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Powter works out a return

The erstwhile fitness guru known for her infomercials is back from a self-imposed exile to spread her word on the Internet.

December 24, 2007|Jeannine Stein | Times Staff Writer

The fitness and weight-loss industry has been without one of its most vociferous and prolific spokeswomen for about a decade now.

But fear not, intrepid dieters, Susan Powter is back.

The blunt, energetic guru of the mid-1990s who begged us to stop the insanity and produced copious books and videos is making her comeback after a self-imposed exile. The trademark blond buzz cut has grown out to a ponytail, but she's still as passionate about spreading the gospel of good health, talking a mile a minute and launching into 10 tangents at once. One other thing has changed -- this time she's not gunning for queen of the infomercials. She's got cyberspace.

The call of new media compelled her to seek the spotlight again after experiencing major burnout (and perhaps running out the clock on those 15 minutes). She lived on a working farm, exercised and reared her three sons (ages 10, 24 and 25), she says via telephone from her home in Seattle, where a touch of laryngitis doesn't seem to dim her trademark volume. "I came back to work for one reason," she says. "The Internet. If you'd like to know what I think, you can see me directly. There are very few corporate white men in the middle of it." That last part alludes to the creative and business struggles Powter says she had with management.

Her website, www.susanpowteronline.com, which officially launches Jan. 1, is already getting several thousand hits daily, she says, with old and new fans checking in. Her pithy message this time around is: Eat, breathe, move and think. Tips to achieve this are written on her site, often in cryptic, quasi-poetic bits, such as:

Understanding

What you are doing

Why you are doing it

And how

To apply it to your life

Lean muscle mass . . .

One video blog posting shows her in the passenger seat of a car driving around at night, where she says, "You add weights and use the resistance of that added weight and you build the tissue in muscles." The oddness of it is pure Powter.

She's not exactly doling out groundbreaking information, but that's never been Powter's strong suit. She's the mom who lost 130 pounds (and hasn't regained it), who was zealous about telling people that a few lifestyle changes could go a long way to getting fit, losing weight and staying that way. That zealousness channeled its way into an empire that included best-selling books, videos, nonstop infomercials, her own talk show and a devoted following.

New to the mix this time is her rant about a world that is fatter and more in love with TV, computers and processed foods than ever before. "The food industry is directly connected to obesity," she says. "It has found a way to make the labels more deceptive, to advertise faster at you, and the mega-blasts at consumers are coming at the speed of light." Those consumers, she adds, aren't looking for an easy way out, but they do need help sorting through the rubble. And that's where she comes in, with advice, workouts and support.

It remains to be seen if the world opens its collective arms to Powter once again. In addition to her site, she has a revised edition of an old book due out in spring titled "The Politics of Stupid," a set of videos featuring new workouts and lifestyle advice coming early in 2008, and digital workouts available by download later in the year. Powter adds that she's "in discussions aggressively right now" for a new television show that may involve a treehouse in the L.A. area.

We may always need our gurus, says David Coppel, a clinical and sport psychologist in private practice in Kirkland, Wash., as hey, pump us up and let us draw off their energy. "A lot of times it's picking up on what makes sense to people. And some people need that kick-start, that leader, to move themselves forward."

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