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I Tried a 7-Day Cleanse from the Victoria’s Secret Angels’ Nutritionist


The Inspiration

The idea for this article was born almost a year ago, as I sat watching the Annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in the TV room of my sorority house. Seated around the flat screen that was broadcasting the show, my sisters and I “ooh”-ed and “ahh”-ed at the stunning wings, ornate bras, sky-high heels and of course, the Angels’ sculpted physiques as they strutted down the runway.

Last year’s VS Fashion Show displayed a shift in the models’ aesthetic; no longer looking emaciated and stick-thin, last year’s Angels looked more athletic with defined arms, chiseled abs and toned legs. Sure, they were all still skinny and Amazon-tall, but it was obvious that they had spent a considerable amount of time strength training and working out in anticipation of the show. Wanting to know the ~secret~, I did a little digging to find out about how exactly they prepared for the show.

The name that popped up on every piece related to the VS Angels and their Fashion Show prep was Dr. Charles Passler. Dr. Passler is a New York-based nutritionist beloved by the fashion industry for helping models and celebrities to look amazing by managing their health, not sacrificing it. I scoped out more articles and his nutrition practice’s website and products to find out if he practices what he preaches, so to speak.

Everything I found seemed to indicate that he believed looking amazing is a byproduct of optimal self-care, which was refreshing to hear from someone who works so closely with an appearance-driven industry. It then clicked in my mind that with my busy schedule, a gratuitous affinity for wine and dark chocolate, and a tendency to overstress, my own self-care could hardly be described as ‘optimal.' I had read many articles (like this one from Elle) from editors who reported on what it was like to receive the ‘Angel’ treatment from Dr. Passler; that is, his personalized health and lifestyle counseling along with a plan to cleanse from overindulging, and to detox for a New York minute.

I wondered, what would that plan look like on a college student’s busy schedule and limited resources? Is tuning into your body’s needs reserved for the fashion industry’s elite? (Spoiler: the answer is no.) So, I decided to undergo the 'Angel' treatment to see how it would affect an ordinary college girl. 

The Consultation

I reached out to Dr. Passler’s office and within a matter of days Dr. Passler himself reached out to me. While he is very personable, he’s also a no-BS kind of guy. He has a no-excuses philosophy and believes that total self-accountability is the only way to make the kinds of changes many clients come to him to see. I wasn’t immediately ready to change up my habits, but when I was, I reached back out to him and he was excited to set me up with a consultation in his New York office within the week.

Given his high-profile clientele (and my unhealthy obsession with Gossip Girl), I was expecting his practice to reside at a posh address on the Upper East Side. Instead I found it nestled among a pretty block of trendy juice bars, coffee shops and vintage boutiques near NYU.

Shortly after checking in with the receptionist, Dr. Passler greeted me and brought me back to his consultation office, where we got down to work.

The aforementioned ‘Angel’ treatment is a seven-day cleanse and detox called Pure Change. Aptly named, the two-step program involves evaluating how you approach stress management, breathing and meditation, your sleep patterns, eating habits, hydration and exercise. Then, going on a weeklong cleanse using the included nutritional supplements to maintain your intake of vitamins, minerals and protein while you’re eating mostly vegetables for the week. This alarmed me at first because I prefer to eat whole foods and stay away from meal substitutes like bars and shakes. Dr. Passler explained to me that the kit is specially engineered to ensure that you never deprive your body of the fuel necessary for you to go about your day as usual, while also giving it a break from any foods that cause digestive or endocrinal distress.

There are tips and tools for self-evaluating your lifestyle in the detox kit, but since I could make it to New York City, Dr. Passler and I evaluated these things one-on-one. Not surprisingly, he informed me that I practice poor stress management because I expend lots of energy on distressing myself over things I can’t change. According to Dr. Passler, clients who don’t manage their stress effectively consequently see some impact on their eating habits. I immediately called to mind my “I’m stressed”-stash of dark chocolate and my “I’m super stressed” Ben & Jerry’s pint, but I digress. He used the VO2machine in the office to evaluate oxygen intake—I learned that my breathing is very shallow which isn’t conducive to stress management, either. As it turns out, sleeping is one of the areas that I do excel in; Dr. Passler recommends getting eight hours of sleep while on Pure Change if you don’t already, and since I can’t function on anything less than 10 hours of sleep I was already ahead of the curve there.

Next, we discussed my eating habits. For the most part, Dr. Passler felt I was eating a healthy diet though he did say that everyone (me included) could benefit from eating more vegetables. He also said my hydration habits were good; I didn’t drink more than a cup of coffee a day and I drank at least a liter of water every day. Finally, we talked about how much I exercise and I was happy to hear that running three times a week for about a half-hour was satisfactory. He did recommend that I limit strenuous exercise (like circuit workouts, kickboxing, or long runs) while on Pure Change, since the program does not account for the additional calories required to exercise intensely without losing muscle mass or becoming extremely fatigued. During the consultation, he also conducted a weight and body composition analysis. I knew going into this that I was already at a healthy weight, so I wasn’t terribly anxious about this part.

