What we learned from Donna Karan's doctor
Between the parties Donna Karan throws for him, the homages to him in Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP newsletter, and his highly-trafficked blogs on the Huffington Post, Frank Lipman is arguably the country’s most prominent holistic M.D after Andrew Weil. His most recent book is Spent, about the epidemic of chronic exhaustion that plagues modern culture. Lipman, who maintains a full-time medical practice in New York, recently found time (between removing acupuncture needles from two patients and heading out to a yoga class) to chat with W.
You are probably best known as Donna Karan’s health guru. How did you two meet?
Donna’s been a patient for so long—let’s see, she made my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah dress and my daughter’s now 21. It’s been close to ten years. (Vogue editor) Tonne Goodman originally referred her to me. But when I started having celebrities come to me, being from South Africa I wouldn’t know they were celebrities. My front desk would have to tell me. When Donna first started coming in I sort of knew who she was, but she was pretty meaningless to me.
You’ve treated David Letterman, which is somewhat surprising considering he seems like he’d be a skeptical, even curmudgeonly consumer of alternative medicine.
I used to give him acupuncture for his neck. He got referred to me by his doctor because he had a chronic problem and nothing else solved it. He’s smart, he’s very practical, but he’s open [to holistic healing practices].
If there was one thing you could instruct all people to add to their diets, what would it be?
Mixed green powder. It’s full of phytonutrients and most of us aren’t getting enough fruits and vegetables. I’m a big believer in green powders.
One reason that people are so skeptical about holistic medicine is that there is a lot of quackery out there. Are there popular products or practices that you think are completely useless or idiotic?
Absolutely. Those foot pads for detox come to mind.
You advocate early bedtimes and lighter meals in the evening. Don’t you ever have a big, boozy, late dinner?
Alcohol doesn’t do it for me—it screws up my sleep and I feel terrible the next day. So I can’t drink much. And I do prefer eating earlier. But I’m not obsessive about anything—it’s all about balance. If you’re really spent, you need to be more careful about those things. But I’m not a fanatic.
You were once quoted saying that your patients Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick are in great health—that they’re particularly “un-spent.” What are they doing right?
They eat well and have a good relationship with food and exercise—they are not obsessive. But more than that, they provide a great support system for each other. They have a great family life and they do meaningful work. They have love in their lives; love, support and family—it’s these intangibles which are so important to health. If I could give one piece of health advice to people, it’d be to find meaning and purpose in your life.
Read the related blog: “What We Learned From a Big-deal Diet Doc”