Kami Gray is a TV and Film Wardrobe Stylist, blogger, and author of the bestselling book, The Denim Diet: Sixteen Simple Habits To Get You Into Your Dream Pair of Jeans. Gray, who is currently children’s healthy living book, shares some of the “simple habits” with the Write On! community. Plus, she relays the story of her unplanned endeavor: becoming a published author.

As a wardrobe stylist, how did you get started on your writing career?
Wardrobe styling has been my decade-long career while healthy living has been my passion for over two decades. I finally combined the two! I’ve never written anything before—I just realized I finally had something worthwhile and helpful to say that’s actually been germinating in my mind since college.

Why did you write The Denim Diet?
I found myself in Amarillo, Texas, for a week without anything to eat that met my criteria for healthy eating. I wrote The Denim Diet for the millions (66%) of Americans that don’t have a healthy relationship with food and don’t understand the basic concepts of healthy eating. It’s written in first person from one regular person to another. It’s not overly technical, preachy, or heavy-handed—more like, “Look here, we’ve made this all so complicated. Let’s take a step back and get back to basics.” What’s awesome is that my advice is working! My readers are losing some major pounds! It’s so gratifying to hear from them. There is nothing better than waking up to another e-mail from a reader that’s lost 25 pounds and counting.

What was your process for writing it? How did you decide what to include?
I wrote the book in five days and it just poured out of me. It was almost beyond my control. I hand-wrote it in a journal I purchased at the Portland airport on my way to Texas. I bought the journal because I thought it would look pretty and artsy on my living room coffee table! This book was not a planned endeavor. I included in the book everything I knew about maintaining a healthy body weight from my own experience over the past 23 years. Before that, I was fat for several years during college. This book is about how I lost the weight and kept it off for all those years without yo-yo dieting, gimmicks, or fake food. I don’t work very hard at this: if I can lose weight and keep it off for 23 years, trust me, anybody can.

How did you get it published?
With a lot of luck and timing. I landed an agent by asking a New York Times bestselling author if he’d read my manuscript. He did, thought it had potential, and told me to call his literary agent/friend in Chicago. I did and, after we worked through a grueling book proposal process together, we sold it on the second try to New World Library in Northern California. I feel so fortunate to have landed there: they are fabulous, hard-working, and talented people.

What was your favorite part of the process? The greatest challenge?
I love new things; I’m a bit of a change addict. I love getting in completely over my head and having to sink or swim. The best part of this process has been hearing from readers and working with individuals and groups on how to establish healthy eating habits. I love working with people and helping them to see how possible it is to turn their ship around. The greatest challenge has been finding enough time in a day to do all the things I want to do now that this book has opened up new opportunities for me. I’ve never been particularly good at time management and now, I have to be. I encourage readers to develop new habits and I’ve had to as well. Thank you, Google calendar!

What are the most important “habits”?
I have five that are must-do habits.

1. Use natural, whole sweeteners. Ditch the white sugar, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and fake sugars like Splenda, Equal, Sweetn’Low and replace them with agave nectar. There are other good choices, but I’m keeping it simple here. Refined sweets like white sugar spike your insulin levels and metabolize very quickly and lead to fat storage. HFCS confuses your body (it’s that fake!) so your body does the only thing it can … throws it into fat storage! Sugar substitutes like Splenda, Equal, and Sweetn’Low basically tell your body it’s about to get sugar. Then when you don’t actually follow through on that promise, it goes after it with a vengeance! Sugar (aka, carb) cravings. You can’t fool your body. Agave nectar on the other hand is not refined and it contains one ingredient … nectar from the blue agave plant. It metabolizes slowly and doesn’t spike your insulin levels so unless you use the whole bottle on your morning oatmeal, it won’t lead to fat storage. It’s really sweet and tasty (and fairly inexpensive) so one teaspoon easily does the trick! Most grocery stores carry agave nectar now.

2. Eat brown, whole carbs. For the same exact reason as I mentioned above … whole grain carbohydrates metabolize slowly and don’t spike your insulin levels like their white, refined, overly-processed counterparts. Whole grains have more nutrients as well, but they also have the added advantage of containing fiber (which was removed in the white carbs). Think of fiber as your very best friend. Seriously…BFF! Fiber keeps you satiated, maintains good intestinal health, creates slow digestion, and keeps things moving.

3. For meat and sides, think deck of card-sized portions. We eat too large of portions! At every meal, make sure the only mound on your plate is made up of vegetables …it can be a giant mound. If you eat a giant mound of anything else, expect a giant mound to present itself somewhere on your body where you’d rather it not appear.

4. Eat when you’re hungry. The best way to prevent overeating at the next meal is to stay satiated. If it’s 10:30 in the morning and you feel a hunger pang, first drink a large glass of water (often times we’re just thirsty and not smart enough to tell the difference!). If it doesn’t subside, you’re indeed in need of a snack … not a problem! Light string cheese, a handful of raw walnuts, a banana, a few whole wheat crackers (see #2) with a little “real” peanut butter are all perfect snacks to keep you full until lunch time.

5. Move more. Do what works for you, but move more everyday. Take stairs, park far away from your target destination, do jumping jacks in while you’re waiting for the coffee pot to fill. Every little bit helps. Moving slowly or not moving does not help! Take a dance, Zumba, Pilates, yoga, or Jazzercise class. Mix it up, but get moving!

How is blogging different than writing a non-fiction book? Any similarities?
Blogging is more challenging for me. It was easy to find my voice in The Denim Diet. It’s my story and I wrote (and edited) it quickly. In some ways, blogging is more fun though because I can reach a broader audience (like men!) and talk about a wide array of topics related to my platform. My favorite blog topics are those related to eco-friendly fashion. As a personal shopper and style consultant, I work one-on-one with my clients either virtually or in-person, but my blog is a way for me to do personal shopping for my blog visitors. There’s so much great eco-fashion out there and it’s fun digging it up! My highest blog traffic day thus far was a post on men’s eco-fashion, which really shocked me.

Advice for writers?
My advice for writers is the same advice I would give for any profession one is passionate about. Do it. Everyone has something unique to offer the world so figure out WHAT that is, forget about the HOW, and get going! The rest falls into place because it’s supposed to—get out of your own way! Thank you Janet Bray Attwood and Chris Attwood of The Passion Test for teaching me that very valuable lesson!

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
Nothing. I like going into new things blindly, with a fresh perspective. Learning is a lifelong process and I’m not done yet!

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