Yesterday, I posted part one of my interview with Jimmy Moore, whose blog Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb is one of the most useful health and nutrition web sites in all of cyberspace. In that post, Jimmy recounted his journey from living life as a morbidly obese man who weighed more 400 pounds to being the healthy, energetic guy he is today.
In today’s post, Jimmy answers questions about what it’s like to be a pro blogger. I was especially interested in this topic because when I started kicking around the idea of turning the Fat Head site into a blog, I mentioned it to exactly two bloggers whose work I admire, Jimmy Moore and Dr. Mike Eades. They both gave the same basic advice: do it!
To anyone who reads your blog, it’s obvious that you’re not just a guy who lost weight; you’re educated. You know more about nutrition and weight loss than most doctors, in my opinion. You’ve absolutely shredded some badly-designed studies in your posts. How did you learn what you know now?
It’s funny, Tom, my background is in English and government. When I went to college, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer or lobbyist on Capitol Hill. I even got a Master’s Degree in Public Policy, which taught me a lot about researching issues and getting all the angles of a story before forming an opinion. Writing is a deep passion of mine that I have always enjoyed doing. And sometimes that means coming up with some controversial positions that are backed by the evidence.
Some have openly questioned how a layperson like me can cast doubt and throw stones at a researcher and his study when he is the one with the medical or educational background. My response to this is simple: If I can see through shoddy research as someone who isn’t trained in the field of nutrition, then why can’t people who do have the training figure this out? It’s as if many in the health field have blinders on so they can’t see the forest for the trees anymore.
Of course, it’s not the fault of your doctor that he can’t help you very much with weight loss, because he probably only got one, maybe two weeks of nutritional training in medical school. That’s astounding to me, considering most of the weight and preventable health problems physicians face today are directly related to the composition of the patient’s diet. The sooner we admit this obvious fact and begin training people in the medical field better about healthy nutrition (and I don’t mean low-fat!), the quicker we’ll be able to turn this rising tide of obesity and diabetes in the other direction.
I asked you once how you manage to keep up with your blog and hold down a job, and you told me that the blog is your job now. What kind of work did you do before?
When I started the “Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb” blog in April 2005, I worked full-time in customer service for a major restaurant corporate office. The year I lost my weight, I had a highly stressful job in that same company in their risk-management department as a general liabilities coordinator. I heard so many horror stories about what people allegedly found in food and strange happenings inside the restaurant on a daily basis that I’m surprised I lost a single pound from all the cortisol that was being released in me in 2004.
Thankfully, I was able to leave that department and go back to the friendly confines of customer service again. Most of my career has been customer service-type jobs in restaurants, retail, and even a stint as the music buyer for a chain of Christian bookstores in Virginia. I’ve had an eclectic experience in my work life and I believe all of it trained me to do what I’m doing now.
So how did you become a professional blogger? Did you know it would turn into a career, or was that just the happy result of a passionately pursuing a hobby?
Well, it was kinda by accident. The economy was already hitting companies hard even before this current recession and I was a part of the downsizing at the big corporation I was working for in October 2006. My blog had built up a sizable amount of traffic at that point and I had negotiated a few sponsorships to make it a little profitable. So when it came time to figure out what to do next in my career, I remember telling Christine, “I think I’m going to try to start blogging full-time.”
The look on her face was priceless, and we preceded to have a series of discussions about it. She thought I needed a “real” job; the idea of not knowing if money would be coming in month-to-month freaked her out. I told her that people with sales jobs live like that all the time, and it’s feast or famine. But I assured her I would work my tail off and make it work for several reasons: 1) I needed to feel like the work I do has meaning and a purpose beyond a paycheck; 2) I wanted to be available to her during the day since she has some physical and emotional problems that warrant my presence; and 3) The blog had become much bigger than I ever imagined it would be, so the time was right.
Here we are nearly three years later, and I’m still doing this full-time. And with all I do these days, I need every minute of every hour of every day just to squeeze it all in. I’m working longer and harder at this job than at any other job I’ve ever had. To be honest, I probably could charge good money for much of the content that I provide. But that’s not gonna happen. What I was given through my low-carb weight loss journey is worth much more than all the money in the world. I got my life back, and now I’m paying it forward to as many people as I can find to tell them the positive message of livin’ la vida low-carb.
When did the podcasting idea occur to you? How did you get it going?
