydrates or you need a sugar and [you're] crashing in the afternoon and you need to have some candy or something to pep up, if you think you're eating healthfully and still can't lose weight, if you're tired a lot, if your moods fluctuate during the day — those would be the big ones. You feel puffy a lot and bloated, you wake up and you're not ready to go — those would be symptoms.

Something needs to change.

FL: The first thing is to change your breakfast. If you have a typical American breakfast, cereal, a croissant, a carb-laden breakfast, what tends to happen is a few hours later your blood sugar goes up and then you crash. So you need to start snacking and you tend to go for the carbs. Start the day with a breakfast full of good fats and protein, then that doesn't happen. I encourage people to change their breakfast as a starting point. That's often very helpful.

What was the impetus for the book?

FL: I get this question all the time from my patients. They say, "I don’t want to read a big fat health book; I just want to get the basics." It was my co-writer's idea ... to take these nuggets from my blog and other writings and pair them with these beautiful pictures. It's basically storytelling in an inspirational way.

The book is small in size. Was there a reason behind that?

FL: It's a book for the coffee table, it's a book for the bathroom, your nightstand — it's a book for anywhere. You can pick up any page and you'll get a little nugget. You can make changes slowly. Or a lot of people read the book in one sitting. Then they keep it next to them and open it up to any page and you get that little pearl of wisdom. It’s purposely made for that reason.

What are three takeaways you'd want people to learn?

FL: The first would be: Sugar is the devil. You've got to stop, or cut back radically. It's the most-prevalent problem that I've seen in my practice. Sugar and the consequences of too much sugar from diabetes to heart disease to Alzheimer's — all sorts of things. Next would be to do something you love for 10 minutes every day. I think that's very healing. And finally, don't fear fats. Fats are not bad for you. If a fat is made by God, it's generally good for you; if it’s made by man, it’s generally bad. It's the source of the fat that is the problem. Coconut oil, even grass-fed meat, those are all good healthy fats and not necessarily bad for you. We have a myth in our culture that fat is bad. Sugar is bad. But there are many, many good fats.

Kiri Tannenbaum is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Paris and holds an M.A. in food studies from New York University where she is currently an adjunct professor. When her schedule allows, she leads culinary walking tours in New York City and is currently at work on her first book.

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