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Catching Up With...Bonnie Matthews

Bonnie Matthews is always cooking up something healthy!
Bonnie Matthews is always cooking up something healthy!
courtesy of Bonnie Matthews

Bonnie Matthews knows a thing or two about reinventing one’s self. A noted children's books illustrator who lost about 130 pounds on her own (no surgery), she's been a guest and now the “Wellness Warrior” blogger for the nationally syndicated "DR OZ" TV show, as well as a noted diet guru and burgeoning motivational speaker. Bonnie is also author of a Freekeh grain cookbook ("The Freekeh Cookbook") and informs me that she now two new books in the works looking at topics like grilling and gluten-free foods.

Bonnie also knows a thing or two about promotion, building a strong brand through both traditional and social media. How does she do it? Let’s find out…

Q: How would you describe your success in promoting your freekeh cookbook? How did you use this success to help expand your brand and your efforts to develop more cookbooks?

Marketing budgets for book publishers has nearly dried up - so publishers are relying heavily on what their authors can do to help promote and in this case even help pre-sell the books. Skyhorse Publishing, who's commissioned me to write and photograph the first book, "The Freekeh Cookbook," saw that I had a stronghold on Facebook and shared in the making of the first book with my fans. Because of this, that was a huge coo for their sales team to see good pre-order numbers; and to see that retail store buyers were very interested. I think too, since they know I'm a good partner in promoting the work on social media platforms such as Pinterest, Facebook and also just in the community doing local tv cooking segments - they see me as a good strategic partner to spearhead their new series "The Badass Cookbook Series." I think also with the fact that I'm sort of self taught, authentic renegade healthy cook; I'm sort of the anti chef if you will; and approach food as something to enjoy and also use as a tool for healthy living. They see this as a continuing trend. Hopefully with "The Badass Grilling Secrets" book I'll be able to bring a healthy slant and a feminine side to the grilling scene that's not been seen much! No bacon here, Dan! But I assure you it will be yummy!

Q: I notice you post on FACEBOOK quite often re: diet and fitness. How does your use of social media blend with the “traditional” to help you build your brand and sell your product?

There's a lot of great fitness trainers out there promoting exercise and tons of awesome folks promoting various types of dieting - like raw food diets, or limiting certain types of food, or vegan, or the latest juice craze. All have their place, but for me –

someone who's lost over 100 lbs not by dieting; but by making mindful shifts with healthier food choices and figuring out a way to still have a 40 hour a week job and find time to work out – I'm just your average woman. And I think that has merit and clout with a lot of readers on Facebook. Some folks who are struggling to drop 30, 50 or even 100 lbs may be very turned off by a fitness guru who's Facebook page is covered with photos of herself in a bikini drinking a weight loss shake for instance. I think that a lot of Facebook followers like my approach to weight loss and healthy living because I'm the underdog like them. I don't deny myself the pleasure of food - I allow myself to enjoy it; and welcome a way to prepare it and share it for long term healthy living - not for some 30 day fast fix diet to drop 8 lbs. And I think sharing my setbacks in my own health, with a few pounds gained here and there from not having my head on straight or from injuries..that is real life stuff that folks can appreciate. They see I'm real - like them. That I'm not some "skinny mini" but that "Health" comes in all ages, sizes and being fit and healthy doesn't' always mean wearing a bikini. Being authentic is key in this whole social media blend I believe. The second I start trying to "sell" a weight loss shake, I will lose all my readers; because they know that is not what I believe in! I believe in whole clean foods and preparing simple meals to make healthy changes for life. That ain't no pill or shake!

Q: You’re pretty much a “one woman band” when it comes to your promotion and marketing. What’s that like, taking that on, on your own, and what have you learned?

I started my Facebook page: Bonnie On Oz (Matthews) because the producers at The Dr. Oz Show saw that folks would want to be able to talk with me - so they made a link from my Oz blog on their site to my Facebook page. I really didn't know exactly how it was going to unfold - but it's been a really amazing community of sharing about exercise, fun, food and health in general - with a few of my cats thrown in to keep it real and playful! I have learned a lot in the process; like people seem to really like my photographs of what I'm preparing or making for a meal. They seem to really love when I share the recipes; and quite often later that day or the next day, low and behold a Facebook friend will post their photo of them making it - and tag me in the post! To me that is powerful! to actually have them deliberately going to the store to make a healthy recipe that I've shared - that's huge. Another thing that is super powerful is when I share a specific workout that I've done; and others will follow up and share that they too have tried it! Like intervals on atreadmill for example. It's incredible - that just through being authentic; and sharing; has an impact on people's lives. One of my Facebook friends has lost over 100 lbs simply doing some mindful shifts and lifestyle changes that she's embraced from my Facebook page along with some other things. It's awesome to see folks are getting healthy out there! That makes it all worthwhile! And when I share their before and after photos of their weight loss successes; that really resonates with people and encourages them to know that health is achievable and that others are doing it!

Q: What’s next for you? Do you have any thoughts regarding on how you’d like to expand your brand and gain more notoriety as a fitness/diet expert and author?

The next six months I'll be developing the recipes and photos for the two new books that will be released in 2015. But my goal now is to create a new health/everyday/food blog that will be an extention of my Facebook community; a hub that will house easy to call up recipes; and also a place to further engage the readers in the process of the behind the scenes "How to" of the creating of the recipes/photos for the 2 new books. I'm also hoping to be able to create some fun very casual "how to" cooking videos there so that folks at home can really start following some recipes way before the books even come out - let them have "ownership" of the content in some way as it unfolds.

Since moving to California a few months ago, I've aligned with the Live Fit Revolution (LFR), a 501c3 nonprofit that has free healthy lifestyle educational tools. My neighbor and friend Alysia Gadson, who's co-founder of LFR and I are developing some projects behind the scenes that we're hoping to be able to roll out and announce later this year! This new project will allow us to get out into communities nationwide and share up front and personal about how to cook, and how to make fitness a part of their lives. It's great to have a presence in cyberspace; but to be able to bring these tools to the public in person it makes it even more tangible. By videotaping some of these events and sharing them afterwards on social media; their reach and impact will be even higher than the initial event. I believe that the more people see "real" people in the community working out or discovering how to make a few healthy meals and share them with their family for the first time - that's got a lot of impact vs seeing some famous chef on a tv set preparing something that seems impossible for the typical American dinner table. There's a lot to be done, Dan, but I'm a hard worker with a lot of heart and determination….if this all pans out; I'm hoping that the books are just the vehicle to help me get more media attention and further my message of promoting healthy lifestyles…I have lots I want to do well beyond the books! I want to get America moving!

(note: Livefitrevolution.org has a free online nutrition program that is doctor approved. Once you create a free account, on the site; you will be able to unlock loads of cooking video content, recipes, workout videos and much more!)