Out Dallas actor Keith J. Warren knew that to get better roles, he’d have to morph from butterball to beefcake. Here’s how he did it


To get better roles, and stay healthier, Warren took on an intensive exercise regimen to transform his body in short order, from last fall’s ‘Most Happy Fella,’ inset, to now. (Main photo by Marshall Harris; inset photo by Michael C. Foster)

zcDance 10, looks 3. Anyone who’s a fan of A Chorus Line knows what those numbers mean: Good onstage, but not the “right type.”

It was a fact that began to annoy Dallas-based actor Keith J. Warren.

Warren — tall, young, with a strong voice — should have been getting leading roles in plays. But a dough middle often resigned him to supporting parts despite his leading-man good looks.

So last fall, he determined to change all that.

It seems to have worked. Since October, and through last month, Warren trimmed down, bulked up and even looks younger. It’s paying off in roles, too — he’s currently playing the lead in the musical The Full Monty in New Orleans … a play that requires men to get naked onstage. He’s never been more ready for that.

Here’s how he did it.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Name, age, occupation.  Keith J. Warren, 26, actor.

Has your weight fluctuated much throughout your life?  Over the last 10 years, my weight and body type have gone in different directions — literally. When I got to be a senior in high school, I began to realize that I was too big, even for me. And as an aspiring actor, I knew that my body was going to have to do some changing, or I’d spend my young life missing out on roles made for guys of my potential type. After high school, I went from stocky to more slender, while still tall and broad. In the years following, I’d gone from having a few extra pounds to shedding them off again and back and forth. Now I’ve gotten to a good weight with less body fat, more muscle tone, and overall better health and fit.

In high school, I was in athletics, including a daily workout regimen. When I went into fine arts, my daily workouts were dancing, various cardio and diet. I would be lying if I said I never cheated on my diet. It happened then — and it happens now!

What was your highest weight?  At 18, I was at my peak weight — 275 pounds — and while in good health, my body needed to catch up with the rest of me. I was too athletic to be that big. At the time my goal weight was simply anything less than what I was, but I got down to a nice 215 by age 20. Now, at 26, I’m 225 with a 10 percent body fat and lean muscle tone. I’m still working on lowering my body fat percentage with my daily workouts and diet, but I’m in extremely better condition than where I was before.

When did you decide you wanted to get into shape now?  In January of 2010, I made a New Year’s resolution that I wanted to get myself into shape. It had mostly to do with wanting to get better theater roles! I had been told by several respected directors that I was missing out on role opportunities. One, a very good friend, said to me, ‘Keith, you are a leading man, but you have to look like one all the time. You need to start now while you’re young.” That pretty much sealed the deal.

What regimen did you follow?  In August 2012, just as I was closing The Most Happy Fella at Lyric Stage, I started a 21-day vegan detox/cleanse diet called The Beachbody Ultimate Reset. Thankfully, this was a diet that doesn’t starve you. In those three weeks, I lost about 18 pounds and lowered my cholesterol, blood pressure and body fat percentage, and shed several inches. After that, I began a hybrid workout of P90X and Insanity, both of which are from the Beachbody company. I had already done P90X before with pretty fair results. I really wanted to make this next round a challenge, though, so I threw Insanity into the mix. In addition to the workouts, I kept a strict diet of daily protein and muscle confusion supplements, as well as a product called Shakeology, which I still use. I followed this schedule for 90 days, which wrapped up at the start of January — just in time for the new year.

I’m still continuing my maintenance with daily doses of either Insanity or one of the many great P90X workouts, as well as trips to the gym.

What was the hardest part of the regimen?  The first week of the schedule was the hardest. Getting started has always been the hardest for me. Once the first seven days ended, the hard part was over. After that, it was just making sure to keep the diet under control. This happened around Thanksgiving and Christmas, like most people usually encounter.

There’s an adage: “No food tastes as good as skinny feels.” True? Is there some food you really miss?  It’s true for me. I take one look at certain things I used to eat and have no response whatsoever now that I’m in my current condition. As a rule, I do believe in ‘cheat days,’ so I allowed myself a day to enjoy an extra treat now and then. I stayed away from sodas and beer full-time. Any adult beverages consisted of low calorie clear liquids.

I will confess it was a guilty pleasure of mine to sit down and inhale Oreo cookies with ice-cold milk. But I’ve grown stronger and have more will power now. Still, when I sleep, visions of Oreos dance in my head. Which is probably why I wake up starving for breakfast the next morning.

Aside from the visual, what have you noticed as the most real change?  I’ve got a huge increase in energy and stamina. I have an overall better attitude and confidence towards most things in daily life. I definitely do not crave junk food and other crap that I used to need on a daily basis just to be satisfied.

But I’d have to say that the biggest change is simply feeling like a whole new person. I could put it in many different terms, such as a phoenix rising from the ashes or a butterfly emerging from the cocoon. It’s just great to feel like you’ve reached a new beginning.

What was the most unexpected consequence of your transformation for good or bad? As much as I hate to say this, there was something very negative that I encountered as a result of my fitness journey. I was confronted by an acquaintance via Facebook, who read up on my frequent posts and photos of my progress, and told that I was nothing more than a show-off and an obsessive fitness freak and that I basically needed to get a life. I was dumbfounded by this reaction to something that I considered to be nothing but positive and encouraging to others. Whatever issue they had with my lifestyle was clearly irrational, so I didn’t let it affect me. It was nice to click the ‘unfriend’ button that day.

Any advice for people looking to get going?  Changing your body is never easy. It’s definitely a complete lifestyle change and with that comes a lot of dedication, motivation and even sacrifice. I had to surround myself with a support group that helped keep me focused and positive about my goals and realistic about how to achieve them. I’m very grateful for the support and positive influences, as well as inspirations that got me where I am now. And now, as I continue to add to the progress, I always keep in mind that I’m not alone in the challenges I face while making the choices I have to make for my body and health’s sake. When I pick up those weights, they don’t feel as heavy as they used to. And when I run those 3 miles, they don’t seem as far. I just do the best I can and keep going. And to anyone who thinks he can’t, I promise you, you can!

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 15, 2013.