With that, our consultation was finished, so Dr. Passler and I parted ways and his assistant gave me the full Pure Change kit before I left the office. He also reminded me to reach out to Dr. Passler when I started the program so that we could touch base if I had any questions during the process. Leaving the office, I felt excited at the prospect of taking this challenge to listen to my body and make the changes I wanted to see and feel.

The Cleanse

My consultation with Dr. Passler was on a Friday, and I started the Pure Change program on the Sunday after I got back from New York. On Saturday, I pored over the brochure explaining which foods were allowed while on the cleanse, and how a day’s worth of food would break down. My food intake each day worked like this:

-Breakfast: 1 meal replacement shake

-Snack: Half a protein bar

-Lunch: 100 calories worth of vegetables plus a tablespoon of oils

-Snack: Other half of the protein bar

-Snack: 1 meal replacement shake

-Dinner: 100 calories worth of vegetables plus a tablespoon of oils

-Hydration: at least a liter of water throughout the day

-Vitamins: 2 probiotic capsules, 1 magnesium capsule and 1 vitamin packet (including fish oil, a multivitamin, and iron)

It was important that I ate every 2-3 hours so as not to get ravenously hungry, and I wasn’t allowed coffee on the premise that caffeine obstructs our ability to feel when we need to sleep. I also wasn’t allowed to eat anything other than the enclosed dietary supplements and the vegetables on the approved list of foods. This meant no grains, no meat, no dairy. Thankfully, I could mix the shakes with almond milk, which made them thicker and taste a little richer.

../../../../Downloads/IMG_0348.JPGThe full Pure Change kit. Photo courtesy of the author.

I was a little bummed that I wouldn’t have the absolute freedom in the kitchen that I was used to, but the program was all about changing up what I was used to, right? I figured that since I enjoyed cooking with vegetables often, and I liked protein shakes (which were a staple in between heading to the gym and class) the week wouldn’t be too hard. To prepare, my boyfriend, Rob, went grocery shopping for all the staple vegetables that we typically cook with (like bell peppers, kale, spinach, zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant and more) and I started brainstorming recipes for the week ahead. Here’s how the week unfolded!

Day 1: Sunday

In the morning, I woke up, went for a quick run, then came back home and had one of the Pure Change protein shakes. I have a major sweet tooth, so the vanilla flavor was sweet enough that it tasted good but not like I was drinking sugar. Plus, it was filling! An hour into the program, I was going strong.

I spent the rest of the day catching up on homework. I chose a cookies and cream protein bar for my two snacks of the day, and although it was chewy and a little sweet, it tasted pretty good. For lunch, I recalled a Food and Wine recipe for spicy baked carrots and made enough of those for lunch and dinner, then served it topped with olive oil, per the program. The rest of the day passed uneventfully, until my boyfriend decided to cook baked ziti with mozzarella cheese, vodka sauce, and Italian sausage for dinner. I was more than a little bit grumpy that he made such a delicious smelling dinner full of foods I couldn’t have, and served myself my dinner of carrots while he had the ziti.

Day 2: Monday

I woke up for my internship, speedily got ready, then threw a protein bar, a shaker cup of almond milk, and a little Tupperware of protein powder into my purse before running out the door to catch the subway to work. I had established a routine of walking into work, putting my lunch in the fridge (unless I decided to Honeygrow it for the day) then grabbing a cup of coffee from the kitchen before settling into the day’s tasks. More out of habit than anything, I missed my morning coffee today. I compensated by drinking extra water after I had my morning protein shake, but I was then helpless to fight off the 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM energy crashes that hit later that day. I made a mental note to get to bed extra early so that I would be able to make it through the next day without practically falling asleep.

I tried a chocolate chip cookie dough protein bar, and then for lunch I picked up a DIY salad from Honeygrow with arugula, tomatoes, spinach, and olive oil on the side. The whole salad totaled out to just over 100 calories, so I had the entire thing for lunch, which was incredibly satisfying. I was astonished at how large a 100-calorie serving of vegetables was.

The rest of the day passed a little slowly without my occasional trips to the coffeemaker or the office candy jar when I got stuck with writer’s block. I realized that I drink more coffee than I thought I did, and I eat more chocolate than I thought, for that matter.

For dinner, Rob and I made stuffed bell peppers. Mine were stuffed with spinach (I really like spinach, okay?), diced tomatoes, and topped with chili flakes, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Rob’s were stuffed with the same vegetables, black beans, and ground turkey. His peppers definitely seemed tastier, but I think that’s just because I was so used to having a natural protein with every meal, as opposed to shakes and supplements.

Day 4: Wednesday

I won’t regale you with play-by-plays of each day while I was on the Pure Change program, because after the first couple of days it became somewhat of a routine (not unlike adjusting to a new semester’s schedule). Nothing horribly eventful happened on Tuesday, but today was my scheduled check-in with Dr. Passler.

It was business as usual at my internship. I couldn’t stand not having something to sip as I got my morning tasks done at work, so I started to experiment with the herbal teas (which were caffeine-free, thus, allowed) kept by the coffee in the kitchen. I discovered a few flavors I genuinely enjoyed, namely the Twinnings brand apple pie-flavored herbal tea.

