Liz Bonis thrives on diet of air

Liz Bonis took her father's philosophy to heart. "He always told me, 'Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life.'"

That explains why Bonis '88 (general dietetics and nutrition care) has no complaints about the demands of her unique career as a health and nutrition reporter and radio host. She's working hard and loving it.

Her schedule is daunting: Bonis gets up at 3 a.m., hits the treadmill and returns phone and e-mail messages before heading to WVMX-FM in Cincinnati, where she co-hosts the Liz and Carson Morning Show from 5:30 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday.

Later, she tapes health-related news segments that run daily on Cincinnati TV station WKRC. She does live radio spots five days a week on stations in several states, and tapes 60- to 90-second "Lighten Up with Liz" features.

Every Saturday, her hour-long, live radio show, Lighten Up with Liz, airs in a dozen markets. She produces a newsletter by the same name, and there's a companion Web site, www.lightenupwithliz.com. She also does occasional seminars.

"If I didn't love it I couldn't do it," she says, sounding as enthusiastic and energetic on the telephone as she does on the air. She's made time for this interview while driving from Cincinnati to Lexington, Ky.

She speaks of her father and his profound influence on her life. Austin Bonis taught statistics in the RIT College of Business. She cites his death from cancer in 1981 as a reason for her interest in health and nutrition.

As a student at RIT, Bonis helped produce NutriNews for students, and answered questions about diet at Gracie's, the cafeteria in Grace Watson residence hall.

"That was a real turning point," she says. She realized she could give people information that could change their lives. "Barb Cerio (who teaches nutrition management) used to say 'Knowledge is power,' and that's so true. Until you know it, you can't do it."

It occurred to Bonis that the media could allow her to reach large numbers of people with information about nutrition and health. During college, she worked at a Rochester radio station — for free — learning as much as possible. After RIT, she earned a master's degree in communications from Syracuse University.

Bonis began delivering upbeat nutrition segments on Rochester radio station WHAM in 1993, and was health reporter for WOKR-TV before moving to Cincinnati in 2002 to take advantage of opportunities offered by media giant Clear Channel Communications. Busy as she is now, she would like to expand into more markets, to reach more people.

Her style is entertaining, not academic. She provides information, not sermons. "My mission is to infect your head and your life, to add rather than subtract," she says. "It's about taking control of your life." Bonis knows from experience what it's like to struggle to make healthy choices. Overweight as a child, she says she's tried "every diet out there" and lost 50 pounds — twice.

"I chronically dieted for 10 years before I figured out it doesn't work," she says. "I threw out my scales three years ago.

"I don't feel a pressure to have a certain look," she continues. "I do feel a tremendous pressure to live what I say.

"When you're passionate about something, and people embrace what you're doing, that makes it all worthwhile. That's what I love."

The University Magazine, Fall 2003