IF YOUR IDEA of glamour is Marlin Fitzwater, if the only thing you and Georgette Mosbacher have in common is the heartbreak of adult acne, you've lived in Washington too long.
Let's face it, Washington is hardly glamorous. The only glamour we have gets imported when the international chicoisie sashays into town to lobby for causes ce'le`bres. But there's no law that says just because we live in Washington we can't look good -- and have fun getting there.
So suck in those stomachs, girlie men (and women). Isn't it time you got pumped up? Or got made over so someone could tell you, "You look marvelous"?
Perfection was once the divine right of movie stars, celebrities and the ridiculously wealthy, whose quest for glamour turned them into virtual cottage industries, employing personal trainers, diet gurus and assorted stylists along the way. Then the less rich and less famous -- but still notable and quotable -- got the message that packaging enhances performance, style gives the illusion of substance.
Blame it on People, "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" or a plague of self-help gurus and liposucting plastic surgeons: It is finally your right as the average American to look as above average as possible -- like the V.I.P. you may not necessarily be. Some of these services cost less than you'd think. But more and more people are saying, Hang the expense -- I can't afford to be ordinary anymore.
Those who cater to our increased expectations about personal glamour can be divided roughly into two camps: people who believe it is better to feel marvelous -- food coaches and personal trainers -- and people who hold it is better to look marvelous -- the image consultants. All talk of the need for "commitment" and "long-term goals" for success in their programs -- clever marketing that commits you to their services longer. But then if power eating, getting in shape and dressing for success were so easy to do by ourselves, we'd have done them long ago.PERSONAL BESTS
You can thank Hollywood for your personal trainer, specifically the Italian Stallions -- Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro -- who gave us the "Rocky" and "Raging Bull" workout plans respectively. While athletes have always had trainers, movie stars horned in more recently, says Philip Bergman, a Washington trainer who has worked in Los Angeles. They were hired to shape up the stars for demanding roles, to turn cottage cheese into cheesecake.
So what are the rest of us training for?
"Having a personal trainer used to be a status thing," says Tracy Smyth, director of Body Line Studio in Bethesda. No more, she says. Being in shape gives ordinary people stamina to perform better and handle stress in their jobs. And what trainers hear again and again, says Carole Adler, nutrition director at Bethesda's Pro to Home, are plaints of exhaustion, from clients who work and play hard.
"Clients always say they need more energy," Adler says.
Merely hiring a personal trainer often provides the impetus to change. "You don't have a choice," says Carol Maizel, a 47-year-old Silver Spring grandmother who trains with Adler three times a week. "The trainer's at your door, you have to pay her anyway, so you just do it."
Some have other incentives: "My wife started to look at younger men," jokes Harry Suissa, 41, a trial lawyer who lives in Potomac and trains with Bergman.
Nat Finkelstein, a 43-year-old lawyer from Chevy Chase, began training with Dan Falcone over a year ago, and can now bench press 245 pounds. Falcone, who's rather pumped up himself, studied with The Schwarzenegger in L.A. for two years. Finkelstein says his new-found athletic prowess gives him "a sense of accomplishment and confidence," a training effect that carries over to his professional life. Would you mess with a guy whose muscles are descended from Conan the Barbarian?
"It's better than therapy," says Maizel, who chose a trainer over a tummy tuck, with what she calls miraculous results. "People always tell me 'You look fabulous. How much weight have you lost?' " (Not a pound, she says.)
Falcone, who also trains local sportscaster Glenn Brenner, says his clients are mostly middle-aged -- frequently, fitness drop-outs who got frustrated and hurt working out on their own.
Brenner was after a more compact appearance on camera. "When you interview athletes for a living -- those guys are in such great shape -- you don't want to look like a blob." So he joined a gym, attacking the Nautilus himself, but instead of looking firm, just looked "bloated."
When time is short, personal trainers are more convenient than health clubs. Suissa says he was fed up with long waits to use the equipment at his club. "Unless you go off-hours, a workout takes three times longer than it should," he complains. Now he goes to Bergman's house instead, and they use the trainer's private gym. Trainers will also meet clients at health clubs, or come to their house.
For those who should not exercise unsupervised, personal trainers may mean the difference between safe workouts and no workouts. "There are a lot of people who have been inactive who just got lost in the fitness boom," says Smyth. "Where does someone recovering from an operation, with a heart condition or back problems go to get fit?" Or middle-aged or older exercise debutantes who find aerobics classes too intimidating?
Trainers charge $35 to $65 an hour (signing up for a series of sessions gets you the lower rates). "I think of it as one dinner a month," says Suissa. (Although at two sessions a week, that dinner would be at a three-star restaurant in Paris.)
"I tell my wife it's cheaper than buying a boat," says Brenner.
