Out fitness expert returns with new TV show

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Jackie Warner on television, but the out fitness guru, author and DVD star is back with a new show on Bravo, “Thintervention.

When we last checked in, Warner had built an impressive fitness empire for herself. After becoming a self-made millionaire in the cell-phone industry in her early 20s, Warner decided to change careers.

“I sold that company when I was 25 and I got into the entertainment industry,” she said. “I worked with Warner Bros. for some time. Then at 30, which is rather late in the game, I got certified [as a personal trainer] and by 31, I owned my first gym in Beverly Hills.”

Warner opened Lift, which was the first fitness center in Southern California to accept health insurance for exercise. Then in 2004, she founded her second gym, Sky Sport & Spa, which was the center of her universe when she starred in the reality series “Work Out.”

Warner, now 42, said that once she became involved with the fitness industry, there was no turning back.

“I had a client that was very difficult,” she said. “She was an alcoholic, she was miserable in her job, she was dating abusive men. I was very green as a trainer but working with her intensely for four months, [and] she completely changed her life. She got into AA [Alcoholics Anonymous], she changed jobs and changed her whole pattern of living. I was hooked like a drug. I thought if I could make a life change for someone, then this is what I want to do. It’s never gotten boring for me because each person is so different.”

With that sentiment, it’s no surprise Warner shifted her focus and her business to “Thintervention,” for which she teams up with fitness model and personal trainer Craig Ramsay to inspire and teach lifestyle changes to eight individuals looking to get healthy.

There are no remnants of Sky Sport on the show, for a good reason.

“I sold Sky Sport seven months ago,” Warner explained. “I still own [the] physical therapy center where Sky Sport was. I sold the location but I retained the brand as a name.”

If the premise of an openly gay fitness expert with a strong entrepreneurial streak whipping a group of individuals into shape and changing lives in the process sounds familiar to you, it should. There are a number of similar shows already out there, with “The Biggest Loser” being the most well-known.

Warner and Ramsay, for their part, are quick to distinguish their show from the rest of the pack.

“This is not a contest show,” Warner said. “This is not that kind of show. The viewer gets to get in deep psychologically and know these people. That’s why we narrowed it down to eight people going on this journey, because we really wanted to get to know them and have an emotional exchange with them in some sense.

“This show is very unique because they are not sequestered,” she added. “They have to go live. They have to take the tools that our team gives them and they have to apply them in their real lives. They are left to their own devices and they really figure things out for themselves. That was a conscious choice by me – not to sit and say, ‘Do this, do that, eat this, eat that’ but ‘Here’s some tools, guidance and workout program. Now do it.’ I don’t think this is a weight-loss show. It’s a life-changing show.”

“Our show is different than the others because we show them the tools that are needed with food and proper exercise that isn’t focused on in other shows,” Ramsay added.

The two also said another aspect that distinguishes “Thintervention” from “The Biggest Loser” is that the show isn’t all about the dramatics surrounding how much weight an individual can lose in the shortest amount of time.

“We had a doctor on staff and that physically gave us quite a bit of guidance as to how much weight would be safe to lose and how much weight would be reasonable for the amount of time that we would be working with them,” Warner said. “We’re the only show that offers real-live therapy sessions. So that makes it really unique. You see all the emotional changes. You see what it really takes to make a lifelong change.”

“We don’t have to have the positive [results],” Ramsay added. “We accept whatever the weigh-in is and we deal with why the weigh-in wasn’t successful. So, there would be no manipulation because this is real life.”

“We weren’t afraid of the failures in this show,” Warner said. “The point is seeing the emotional journey and seeing how difficult it can be, and breaking addictions. So that makes for very interesting TV too.”

Warner’s eight clients on the show, which includes a life coach who likes to drink, a stand-up comedian and a former Playboy centerfold, have issues to work out. The trainers said they had to set an example and the pace for those clients early on.

“Right out of the gate, in episode one, you’re going to see that we have to rev them up and get them excited,” Warner said. “There’s a lot of talk in the show about the inner athlete, the inner warrior and what passion is. There’s a lot of motivational speaking pre- and post-workout encapsulating a different lifestyle for them. It wasn’t so much talk; it was about what we were doing and how we were behaving, Craig and myself. I think that inspired them on a daily basis.”

“We had to show them our intensity in order for them to find theirs,” Ramsay said. “Then the goal is for us to teach them at the heightened intensity for the process. That’s how weight loss happens.”

Warner may be competing against shows like “The Biggest Loser,” but that doesn’t mean she isn’t a fan of the recent wave of fitness-oriented programming. In fact, she applauds them all.

“Any time you deal with weight loss, fitness, self-esteem, success, setting goals and achieving them, I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “The more information, the better. ‘The Biggest Loser’ is an amazing show and they do an amazing job. But again, when you put people in an unnatural situation and you get numbers of 30 pounds a week, it’s not realistic. It makes for great TV but it’s not realistic in real life. But I love all these weight-loss shows. I love ‘Dance Your Ass Off.’ It’s one of my favorite shows. I find it very inspiring. I think more shows like that are needed.”

An added bonus “Thintervention” affords Warner is the shift in focus — away from her and her business that made up the bulk of “Work Out.” But it doesn’t necessarily make Warner’s life any less hectic, even if she said the new show is easier on her personal life.

“It’s a different kind of pressure and stress on ‘Work Out,’” she said. “I had to be very vulnerable and I had to be very honest. I had to allow that assertion of the camera. This was an emotional process for me too because I had a large responsibility of helping these people. It was a greater responsibility and I had to be more engaged than I was in ‘Work Out.’ In ’Work Out’ I had to think of me. In this project, I had to think outside of me and think of them only.”

“Thintervention” airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on Bravo.

Larry Nichols can be reached at [email protected].