MF 384 : Writing series: Dr. Lori Shemek ("How to Fight FATflammation")
Updated: Jun 16
Dr. Lori Shemek joins me to talk about her work, raising awareness on issues of health, wellness, and problems related to stress and inflammation. You'll learn how these topics provide the through line for her books. More at www.bemovingforward.com.
Dr. Lori Shemek
Dr. Lori Shemek is a health coach, author, and nutritionist based in Dallas, Texas. She provides daily tips on health and diet on her podcast, and on social media. Growing up, she watched her mother experience many health difficulties. Sadly, her mother felt there was nothing she could do and that this was “her lot in life.” As Dr. Lori shares, it came down to making unhealthy choices, including poor diet, lack of exercise, all while being under chronic stress. Sadly, her mom passed away at the young age of 36, leaving three young children.
“I underscore choice because we all have choice.” -Dr. Lori
Lori’s reflection on her mom’s choices led her to her career calling of encouraging people to make better and healthier choices. She studied counseling psychology, earning a PhD. From there, she worked for a non-profit organization for 20 years, rising to the position of vice president. Throughout her work, she noticed that even small changes in diet led to big changes in overall health and wellbeing. Lori decided to “retire” from counseling, and went back to school to become a nutritionist and professional coach. Today, Dr. Lori runs her own company, and uses social media, including Twitter, IG, and a podcast to share information and actionable steps towards healthier choices.
“Little tiny choices have a powerful impact.” -Dr. Lori
Writing to fight inflammation
Dr. Lori’s work includes several books, with a particular focus on bringing awareness to a nationwide crisis of inflammation. As she shares, inflammation results in a lot of health problems, including stress-related complications that’s not talked about enough. While inflammation has gained more attention during the recent pandemic, Dr. Lori has been writing about this problem for many years. Her goal in writing books was to encourage better choices in the pursuit of optimizing health.
Her first book Fire Up Your Fat Burn focused on weight loss to attack the problem since many of her clients struggled with weight. From there, she published a book with HarperCollins called How to Fight FATflammation!, which included a three-week plan to reduce inflammation through diet. Her next two books addressed alleviating inflammation through intermittent fasting, and ketogenic dieting.
For a primer on inflammation, including the differences between acute vs. silent, its root causes, and more, check out the episode.
The journey to becoming a writer
Naturally, I was curious whether Dr. Lori always wanted to become a writer. Dr. Lori laughs as she explains she never intended or expected to become an author, much less write a series of books. In fact, once her first book was published, it was a “shock” to her that it actually happened.
“Are you kidding? Me write?” -Dr. Lori
This isn't false humility. Dr. Lori candidly reveals that she didn't feel good enough to be a writer. What got her over that self-doubt was a larger mission. As with her website, short form writing, social media content, and podcasts, books were another tool to communicate and educate the public on problems related to inflammation. Her intent, which is the foundation all of her content creation, is to help as many people as she could. Dr. Lori's first book resonated and encouraged by that early success, she realized this was a great way to reach far more people than she could see in person. Further, now that she had one book under her belt, she had the confidence to write another and improve as a writer.
“And then I realized, ‘You know, I could probably get better at this.’” -Dr. Lori
In speaking with Dr. Lori, it’s clear that becoming a writer wasn’t in her plan nor was this about fulfilling a “bucket list goal” but rather to further her mission of teaching and encouraging healthier choices.
“I strove to help people by writing books.” -Dr. Lori
Dr. Lori’s books aren’t just doctrinal explanations about the science or root causes of inflammation. It’s a fully interactive, immersive experience, teaching people to adopt better habits as it relates to diet and exercise. According to her, the key to writing this style of book is looking at the subject from the point of view of the reader or intended audience. (For more on interactive books see MF 379 with Dr. G.)
“You have to read write it from their [the readers’] perspective.” -Dr. Lori
As Dr. Lori illustrates, once you put yourself in your reader’s eyes, the layout becomes a logical flow of education, information, and lifestyle or habit prescription.
She also shares that before writing books, she gained experience writing articles. Short form pieces are a great way to get your writing chops. Once you graduate to a book, you can simply view it as writing a much longer article. To that, Dr. Lori shares a great mindset hack for writers transitioning from short form to long form works. Think of a book as writing a series of articles that connect. The connective tissue turns articles into "chapters," and eventually, you produce a book.
“If you just write say a 500 word article a day or every couple of days, then it gets done.” -Dr. Lori
(For more on short form pieces, see MF 377 with Rich Perry.)
As for the nuts and bolts, Dr. Lori starts with a title, followed by an outline. From the outline, she creates the table of contents. Structure is key to getting started and seeing it through to the end. Dr. Lori explains that coming up with a title early gives her more focus and is a promise to herself to finish it.
“So, the title, the outline, then the table of contents.” -Dr. Lori
With respect to time, Dr. Lori shares the secret is consistency more than set schedules. She is refreshingly candid that it’s hard to stick to set writing schedules while juggling so many responsibilities. When you're busy with a full itinerary, writing often “gets pushed aside.” To that end, she advises new writers to not beat themselves up if they don’t hit a daily goal of 1000 or 500 words. Consistency is more important so if you only get 250 words, you’ve accomplished something. Similarly, Dr. Lori doesn’t use hard deadlines to finish her books unless she is under contract with a publisher for a delivery date. For her, it’s the commitment to herself and the consistency of writing that ensures that a book will get done.
“I’m the kind of person if I know I have to do something, I will generally do it.” -Dr. Lori
She likens writing a book to making a deal with yourself and having the outlook of wanting to be someone who stays true to those commitments.
Dr. Lori is one of the few guests who has experienced both traditional and self-publishing. How to Fight FATflammation! was published by HarperCollins, while her other books were self-published. According to her, the pros of traditional publishing include professional editors, feedback, and marketing. The downside is that you give up control over much of the book, including rights and content. With self-publishing, you have complete control but must have a good handle on the marketing to be successful. (For more on the differences, see MF 379 with Dr. G.)
In the end, Dr. Lori prefers self-publishing as it works well with her schedule, workflow, and her preference for creative control.
“I like self-publishing. I also like traditional publishing. I think with self-publishing you have more freedom.” -Dr. Lori
For non-fiction books on a technical or scientific topic, Dr. Lori advises you start with short form pieces such as articles. This will allow you to experience the commitment and work required for a book but on a smaller scale.
“I think if they start out with articles first, that’s what I did, it will give you a sense of the writing factor, that commitment to writing a piece.” -Dr. Lori
From there, it’s all about making a commitment to write a book. Once you build up experience with short form pieces, you can see chapters as a series of “articles.” The key then is to commit to the writing itself, whether it’s 1000, 500, or 250 words.
Connect with Dr. Lori Shemek:
Watch the video of our conversation on Facebook:
Check out the Moving Forward mini-series collection
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