And the benefits are priceless. "I feel 10 years younger," he says. To prove it, Brenner's training for the next Marine Corps Marathon.
But, he advises, you can expect to work hard for a payoff. "If you think a trainer can teach you a few moves and you'll look like Sylvester Stallone, forget it. Stallone's in the gym four hours a day," says Brenner, who's in the gym two hours at a time, three times a week.
Trainers and trained alike say that personality is crucial. "If they don't like you, they won't listen to you," says Falcone. And they won't keep training. THOUGHT FOR FOOD
In Colombian folklore, swears an acquaintance of mine, the Fat Vampire does for free what the plastic surgeon does for a tidy sum -- sucks fat from the living. (Presumably, cholesterol levels don't matter to the undead.) A less drastic route to fat reduction is recruiting a food coach.
Those who seek nutrition counseling are often borderline desperate. Their cholesterol won't come down, they suddenly discover they are diabetic or they're fed up with sport dieting and yo-yoing weight. In middle age, their metabolisms slowed, none of the old reliable weight-loss methods work anymore.
If you want to make a food coach's team, don't use the word "diet." When you say "diet," they say "individualized menu plan." When you say "quick weight loss, 25th high-school reunion, crash diet, help," they say you need to "change your relationship to food" -- slowly.
"There are no magic drinks, and no going back to your old habits," says Nancy Cramer, a newly svelte homemaker in her late 50s, coached by the Nutrition Connection in Rockville.
Often, say food coaches, fat is all in your head. Their hidden enemy is the diet mentality -- that there are good foods and bad foods, that you are either on or off a diet -- and when you're off, you're way off. The secret to weight loss is "skill power, not will power," says Washington nutritionist Katherine Tallmadge.
Tallmadge teaches clients to eat only when they're hungry, and to distinguish recreational eating to eating in response to hunger -- a skill we are born with but unlearn. Tracking what, how and when we eat is key to changing habits.
"We eat for all kinds of reasons," says Bette Flax, a Nutrition Connection counselor. "We eat to celebrate, and when we're in pain, depressed, lonely and insecure. But if you're mad at your boss and take it out by bingeing when you get home from work, is he going to get fat?"
The body craves certain textures that "enhance the mood of the moment," Flax says. "Ice cream is great for loneliness and insecurity, but if you're really angry, you need to crunch and chew. Jello just won't do it."
Food coaches are a telephone call away if you get lost in Ben & Jerry's Rain Forest Crunch. Pro to Home's Carole Adler once called a client every night to ask what she ate that day.
Stress-related eating is most likely to occur right after work, when clients get the urge to "throw themselves into a vat of chocolate," says Flax. She advises having a nutritious snack if you're hungry, then waiting 20 minutes -- the time it takes the appestat, the body's "hunger control device," to register.
"If you're still hungry after 20 minutes, you're eating for some reason other than hunger," she says.
Counselors also suggest diversions -- a favorite pastime, relaxation exercises, or better still, real exercise. Regular exercise -- 30 minutes at least five times a week -- is essential to a weight-loss program.
Coaches devise menu plans based on preference, medical and dieting history, that stress balance and variety and eschew calorie counting. Some are stricter with white sugar and refined carbohydrates, caffeine, alcohol and diet soda, but all limit fat and suggest at least six glasses of water and three meals a day.
Clients typically find they're actually eating more than before -- and losing weight to boot. "I couldn't believe it when the nutritionist told me I wasn't eating enough to lose weight," says Cramer.
To establish new and better habits, clients learn how to shop and read labels on grocery-store field trips.
For all this, food coaches charge around $500 for two months, including a weekly session with either a nutritionist or counselor who deals with behavior.
If the cost seems high, counselors argue that the change in behavior is more likely to be permanent than quick weight loss from crash dieting or diet programs. And, "it's a lot cheaper than medical bills," says Dave Gery, 41, an employee relations specialist who lost 28 pounds and lowered his cholesterol with Flax's help.
Regardless of cost, he says, "I feel more confident that this time I'll keep the weight off." CLOTHES CALLS
"Like it or not, we respond more positively to people who look good. That's just the way it is," says Helen Moody, a D.C. image consultant and former model.
Image or fashion consultants work with clients who "feel the need for an image change or enhancement, a new personal style that will influence people," says Potomac image consultant Gwen Davis. The need for a change can be precipitated by a career move, promotion or re-entry into the job market.
Image consultants -- who will outfit you and do your makeup -- are of two minds. Fashion consultants believe the key to looking marvelous is the right wardrobe, while color consultants say that color is primary. To confuse the issue further, both schools call themselves image consultants.
Color specialists begin by doing your "chart" -- and they don't mean your horoscope. On the basis of the color of your skin, hair, eyes (including the whites), gums and even your teeth, they determine which colors will be most flattering on you. You will probably find that you have been wearing not only your colors, but everyone else's, too.
