When we ran into a formerly pear-shaped friend and raved about her new perfectly balanced body, she credited Carla Polins of Natural Wellness for changing her diet-and her life. A licensed acupuncturist and certified nutritionist, Polins starts by taking your medical history and assessing your health. Then she designs a personalized diet, often in combination with herbal therapies, homeopathy, massage, acupuncture and exercise. She's an avid proponent of a "good" fat diet rather than a low fat one, and usually recommends eating four to six small meals a day, increasing fluids, fiber, and vegetables, and avoiding what she calls "white" foods (highly processed starches like white flour and sugar.) Polins is also big on emotional support; and at $30 for a half hour session, she's eminently affordable.
BEST TIP: Begin by exercising regularly and avoiding trigger foods-those that make you think, "Nobody can eat just one.") Carla Polins of Natural Wellness, 6981 Curtis Ave. #3, Sarasota Ph: 586-5362.
Neoderm is hardly a secret among women-and men-who understand the importance of protecting and enhancing beautiful skin, but the physician-directed skin-care facility just added something sensational to its menu of services. If you suffer from active acne, Blue Light Therapy may be the answer to your prayers. Neoderm is an official test site for this new technique, which works by altering the structure and function of the sebaceous glands. It has the added benefit of increasing collagen production, which smooths out skin. According to the aestheticians at Neoderm, results have been remarkable, with two out of three people treated showing about 40 percent improvement after just two treatments.
BEST TIP: Whatever your skin type, apply sunscreen every day, there are formulations that do not aggravate acne. And never mind the weather, harmful rays penetrate car and house windows.
Neoderm, 1991 Hyde Park, Sarasota, Ph: 951-0388
3. When it comes to spas, Sarasota has everything from classy, full-service operations like the Met and the Ritz-Carlton to smaller, family-owned operations. Among the latter, American Beauty Day Spa offers some of the most luxurious and affordable treatments around. A pedicure with free manicure runs just $35. Sit back in an enveloping auto-massage chair with a complimentary beverage by your side and succumb to the hour-long ritual of soaking and massage, warm paraffin dips and hot rock rub downs, clipping and shaping, painting and polishing. At this fine and mercifully well-ventilated day spa, owner Thuy Vuong and her staff offer other affordable indulgences including massage, facials, microdermabrasion, permanent make-up, tanning, waxing and lash sets.
BEST TIP: Protect the nail matrix (the area that produces the nail) from sports shoe trauma by wearing shoes slightly large and keeping nails trimmed short. If necessary, strengthen nails with biotin (available at health food stores.)
----- American Beauty Day Spa, 4207 Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, Ph: 926-4799.
You can't look good when you're wigging out, and with a Ph.D. in counseling, stress management specialist Myra McPherson can help you regain your inner-and outer-beauty. Using Heart Math (a feedback system employed in some hospital waiting rooms) and other techniques, McPherson helps students (and petrified parents) to calm down for the FCAT and similar high-pressure exams and access "the wisdom within." Heart Math uses a non-invasive finger probe and computer- imaged feedback in which a balloon takes flight, a pot of gold fills and a black and white image turns to color as stressed-out subjects learn to calm themselves down. The process can work in as little as three minutes, and ongoing support is readily available. (For the under-seven crowd, there is a soothing Buddy Bubbles program.)
BEST TIP: Work on your spiritual sense daily to access who you are rather than who you've become.
Myra McPherson, location varies, Ph: 343-9745.
5. Sometimes you just need to shake things up, and like a best girlfriend, Kim Preston cajoles you out of your comfort zone. A master of the personal style makeover, Preston will gleefully encourage you to consider new colors, shapes and sizes. She offers homespun advice and savvy tips on everything from what to wear (and what not to wear) to how to dress your hair, find hidden support and comfort chronically aching feet. She sends regular e-mails with photos of just-in offerings, organizes occasional girls' night out and ends each missive with the question: When was the last time you felt really beautiful? Plus, Preston loves a bargain as much as we do; and believe us, $100 goes a long way in the store.
BEST TIP: For a streamlined look, forego pleats, muumuus and tucked-in shirts and get a lift from the no show strapless, backless Nu Bra. And try Kim's special two-sided tape between buttons.