On my break from work, I gave Dr. Passler a call. We caught up on my experience thus far with Pure Change, and he asked me how I was feeling so far.

“Well, to be honest, the shakes and meal bars have actually worked really well with my busy schedule. It’s so convenient to wake up and grab my food and go,” I told him. “And, while it’s a bit of a change to only be cooking with vegetables, it’s also teaching me that I don’t eat nearly as many veggies as I should. I guess something else that it’s teaching me is that I’m somewhat of an emotional eater; like, I eat when I’m bored and really have no reason to.”

I continued my part of the conversation, talking about the fact that I identified that dairy, too many grains, and kale cause me digestive distress and since I’d avoided those foods thus far, I had enjoyed not feeling the familiar pangs of my lactose intolerance.

Dr. Passler was overjoyed to hear what I’ve been getting out of the program. I don’t want to misquote him, but the gist of what he told me was that my experience is exactly what he had in mind when creating the program and the ideal experience he wanted his clients to have. He wanted Pure Change to give his clients a chance to step out of their day-to-day routine and identify things like food sensitivities and unhealthy eating habits. I ended our conversation feeling accomplished; it seemed like I was cleansing correctly and I had more knowledge about myself to show for it.

Day 5: Thursday

While my conversation with Dr. Passler was reassuring, I was also starting to get a little bored with my food prep. I tend to cook the same few dishes which doesn’t get boring when I have total freedom to vary my ingredients or go out to a restaurant for some meal inspo. I was feeling uninspired and a little hangry at this point, so I wasn’t sure how the next two days would go for my mood.

I had a night class on Thursdays, so Rob told me he would have a dinner surprise waiting when I got home. I walked into the house and a glorious aroma greeted me: Rob made ratatouille from scratch and it was a marvel.

The sauce probably had more sugar and salt in it than was ‘permitted’ on Pure Change, but it was nice to feel my taste buds sated in a way that’s kind of challenging to articulate here. It made me appreciate the culinary autonomy I often take for granted when debating what to make for dinner or what to order on the occasional dinner date. It also made me feel optimistic about sticking strongly to the program for the next two days.

Day 7: Saturday

Friday passed with me having a newly strengthened resolve to follow the Pure Change program to a tee. Since no alcohol is allowed on Pure Change, I had a quiet Friday night in, which allowed me to wake up early on Saturday.  Now that my last day on the program was here, I was anxious to pass the day and use my newly-acquired self-awareness to curate my meals and make other changes in my self-care to help me feel my best.

I woke up and had a protein shake for breakfast, then tossed a bar in my bag and went out to do some shooting for my photography class. For lunch, I came back and savored my ratatouille leftovers, then planned dinner for Rob and myself. We walked to our local Trader Joe’s and picked up one of their frozen stir-fry bags, which, soy sauce packet notwithstanding, is just unsalted (and permitted) veggies. I tossed mine with avocado oil and enjoyed the second evening to my quiet weekend in. I know my Saturday wasn’t exactly riveting, but frankly, I didn’t have the energy fix to stay up until 2:00 AM. Plus, I ended up super well-rested, which is brag-worthy in my eyes.

The Takeaways

When I first thought of this idea for a health experiment, I had no idea that I would learn so much about myself. For starters, I was always extremely quick to judge the idea of a cleanse or detox because I thought they all involved unsafe and ill-conceived quick-fixes for long-running lifestyle choices. I maintain that there are many of those kinds of programs that exist, but in my opinion, Pure Change wasn’t one of them.

At the risk of sounding like that annoyingly healthy friend you love to hate, the things I learned about myself while on Dr. Passler’s program motivated me to make changes after my week of Pure Change was over. For example, when I stopped to think about how many coffees I drink absentmindedly every day (twice as much as I thought), I cut down my coffee consumption and instead drank more water and tea because I slept better—and in the subsequent days, I felt so much better and more rested.

It was also valuable to have controls in my diet that let me figure out my food sensitivies. I realized that I can’t eat too much pasta, dairy, or kale without feeling bloated and generally icky.

While I enjoyed these aspects of Pure Change, one thing that I wasn’t so crazy about was restricting my exercise while on the program. The better I felt while on Pure Change, the more I wanted to exercise. But if I did too much, like a run every day or a Kayla Itsines circuit workout, I felt crazy tired. I know that part of cleansing involves giving your body a break (Dr. Passler was very clear on that), it just wasn’t ideal for how well I was feeling while cleansing.

Once I was off the program, I had these choices up to my discretion and I made it a priority to drink more water and less coffee, eat more vegetables and start a more balanced workout regimen. To answer my initial question going into this experiment, the ‘Angel treatment’ is totally doable for a college woman. In fact, it was a great way for me to reset from the midterm craziness and pay attention to what my body needed during a time that self-care typically fell by the wayside. I certainly won’t be gracing the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show runway anytime soon (and by soon, I mean ever), but I know that this year, I’ll feel much healthier and more in tune with my body than the last time I watched the VS Angels grace the runway.

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