New Year, New You

January 2020 View more

Story by Peter Gianopulos / Photography by Olivia Kohler / Illustrations by Kevin Sterjo

Liz Roman

Food Tutor

Go ahead and unleash your pain. Liz Roman can take it. Whatever you’re feeling about your dieting struggles—anger, confusion, disappointment, utter and complete exhaustion—chances are Roman has not only been there but knows, firsthand, the liberation that comes with setting those emotions free.

Conventional wisdom says that when it comes to athletics, star athletes don’t make the best coaches. What you want are the grinders, the persistent ones who didn’t make the team the first time around but found a way, somehow, to make the cut in the end. Perhaps that same principle applies to nutrition and lifestyle coaches.

Take Roman, for example. When she was 11 years old—after years spent hopping around like a Care Bear with a Mountain Dew habit—she suddenly began to slow down, feeling pain with every pirouette and attempted rebound. It was debilitating joint pain, the kind that doctors eventually diagnosed as children’s rheumatoid arthritis.

No basketball. No dancing. No Rollerblading. In their place were pills—lots of them—which did little but add 60 pounds to her still tender, overburdened young frame.

There were small victories in the years that followed—mostly because Roman’s mom dumped the drugs and redirected her daughter’s attention to inflammatory-fighting foods. But inevitably good times were followed by darker ones. GI pains. Numbers on a scale that bounded, up and down, like sprung bungee cords. And diets. Lots of diets, which she cycled through the way most people scroll through their movie queue on Netflix.

It was only when Roman was dealt yet another blow after college—the diagnosis of an additional autoimmune thyroid disorder called Hashimoto’s disease—that she decided to abandon the “42 pounds in 42 days” diet fads and completely start over.

Instead of chasing quick results, she chased their inverse: a gradual yet comprehensive lifestyle change. She started studying nutrition and racking up certifications, which emboldened her to stop vilifying food and start seeing it as a potential medicine.

The results were so life-changing that she decided she might be able to do for others what she’d done for herself.

Today, Roman, who lives in Bolingbrook, co-owns a nutrition coaching business called Lifestyle Nutrition, which works with clients across the United States.

“I know every one of my clients on a very personal basis,” says Roman. “A weight-loss journey is about much more than food. You also have to look at the emotional and psychology side of things: where and why certain eating habits are formed. The thing I say to clients 25 times a day is ‘1 percent better everyday; that’s the goal.’ ”

In many ways, the program she’s built mirrors her own journey. The first step is information gathering. She catalogs her clients’ dietary histories, medical conditions, and emotional and psychology triggers. Her central tenet—what she asks all her clients to accept—is that they need to see weight loss not as a quick fix, but a long-term journey.

Her next aim is to try to chisel away at the assiduous diet myths that hold sway over so many people’s lives. The greatest offender? The myth that whispers, “The less I eat, the less I’ll weigh,” which in many cases just isn’t true, due to the way our bodies and hormones adjust to a deep reduction in food.

“I really have two client tracks,” says Roman. “The first one involves people who want more nutritional education about food (macronutrients or micronutrients) so they can develop a balanced intake plan. The other is generally clients who’ve developed really poor habits—who don’t understand what a good carb or healthy fat is—and need a whole new routine.”

Coaching plans include individualized nutrition, goal setting, and strategic adjustments to help stay on track. And for that, Roman has a number of tools in her coaching toolbox. Food diaries. Meditation modalities. She even co-owns a local gym, Strength Republic in Lisle, because she sees strength training as a critical facet of a healthy lifestyle. But the real key, she insists, is education and a personalized touch.

“I’m available to my client all the time, as long as I’m not sleeping or taking care of my 5-month-old,“ says Roman, who regularly communicates via text, email, and video calls. “We don’t just spit out numbers or send people a meal plan that says, ‘Here’s your breakfast, lunch, and dinner.’ ”

All she asks in return is a three-month commitment to her services, which are built to empower people, not keep them trapped in never-ending contracts. A members-only online group provides additional support.

Roman says her most rewarding moments come not when she swoops in to save the day, but when her phone stops ringing and clients disconnect from her program. For with that silence comes the realization that Roman has done her job—listened enough, educated enough, supported enough—to the point where they can continue their journey on their own.

“Confidence in who you are and the lifestyle you live—there’s nothing that matches. It’s the sexiest thing that a woman can wear.’ ”

Azlaan Arif

Pain Killer

Azlaan Arif is not one of those incense-sniffing New Age gurus who demands his patients ignore everything their MDs have ever told them. He does ask, however, that his Advance Sports Therapy patients consider pain-reducing therapies that’ve slipped through the cracks of traditional Western medicine. It pains him that so many patients arrive at his doorstep after bouncing around between primary care doctors, specialists, and physical therapists.

