'90s' fitness guru keeps sights on food industry
Date: Saturday, September 04 @ 18:06:59 EDT
Topic: Celebrities


Source: The Republician Saturday, September 04, 2004
By PAT CAHILL
pcahill@repub.com
She no longer has the shaved head, but Susan Powter of "Stop the Insanity" fame still has the muscles, the machine-gun delivery and the righteous anger that has endeared her to millions of women.

The high-energy fitness guru who put infomercials on the map and several books on bestseller lists will discuss her latest book, "The Politics of Stupid," Thursday at 7 p.m. at Barnes and Noble Booksellers at the Holyoke Mall at Ingleside.

Powter, 46, has been living in Northampton for almost a year, quietly (if such a word can ever be applied to her) working with a local director on a one-woman show based on "The Politics of Stupid," which she plans to take on tour.

Her message: Americans have fallen prey to a food industry that encourages them to eat in an unhealthy way and leads to obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol.

Except that Powter doesn't put it that way. She tends to, well, explode. "We are biochemically poisoning our children!" she fulminates about the fast-food industry. "Huge corporations make billions of dollars selling a lifestyle that doesn't work!

"Women must go back their intuitive wisdom!" she says. "We must stand up as mothers and say: 'Liars! We will not buy your JUNK!'"

And don't get her started on the meat and dairy industries.

"I'm just pissy enough to tell the truth," she says. "I'm not afraid of rage."

Powter has long pink hair these days, and lots of tattoos and piercings. She is given to bursting out with such statements as: "Any woman who isn't a feminist is an idiot!"

She is proudly lesbian. She rails against "refined white flour and refined white sugar from refined white men in the refined White House."

Her calls her latest video "Trailer Park Yoga."

OK, she didn't live in a trailer park, just stopped in a lot of them while promoting her latest book. But she is "kinda trailer-park," she cheerfully admits.

The video cover shows her in a white sports bra and a black cowboy hat, luxuriantly tattooed and lolling against a leopard-skin carseat.

Take it or leave it, she doesn't care.

And women, it seems, love it. All kinds of women. "Women come to my readings in appliquéd sweaters," says Powter. "I love the women of America."

The bald head and the motormouth? That was to get their attention, she says. "Millions of women stopped channel surfing and said, 'I don't care what she looks like, she's telling the truth.'

It's also likely that many women sympathize with her story. How, with two little children ("a baby on each breast!"), she was dumped by her husband for an 18-year-old. Devastated. Got very fat, got hold of her life, got very fit. Wrote seven books, made numerous video and audio-tapes, got very rich.

Yet Powter has an earth-mother quality about her, and an upbeat energy underlying all the noise.

Is she happy? "I'm the happiest woman I know," she says. "I'm get- ting so close the moon that it's dangerous."

She can be just as rapturous as she is furious. She loves Northampton, which she calls "a glorious part of the country." She loves Seattle, where she used to live. She adores her three sons.

"I don't think I've been given a gift more precious than my 21-year-old son," she says of her eldest, who recently (she reports) told her that the world needs more women like her - beautiful, feminist, successful strong women.

"To hear these words from a 21-year-old male!" she says. "And he's a male who believes in equal rights for women!"

Powter was born in Australia and educated in a strict Catholic school. She describes her former faith as a patriarchal system predicated on "the slave labor of nuns."

She has been married and divorced twice. She has lived in New York, Texas and California. After she was abandoned with the two children, she tried to find solace in food, and ballooned to 260 pounds.

At the mention of "comfort food," she's off and running again: "There's nothing 'comforting' in eating poisonous food!

"There was no comfort in my being 260 pounds! There is no comfort in not having the energy to get through the day!"

And so on.

Twelve years after "Stop the Insanity," Powter still practices what she preaches. Movement is a daily part of her life, whether she's bicycling, lifting weights or swimming.

She is a vegan, having renounced meat and milk products, but says good food is not a matter of being vegetarian or non-vegetarian. What's important, she says, is eating "whole" foods that have not been chemically altered.

"If it's fluorescent blue," says Powter, "it's not good for you."

And who can argue with that?





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