To color analysts, you are a canvas to be painted, or a stage set to be decorated. But they believe it is the person who wears the clothes, not the other way around. Only clothes that complement individual coloring should be worn, not what merely fits or has design appeal. JoAnne Nicholson, president and co-founder of Color 1 Associates in Washington, whose clients include assorted actors, entertainers, congressmen and ambassadors, believes that the right color can "make anyone look spectacular."
Nicholson emphasizes that hers is not the more common "seasons" color analysis, continued on next page from previous page which restricts certain types to certain colors. Her scheme allows you every color, but in the right shade, or intensity.
Plenty of Washington women resist being dictated to, but for every woman who resists, there is another who lives and shops by her color chart.
"You've no idea how it simplifies your life," says Ruthy Frenzel, wife of Rep. Bill Frenzel (R-Minn.). Both Frenzels have had their charts done by Nicholson.
Others say the technique organizes their wardrobes, teaches them how to put themselves together to great effect and averts costly clothing mistakes. "Everything goes together, and your shoes always match," explains Washington color consultant and boutique owner Lynda Rosenberg.
Mary Frances Widner, a lobbyist, color convert and self-professed former "fashion klutz," claims that "everything in my closet works." And she never worries about not looking right.
If you prefer the more traditional, less colorful approach, the services of independent fashion consultants, not affiliated with any store, can be had for $75 an hour. Or you can seek out the in-house personal shoppers, whose services are free at large department stores such as Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom. The shoppers work on commission but try to accommodate their clients' budget.
Independent consultants first do a closet edit (a few in-store consultants also offer this service). They make recommendations -- from rehauling an entire wardrobe to purchasing special-occasion wear -- and will shop with or without you. Clients learn what styles work for them, and the art of accessorizing. Spending money on the right clothes, say fashion consultants, saves money in the long run.
Moody knows her clients so well she shops solo. Such is her confidence that she recently bought 27 pairs of shoes for a client who had relocated to New Jersey. (Only one pair got returned.) And she spends "six figures a year" at Loehmann's, where there is a "no returns" policy.
While image consultants do all the work, you get all the glory. "All the client has to do is walk into the dressing room," says Donna Robinson, head of the Personal Touch department at Nordstrom in Tysons Corner.
With so much help, who says getting glamorous is hard?
Barbara Ann Curcio last wrote for Weekend about vintage clothing stores.
WHEN IT COMES to choosing a professional whose job is to make you look better, there's one good rule of thumb: How good do they look? Steer clear of overweight dietitians, personal trainers with loose, sallow skin and image consultants clothed in polyester and rabbit fur. Beyond that, here are some tips: PERSONAL TRAINERS --
Most personal trainers say clients find them through word of mouth. If you don't know anyone who uses their services, ask around at health clubs, the YMCA or sports and fitness stores, or look under "Exercise" in the phone book. The ideal personal trainer has a degree in one of the health science fields, such as exercise physiology or kinesiology, and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) or the foundation of IDEA: The Association for Fitness Professionals. (ACSM maintains a list of 3,000 certified health fitness instructors. For a copy, send $10 to ACSM Certification Registry, P.O. Box 1440, Indianapolis, IN 46206-1440, or call 317/637-9200.) Your personal trainer should be certified in CPR, carry liability insurance and offer a first free consultation to discuss your medical history and training goals.
You can find a dietitian by looking in the phone book or calling one of the American Dietetic Association's local chapters, which maintain lists of registered dietitians, the major certification in the field. (For referrals in Washington call 289-4215, in Maryland 301/442-1470 and in Virginia 804/947-6196.) The District of Columbia and Maryland now license nutritionists, ensuring a minimum set of standards have been achieved. When shopping for a nutritionist, ask prospects about their nutrition programs, the role white sugar, flour and alcohol play in them, whether you'll be able to eat "normal" foods, and what sort of weight loss you can expect. (Anything over one to two pounds a week can actually be detrimental.) One nutritionist recommends asking prospective diet coaches what they had for lunch that day.
IMAGE/FASHION CONSULTANTS --
This field has mushroomed in the last few years, attracting, in the words of one color consultant, the same type of person who used to go into the decorating business. To start your search you can look in the phone book under "Color Consultants." Stores are likely to recommend their own personal shoppers -- who usually work on commission and thus are intent on moving lots of merchandise -- though with some prodding they can provide the names of wardrobe consultants who frequently shop there. When you find a consultant, ask who her typical client is. If she's used to counseling or shopping for the spouses of Fortune 500 executives, she may not understand the needs of a recent college graduate or newly minted MBA. The best consultants start any relationship with a long, hard look at the clothes already sitting in your closet. -John F. Kelly