“All health care,” he says, “should start with compassion.” Which is why he offers treatments, from hands-on manual therapies to specialized sports massage, that he’s personally seen benefit everyone from athletes to those suffering from hypertension and gout—even if large-scale clinical studies have yet to uncover why they work. Exhibit A? Wet cupping, an ancient, and trendy, pain-reducing practice that’s a personal specialty.

What You Need to Know About Wet Cupping

From afar, cupping looks like the opposite of massage, a means of pulling tissue instead of pushing it. Cupping is a way of creating negative pressure in areas where there is increased pressure in the body. It promotes better movement of blood and other fluids throughout the body by creating a vacuum. Massage can pull skin, but it’s limited. You can only pull so much with your hands, but by applying cups we can pull up a lot more tissue.

You specialize in a form called wet cupping. How does that work? We begin with something we call a sliding cup technique. We apply a mild-grade lubricant to a patient’s tissue and slide a nonporous polycarbonate cup around the skin. We’re looking for areas of stagnation or congestion by seeing where the cup runs into resistance. If it starts to stick, we’ve pinpointed where wet cupping needs to be applied.

What puts the “wet” in wet cupping? Once we find these areas, we remove the cup and gently lance the skin with a controlled scratch, often with a scalpel, but sometimes with acupuncture needles. These are very low-grade scratches, often lighter than a paper cut. Then the cup and vacuum is reapplied. Because this area has increased pressure, you start to see blood gently seep out of these little paper cuts.

This may turn off some people. You have to remember that these cuts are so light that blood generally doesn’t come out until the vacuum is applied. That’s how it’s different from something like bloodletting. In bloodletting, you don’t need a vacuum, the blood moves out on its own.

What happens inside the body during this process? In five to six minutes, bleeding will generally stop and the body will start healing itself with platelet recruitment. For fresh blood to get somewhere in the body, it’s not magically transported there. It has to travel from somewhere deeper. We’re seeing that by day two, people actually feel better and by day three they almost feel invigorated because now their bone marrow is replacing the lost blood.

How does wet cupping reduce pain? It sedates the nervous system by creating a bigger space between nerve endings. First we sedate, then we treat. The lances decrease the amount of pressure on those nerves by allowing fluid to release. Most pain is pressure on a nerve; reduced volume always leads to reduced pressure.

What do you use cupping techniques to treat? Primarily pain relief—mostly chronic, sometimes acute. We’ve also seen success in decreasing blood pressure with wet cupping, as well as relief for gout. And that essentially happens over time, as we’re able to decrease people’s uric acid and creatinine levels. There are actually clinical studies that show this online.

Is it strange to see celebrities walking around with cupping markings like they’re a fashion statement? The markings are nothing more than blood and other fluid pooling under the skin. With wet cupping we remove most of the blood, so the markings are much lighter, and in some cases there are no marks, other than the little abrasions we create.

Cupping may be chic with celebrity athletes, but it’s an ancient technique, isn’t it? I’ve found recordings from the Greeks and the Egyptians that seem to predate the recordings of Chinese medical texts. Both didn’t have access to glass or bamboo because it didn’t grow in those regions so they used hallowed-out bull horns as their “cups.” They lit a fire on (the skin) and scratched a person using the horn, creating a chimney effect.

Eric Sowa

Scissor Artist

Forget about your father’s snip shop. The C’zar Male Barber Lounge Eric Sowa has resurrected on the second floor of C’zar Salon Spa is your grandfather’s barbershop: an oak-paneled, appointment-only throwback to a time when men embraced proper pampering. “We want clients to be so relaxed they fall asleep in their chair,” says Sowa. Pick you bliss: Imported Italian shampoos. Hot towel facials. Straight shaves. Or just lean back and let him scissor one of these trending cuts.

Tamara Alicia

Fresh Face

Sometimes the only difference between a stress-spewing “Where’s the Xanax?” bridezilla and an unflappably cool bride-to-be comes down to one thing: damn good makeup and hair. Take it from Tamara Alicia, who works with 300 brides every year as the owner of Tamara Makeup + Hair Artistry. Striking looks make for stress-free nights.

Tamara began carving out her bridal niche as a young cosmetologist, when others avoided the pressure of wedding assignments. “I loved the energy of it; the rush of getting things right” she says. Now, Tamara offers clients a signature look. “It’s romantic meets glam,” she says. “Shimmer on the eyes, natural smokiness, and J-Lo skin.” Every winter, however, she offers makeup workshops for the masses, which utilize the following products.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Dipbrow Pomade, $21
Think J-Lo look in a bottle. Available in every tone imaginable, this pomade defines the brows without making them look overfilled, plus it holds up in the hot-to-cold weather swings of our unpredictable Illinois climate.

