Kat James, the author of the recently published book The Truth about Beauty: Transform Your Looks and Your Life from the Inside Out, knows a thing or two about external beauty. After dropping out of college, she enrolled in beauty school and eventually moved to New York City from Michigan. She quickly developed a career as a top makeup artist, helping supermodels, television personalities and celebs look perfect for TV and photo spreads. Her past and present celebrity clients include Kyra Sedgwick, Leanne Rimes, Kevin Bacon, Kate Hudson, Daisy Fuentes and Sarah Jessica Parker. She has made appearances on Geraldo, Gordon Elliot, NBC Weekend Today, The Discovery Channel and ABC’s The Main Floor. Her beauty tips have been featured in Marie Claire, In Style, Self and Glamour. Despite her success, James felt terrible about herself and spent hours a day doing her own hair and makeup to draw attention away from her weight and skin problems.
These days, at age 37, James is slim and boasts beautiful skin—even without makeup. She has the type of body that people spend hours at the gym trying to get, with the type of smooth, blemish-free skin that people think you need Botox and chemical peels to achieve. But James doesn’t follow an exercise regimen or get weekly $500 facial treatments. Instead, the beauty secrets she shares in her book focus on eating well, adding supplements and “shedding” toxic junk from your diet and cosmetics cabinet.
James’ book lays out easy-to-follow steps to improving your looks through health, but the way James arrived at these remedies was far from easy. In fact, it took a life-threatening illness for James to start taking care of her health—dropping from a size 18 to a six and getting great skin were mere external side effects of her new attention to what went inside her body.
James had suffered from bulimia for years, crash dieting and bingeing constantly. When she was 24, she began to suffer from fatigue, heart palpitations and blurry vision. When she began to pass undigested food, she finally saw a doctor who told her she had pre-diabetic symptoms and a severely inflamed liver. Suddenly she wasn’t concerned that her body was too fat—she was concerned about her body functioning at all.
Panicked about her health, James read up on alternative medicine and began taking milk thistle. Within two months her liver enzymes had dropped from 500 to a normal 35. Even though her doctor was convinced that her recovery was a fluke—not the result of the milk thistle—the possibility that alternative medicine could have cured her was intriguing.
She continued researching alternative healing and health food and started taking supplements to normalize her blood sugar. Soon her cravings began to subside. Her skin, which had been itchy, extremely dry and inflamed for years, no longer required creams and lotions—a change James attributes to the essential fatty acid supplements she was taking for her liver. She added supplements to improve her mood and metabolism and began to feel better overall.
Despite all of the health benefits she was experiencing, James continued to binge, though less frequently. And she was bingeing on things like whole-grain bread and nut butter instead of diet soda and packaged, hydrogenated snacks. Finally, after a night of bingeing and writing in her journal, James decided to give herself “permission to fail” and let go of all of her “when-I-get-thin” goals. In The Truth about Beauty, she describes feeling “an outpouring of love and sadness from my heart to my body.” She says from that point on she never binged again.
Soon after that revelation, James began to lose weight—over the course of three years she dropped down to her current size six, without exercising or dieting, and without the deprivation associated with so many of the no-fat, no-pleasure diets she had been on over the years. Beyond emotionally confronting her eating disorder, James believes that through her new “real foods” diet and the use of supplements, she had regained a healthy body chemistry and metabolism, and had conquered her addiction to sugar. “In most cases of drastic weight loss, the food obsession remains strong, though suppressed, along with a frantic fear of missing workouts,” says James. “My entire body chemistry changed and that is why I do not have to rely on willpower or obsessive damage-control measures.”
James looked great, she felt great, and she was angry. “I was so discouraged always hearing the same things: Americans are lazy, like their food and that’s why they’re like they are,” she says. “I believe we’re that way because our chemistry has gotten screwed up. We’re not even given the chance to walk down the street without having some kind of thing we’re addicted to thrust in our face. It’s really not because we’re gluttonous and lazy.” She wanted to know why the alternative remedies that had helped her so much had been almost completely passed over in TV health segments and government-funded research. “I wanted to know why information with the potential to help so many people was not being talked about,” she writes in The Truth about Beauty. “Why did I have to go through what I did, risk my health, waste my disposable income and forfeit my quality of life if there existed proven therapies or therapies with potential rewards that could at least be tried without risk of detrimental side effects?”