Actually, it wasn’t my idea. In the Fall 2006, a blogging friend of mine named Kevin Kennedy-Spaien was putting together a new health podcast show called “The Health Hacks Podcast.” It would feature a variety of voices with 5-minute segments talking about a specific topic related to health. Because of my outspokenness at my blog, Kevin thought I would be perfect for the show. Since I had some experience doing Christian radio back in the 1990s hosting a weekly countdown show, it was nice to be back behind the microphone again.
Within one month of being a part of “Health Hacks,” Kevin approached me again and asked if I wanted to host my own podcast show because my segments were dominating the format. The enthusiasm I had along with my broad layman’s knowledge of the subject matter impressed the powers-that-be so much that they gave me the green light to begin recording my own stand-alone show. Thus was born in October 2006 my new podcast — “The Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show with Jimmy Moore.”
The quality of the audio in those early days was a little rough, so we kept tweaking it until it was as perfect as it could be. And I used many of my previous blog posts to come up with content to talk about for the show. Around mid-2007, I got the idea while attending an obesity conference to conduct interviews with the recording software on my computer. While I’d never done an interview format before, it felt normal almost immediately. Of course, it’s gotten even more comfortable the more I’ve done it in the years since.
Did it feel strange, getting in touch with top-notch researchers and asking them to appear on your show? Were they generally nice, not so nice, or … ?
You know, I didn’t even think about how awkward it might be to contact some of these big boys asking for an interview. And, actually, my very first interview guest was none other than low-fat diet guru Dr. Dean Ornish. I had been pursuing an interview with him for my blog during the summer of 2006 and we kept exchanging e-mails back and forth until we finally made it happen via telephone in October 2007. I recorded it so I could later transcribe the interview at my blog, but I did eventually release that rough audio on my podcast about a year later.
The contacts I had made at these Nutrition & Metabolism, American Society of Bariatric Physicians, and other such conferences were absolute gold. Once I interviewed someone, then they would put in a good word with their colleagues about coming on my show next. After a while, some guests would contact me first asking if I would like an interview. But I do put in a lot of time and effort finding a wide variety of guests, including scientists, doctors, weight loss successes, researchers, and even people who disagree with the low-carb point of view. Most are generally very nice and professional towards me because that’s the way I treat them.
In the three-year history of the podcast, only two people have turned down my request for an interview: Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a pro-vegetarian author of a book called Eat to Live, and Dr. Al Sears, famous low-carb expert featured in your documentary film. I wanted Dr. Fuhrman to appear on my show to ask him about why he has participated in bashing Dr. Atkins so much and to question his opposition to saturated fat. His gatekeeper said Dr. Furhman wouldn’t be coming on my show because I’m “just a lowly blogger.” As for Dr. Sears, he’s just an amazing wealth of information that would be a real treat for my devoted listeners. Maybe someday they’ll come around.
Any special upcoming guests you’d like announce ahead of time?
Hmmmm, let’s see. I’ve got Dr. Loren Cordain from The Paleo Diet coming up in late April, Dr. Brian Wansink, who wrote Mindless Eating, Sally Fallon from The Weston A. Price Foundation, Dr. Malcolm Kendrick of The Great Cholesterol Con fame, and Nina Planck, who has a new book on getting kids to eat real food.
I try to stay several months ahead of schedule with my podcasts so I can take a break every now and then from recording. I took most of the last two months off to write on my next book set to be released within a couple of months called STILL Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb: 21 Indelible Lessons From The First Five Years Of My Low-Carb Journey. I’m still writing on it, but most of it is done now. I’m booked just about every single day in the month of April and early May to cover my twice-weekly podcast through summertime.
How do you prepare for the podcast interviews? I’ve listened to them all for at least the past year, and I have yet to hear you run out questions.
Currently, “The Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show with Jimmy Moore” is ranked among the most-listened-to “Nutrition & Fitness” podcasts on iTunes, up there with Oprah’s Health podcast and others. I’m honored that so many people find my show appealing and I purposely format it to be more conversational in nature so it sounds like two friends are talking and everyone gets to eavesdrop in while they’re chatting. It’s so much better to listen to than a boring, robotic pre-set question and answer format. My head is constantly thinking of questions based on the answers I hear from the guests and I think that benefits the listeners more because I’m just a real guy asking questions that might be on my readers’ minds. I try to put myself in the shoes of the listeners and respond accordingly.
Have any particular podcasts generated an unusually positive or negative response from your audience?