Kenra Platinum Texturizing Taffy, $22
Especially in an updo, this styling product gives the hair a beautiful separated and textured look. It’s also great for calming static in hair—a little will go a long way.

Mac Pro Longwear Fluidline Eyeliner in Blacktrack, $19
This waterproof gel eyeliner delivers the perfect shade of black, somewhere between midnight and dark gray. Its texture and color shapes the eye, rather than encouraging the No. 1 eyeliner sin: overtly harsh and dark hues.

Benefit Hoola Matte Bronzer, $30
Two rules for bronzers: Avoid products that have an orange glow (think bad tan) or contain shimmer, as the shine fights your highlights. This favorite—available in four shades—avoids both, plus includes a built-in mirror.

Big Sexy Hair Spray and Play Hairspray, $19
Nobody wants an overtly structured look, which is why Tamara’s go-to hairspray provides holds without stiffness. Ideal for curvy hairstyles or when experimenting with new looks, as it keeps hair moldable and shiny.

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Moisturizer SPF 30, $32
This ultralightweight, emollient-based moisturizer helps adhere makeup to one’s skin without pushing it away. Thanks to its ability to prevent blotchiness while protecting skin, it’s reportedly a Kim Kardashian favorite.

Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer, $54
A go-to primer that checks all the boxes: It’s thin, lies evenly, doesn’t affect the color of applied makeup, and doesn’t break down throughout the day. This primer is perfect for teenagers, seniors, and everyone in between.

Tarte Shape Tape Concealer, $27
This must-have concealer redefines the phrase “full coverage” by smoothening and brightening skin—never clumping in pores—and creating a taught look.

Mac 263 Brush, $21
This synthetic magic wand is perfectly pitched, making it ideal for all skill levels. Plus, Tamara says it holds its shape longer than any other brush on the market.

Chantecaille Future Skin Foundation, $78
Great foundations act like a second skin. Even with multiple layers, this oil-free gel wonder has a smooth, natural look.

Ryne Gioviano

Life Fitness

Aerobics classes? Cross-fit camps? Closed-circuit biking classes? Ryne Gioviano remains relatively open-minded when it comes to the fat-burning fitness fad of the hour. He thinks any move off the couch is a step in the right direction.

The one exception? Large-group fitness boot camps.

Boot camps represent, he says, the antithesis of what he does at his own gym, Achieve Personal Training & Lifestyle Design in Aurora, which focuses on individualized attention and small-group work. It’s a three-step process: Individualized assessments identify a client’s goals and health needs, followed by one-on-one training sessions to ensure proper form, and finally group workouts that max out at three clients for every one coach.

“I think personal trainers should be more like lifestyle managers,” says Gioviano, who first dreamed of being a fitness trainer while playing soccer in eighth grade. “Fitness is just one aspect of health; if you’re looking for real progress, you have to look at other factors like nutrition, sleep quality, and stress management.”

Gioviani’s unconventional approach—think of it as the fitness equivalent of holistic medicine—focuses as much on breaking down the mental barriers (that cause us to short-circuit our aims) as teaching the physical exercises needed to melt fat or develop muscle mass.

After years spent working in big-box gyms, Gioviani realized that a one-size-fits-all approach was the primary reason why so many New Year’s fitness warriors signed up for classes in January and dropped out by March.

If you signed up with a trainer who was personally into bodybuilding, he’d train all his clients like bodybuilders; trainers who focused on running would treat everyone like they were headed for a marathon.

“When I was younger, it was always difficult to work with someone who said they wanted to get healthier, but didn’t do the things required to reach that goal,” reflects Gioviani. “I knew I had to find a better way to get through to them.”

So he decided to tackle that all-too-common problem at an oblique angle, by taking motivational interview courses and studying cognitive behavior. As a result, he began asking more probing questions.

If a client said they wanted to lose weight, Gioviani wanted to understand the emotions behind why weight loss was so important to them. “Fat loss is a surface goal,” he says. “There’s always something else underneath.”

By unearthing these deeper motivations—what Gioviani describes as “tying an emotion to a goal”—he can individualize his pep talks by using the same words and rationales that his clients use themselves.

“A trainer can’t motivate others as much as people can motivate themselves,” says Gioviani, who’s become the go-to trainer for a number of area high school swim programs.

What a good trainer can do, however, is give every client as much individual coaching and physical direction as they need. With good form comes a boost in self-confidence, which is when Gioviano transitions his clients into small-group training sessions.

“It’s amazing how much camaraderie is built in some of our groups,” says Gioviani. “I’ve seen real friendships formed. People come out to support each other at powerlifting meets, which keeps everyone moving forward together.”