Kim Preston of Preston's Boutique and Gift Shop, 7650 S.Tamiami Trail #3, 922-1911.
Celebs looks great in their glamour outfits not only because they're beautiful but also because every stitch they wear has been tailored to fit their shape. Elouise Sheffield makes fashions fit through meticulous tailoring and makes clothes to fit from wish lists all over town. As a seven-year-old designing for her dolls, she hand-sewed every seam and marveled each time her vision came to life. Now, whether garnishing wedding gowns or cooking up costumes at the Asolo Theatre (as she did for years), Elouise always pays attention to the details. You should see the costumes she makes for young cheerleaders-beautifully detailed reversible car-wash-pleated bi-color skirts.
Best Tip: Wear fitted clothes to visually pare pounds. V-necks and vertical lines elongate, long pants lengthen legs and A-line skirts make the most of full hips and a smaller waist. Elouise Sheffield,3301 Newtown Blvd., 351-5379.
7. Want to look your best for a special event? Make-up artist and hair guru Greg Payne sees your inner beauty and shows it to the rest of the world. His focus is always on the positive, emphasizing inherently beautiful features. Never mind that you think your nose is too big; Payne believes that attempts to shadow and redraw a nose, while fine for photos, just makes live faces look like masks. "Concentrate on beautiful eyes and skin and then run with it," says Payne whose philosophy is "Don't cover up, play up." The biggest make-up mistake, says Payne, is using too much color. Try using two different blushes for a natural flush. Subtle is good. Finally, line eyes judiciously and stay close to the lash line.
Best Tip: This season, go for a mix of matter and shimmer. Crimson lips are also in.
Greg Payne, Elan Salon: 1925 Ringling Blvd, 955-2770 or 518-6529.
8. Curly hair is a blessing, but it may not seem like one unless you can find a stylist who understands the art of coaxing those errant curls into place. Kelly Whitney at the James Griffith Salon does. Whitney carefully assesses curly hair before she cuts it-the question, she says, is not how much you want off but how long you want it to be after it's dry. Curly hair is not uniform in texture, but may be kinky underneath with looser curls on top, which also affects the ultimate shape and style. Petroleum-based products can leave hair waxy and greasy and make it crunch and flake, she says. Some of her clients swear by Ouidad products; Whitney also likes the Aveda line her salon carries.
Best Tip: Use a wide-toothed comb rather than a brush and a diffuser on the blow-dryer to control frizz. Keep styles simple, and love your curls.
Kelly Whitney, James Griffith Salon: 257 S. Tamiami Trail, Venice, 484-2665.
9. Dan Schmidt, owner of Soto Opticians, has an uncanny ability to match faces with the glasses that flatter. Work with him and you'll want a whole wardrobe of frames. He's careful to consider your personality and style (high-fashion? tailored? casual?), and he notices details such as wide-set eyes, which need frames with a broad nose piece to alleviate a cross-eyed look. He also considers coloring, looking for frames that balance sallow or pasty complexions. He even has a knack for knowing how wild you want to be. Schmidt's inventory includes classic offerings and up-to-the-minute fashion frames and the highly popular rimless looks can be custom colored (just the rim or the whole lens) and cut to shape. Any shape. Go crazy.
Best Tip: Choose frames that go with your face, not your wardrobe.
Dan Schmidt, Soto Opticians, 1843 Hillview, Sarasota, Ph: 955-0686.
10. If you feel good, you look good; and for the ultimate feel-good experience, schedule a visit with intuitive Nora Hooper. You'll leave radiant after an hour-long reading in which Hooper shares her impressions about your strengths, concerns and future choices. Upbeat and kind, Hooper is a validating presence and a generous gift to anyone in need of a lift. And she gets it right. (She told one woman her child's IQ and favorite sport, and the cause of her mother's death.) No, it's not science and there's no way to measure the results, but Hooper is a kinder, gentler resource, an on-target intuitive who can make your day. Go for fun. Go for guidance. Or just go to feel good.
Best Tip: Notice the difference between the voice of guidance and wishful thinking or worry. True guidance does not activate your emotions; it's more like a ticker tape message on the bottom of your news screen. Trust it.
Nora Hooper, available by phone: 951-1154.