Uh, yeah, you could say that. Back in 2007 I interviewed a lady known as “Kimmer,” who is the owner of a diet web site that shall remain unnamed. It was an exclusive 90-minute interview featuring this woman who claimed to lose 200 pounds on her own homemade low-carb diet. Hundreds upon hundreds of responses poured in, both pro and con, about her story — which we later found out to be made up by a 300-pounder from Corona, California after a private investigator exposed her scam with video proof. Let’s just say when you screw with people, your day is coming and she’s now facing a very serious class-action lawsuit for the harm she caused people putting them on a low-fat, low-carb starvation diet of less than 500 calories a day. This should serve as a solemn reminder that not everyone who lurks around the World Wide Web is as squeaky clean as you think!
What’s a typical workday for Jimmy Moore like?
Work? What’s that? Actually, as I previously stated, I work longer and harder now than I’ve ever worked in my entire life. The only difference is I get to do something I genuinely love. From the time I wake up until I go to bed, it’s pretty much doing something with the “Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb” brand. From researching new studies and low-carb news, contacting potential podcast guests, recording the interviews for my podcast, shooting and editing YouTube videos, writing on my new book, calling potential sponsors, checking my hundreds of daily e-mails, and, of course, blogging, it’s all quite overwhelming at times.
But I stay grounded in knowing that everything I do is making an impact on the life of someone else around the world. That’s what I keep reminding myself of whenever I feel an inkling that it isn’t worth doing anymore. As long as people need to hear the truth, I’m gonna keep giving it to them!
Do you ever wake up the morning and feel stumped for ideas? Do you ever turn to Christine and say, “I can’t think of anything to write about today!”
You know, I thought there would be a day I’d wake up and wonder what the heck I could write about — especially after four years of doing this. But, in all honesty, I’ve NEVER had that problem. Chalk it up to my dedication to research and some truly benevolent readers who send me stuff, I’m always loaded for bear every single day with stuff to write about. My problem is I have to chunk some good stuff or throw it all in together in one big news update post at times to catch up. That’s a nice problem to have, huh?
Does Christine help out with the Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb site?
Christine’s role is to help keep track of the financial end of Less of Moore, More or Less, LLC. She’s a voracious record-keeper and I’m happy to give her that role since I loathe it. You could say I’m the creative guy and she’s the organized one. Together we make a perfect couple and I couldn’t do what I do without her love and support.
I know many people have been inspired by your story. How often do you hear from them? What do they tell you?
Everyday I receive e-mails that simply say “thank you” in their own unique way. People talk about their low-carb journey, how they came across my blog, podcast or YouTube videos, how their weight and health has improved so dramatically, what their life was like before, and how they have such hope for the future now. Tom, you can’t put a price on the power of changed lives like this. It’s invigorating for me to know that I’m making such a difference in the lives of other people who are facing the same challenges that I did in 2004 during my weight loss. And these e-mails seem to come at the perfect time some days when I need a little pick-me-up to get me revved up again about livin’ la vida low-carb.
Do you ever hear from people who insist that low-carb diets are all hogwash? Do you get emails that say something like, “Hi, Jimmy. You’re a nut.” How do you respond to those?
Sad to say, but yes, this also comes with the territory. I’m even dedicating an entire chapter of my new book to these people called “When you put yourself out there, people will hate you.” Hiding behind a computer screen and sharing whatever is on your mind with a perfect stranger who happens to blogger seems to be the latest American pastime. Sometimes I find it rather humorous and blog about the crazy things people say to me just so my readers realize what I have to put up with sometimes. But you take the good with the bad and hopefully in the end it all evens out, even though it may not feel that way sometimes.
What’s the best part of your job? And what, if anything, is the worst part?
The worst part: not being able to blog as much as I’d like to because of all the things that I do. But that’s really not so bad since I’m able to expand the reach of my message. And having people doubt your sincerity and integrity about what you are doing. I make all my blogs, podcasts, and YouTube videos available for FREE to anyone who wants access to them, and yet some people complain that I’m a shyster only in this for the money. That has never made sense to me because I live my life as an open book with all the honesty I can possibly muster up.
The best part: getting to help people radically transform their lives for the better while supporting my family doing something I adore. Plus, getting to interview cool guests like Tom Naughton is pretty sensational, too!
Thanks, Jimmy, for spending some time with me. Now get back to that blog.
As I mentioned yesterday, Jimmy is sponsoring a “blogiversary” contest for his readers. He’ll be giving away over 100 prizes, including autographed copies of books by authors such as Gary Taubes, Dr. Jeff Volek, Dr. Keith Berkowitz, Judy Barnes Baker, Dr. Loren Cordain, Nina Planck, Fred Hahn, Jackie Eberstein, and many more. He will also be giving away five autographed DVD copies of “Fat Head.”