When the pandemic hit, Parsons photography student Nuala Vizard moved back into her parents’ Westchester home. Suddenly sedentary — and plied with her mom’s homemade pasta and tacos — she noticed she was gaining weight.
“I felt constantly bloated, I was having trouble sleeping, [and] my breathing was a lot heavier,” she recalls. In just three months, she packed on an extra 10 pounds, and by August the 5’8” Vizard weighed 184 pounds.
“I was just feeling really gross without really knowing how to fix it,” she says. So she visited Dr. Charles Passler — the nutritionist guru to supermodels Bella Hadid and Adriana Lima, as well as stars Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber, whom he helps keep trim, alert and strong. Passler devised a plan that would not only help Vizard shed extra pounds, but give her a complete lifestyle overhaul.
“He really gave me the motivation to [change my habits],” Vizard says. “It was about losing weight and changing my diet, but also [about] getting into a more positive mindset.”
Since that first visit, in August, Vizard has lost nearly 50 pounds. She’s done this not only by adopting a plant-based diet (and eliminating processed foods and alcohol), but also adhering to a strict sleep schedule and doing yoga or light cardio for 20 to 30 minutes four to five days a week.
Passler tells Alexa that his approach to nutrition is holistic. He looks not only at diet but also stress management, sleep, breathing, exercise and hydration — all factors in determining health and weight — and works with clients on their own personalized plan to fit their needs.
“It’s about lifestyle,” he says. “It’s not about, ‘Go see Dr. P. and get ready for your wedding.’”
Passler starts his new patients with an elimination program — cutting out all meat, caffeine, processed sugar, grains and dairy, as well as alcohol — for the first week or so to detox. He recommends a plant-based, nutrient-dense, calorie-dilute, low-fat diet. (He scoffs at paleo or keto fads: “Your brain is powered by carbohydrates!” he practically shouts when discussing high-protein evangelists.)
Passler also works with patients to develop an exercise regiment (a combination of high-intensity interval training, some kind of light stretching — like yoga — and walking) and a set sleep schedule. “You lose the majority of weight when you’re sleeping,” he says, recommending seven to eight hours. “If you aren’t sleeping, you aren’t losing weight.”
He also works with them on their breathing — slowing down and deepening their breath by using a biofeedback monitor, which measures a client’s respiration rate.
“When people breathe correctly, they heal better, they burn more fat, they feel better, they’re calmer — the whole thing,” Passler explains.
Vizard for one feels a lot better: She no longer wakes up in the middle of the night, loses her breath when she’s exercising or craves sugar or baked goods. She weighs 140 pounds and feels great.
There have been hiccups: “I did cheat a little during the holidays,” she says. “And keeping that strict sleep schedule has been harder now that I’m back in school. … But otherwise, it’s been surprisingly easy to maintain [this lifestyle].”
And she seems to enjoy it. When she visits her family now, she and her mom test out new vegan recipes — and she’s really fallen in love with vegetables. “I had never roasted squash before, but oh my God, it is so good,” she says.
She’s also cut back on oil. “One trick Dr. Passler taught me was to use a little bit of oil to start off a saute and then add vegetable stock to keep it going. I can’t believe how easy and delicious it is.”
She adds: “It’s really changed my life, honestly.”