Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Lisa Tsakos, Co-Author of Unjunk Your Junk Food

1)      Please tell us about your background and profession.

After years of struggling with my weight, I discovered the principles of natural nutrition and my life changed overnight. Within a year I lost weight (close to 50 pounds) and returned to school to study holistic nutrition – it was the only eating style I resonated with and could stick to. Since graduating in 1997, I’ve taught nutrition at many different schools and have been in private practice throughout.

2) What is Nu-Vitality Health and Wellness?  
Nu-Vitality (http://www.Nu-Vitality.com) provides seminars, weight management programs and healthy eating programs to corporations and non-profit organizations. We educate employees about adapting healthier eating habits (for example, eating on the run, managing stress with diet, and coping with stress). The Programs have been presented to over 100 companies across the country. 

3) What is NaturallySavvy.com? What is your role as a contributor to this site?

Naturally Savvy (http://www.NaturallySavvy.com) is a tremendous web resource for organic, natural, and green living, covering all aspects of one’s lifestyle including nutrition, beauty and personal care, pregnancy and parenting, pet care, fitness, and reducing your carbon footprint (recycling, upcycling, composting, etc.). The website also features product reviews of naturally-made foods and products and offers visitors to the site the opportunity to sample products via our Savvy Sampler Program. Several years ago I partnered with the website’s co-founders, Andrea Donsky and Randy Boyer as their Chief Nutrition Expert.

4) Describe your journey as an author. What led you to co-write Unjunk Your Junk Food?

Andrea, Randy, and I wanted to write a book that reflected www.NaturallySavvy.com. Comparing junk food and explaining food additives was Andrea’s idea, and as we worked on our book proposal, the format just started to fall into place. Randy was the `product expert`, determining which products – both the conventional and their naturally-made equivalents – to compare. As the nutrition expert on the book, my task was to scrutinize and define each ingredient and to explain how we came up with our `Savvy Picks`. It was very much a team effort.

5) How did you go about getting it published?

I’ve written text books and have self-published a cookbook, but going through a major publisher was a completely different experience. Andrea and I spent an entire summer writing a book proposal. We hired a literary agent to help shop the book around to various publishers and we were thrilled to be signed by Gallery Books, Simon & Schuster, New York. Once signed, we assembled a solid team of researchers, fact checkers, editors, photographers and graphic designers to help us put the book together. It was a two year project that involved an enormous amount of time, research, and money, but we`re extremely pleased with the outcome.

6) What can readers expect to learn from Unjunk Your Junk Food? Where can they buy it?

Unjunk Your Junk Food is a resource that teaches about the dangers of artificial additives. We like to say that we’re starting an ‘edible (r)evolution’ because our objective is to draw attention to the ingredients list on a food package. The Nutrition Facts panel – the calories, fat, etc., provides important information, of course, but it doesn’t matter if a food is low in fat or calories if it’s full of unhealthy and potentially dangerous ingredients, such as trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and flavors, and preservatives. The book includes a ‘Worst Ingredients’ pull-out list that charts the ‘red flag’ and ‘yellow flag’ ingredients to watch out for when you’re shopping for groceries. It’s also full of useful suggestions – or ‘Savvy Tips’ - for improving diet, health, and energy (for example, “Treats are best eaten early in the day so that you have all day to work off the extra calories. Treats eaten at night are just a recipe for weight gain.”), as well as food trivia and a detailed Glossary that can be used to evaluate the quality of all of the foods in your cupboards. Unjunk Your Junk Food is available from all the major book sellers including Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Target, Walmart, and at Indigo in Canada.

7) How have you promoted your book? What strategies have been the most effective?

We sought advice about promoting a book prior to its release and what we heard again and again was that it’s the author who ultimately creates sales, but our publisher is certainly doing its part.  We planned our marketing approach and set aside funds to promote the book well before it came out. We’re promoting Unjunk Your Junk Food a number of ways:  
·         Social media has been very effective primarily because Naturally Savvy already had a strong following;
·         We hired a public relations company to arrange media appearances across the U.S. and Canada as well as radio and magazine interviews. While on tour, we visit area bookstores to meet the staff and sign books;
·         We are three authors with our own professional connections. We made sure to reach out to our industry contacts (and of course, our personal contacts).
It`s still too early to tell which approach has been the most effective.  

8) What advice would you give to first-time non-fiction authors?

·         Be passionate about your ideas: Writing a book is an enormous undertaking, and the amount of time you’ll devote to the project is far greater than you expect, at least it was for us. If you have other commitments, especially a family, make sure you have their full support - you’ll need it!
·         Be firm about your concept: Each publisher we met with liked our general concept but had their own ideas of what the book should look like. Had we gone with another publisher we would have produced a very different book. We were fortunate to find a publisher who loved our idea as much as we did.  
·         Hire a literary agent to shop your book around to publishers. An agent can open doors that you may not be able to open yourself.  

9) What is your definition of success as a writer and entrepreneur?

Obviously we’d love for the book to make its way onto a ‘best sellers’ list, but it’s the reactions we get from readers who are excited about what they’re learning from Unjunk Your Junk Food that is the most satisfying. Having been in business for myself since 1997, the opportunity to be part of a new and exciting project, enhancing my knowledge (about nutrition, publishing, the editing process – all of it), and the doors that are already opening as a result of writing Unjunk – whether the book translates into dollars or not doesn’t even matter.    

10) What is next for you in 2012?

My second baby is due in April, and a follow-up book to Unjunk Your Junk Food is already in the works.

About the Author
Lisa Tsakos is a nationally-recognized nutritionist and educator specializing in weight management and corporate nutrition programs. 

Lisa has been teaching nutrition at various colleges in Ontario since 1998; however, most of her time over the past 15 years has been dedicated to corporate nutrition - presenting seminars and her Nu-Vitality Healthy Weight Program™ at over 100 organizations across Canada. Offered at the Toronto Police Service, the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Telus Mobility, the University Health Network and many others, the Program has helped employees at organizations across Canada lose thousands of pounds.

Lisa has been featured on the Discovery Channel, Wylde on Health, numerous radio programs and is a contributor to various websites, including NaturallySavvy.com, The Healthy Shopper, and The Huffington Post Canada (blog). Her articles have appeared in various magazines and newspapers around the world.

Additionally, she has taught natural food cooking workshops and authored two books before co-writing Unjunk Your Junk Food: Healthy Alternatives to Conventional Snacks (Simon & Schuster, December 2011). 

Lisa’s current favourite pastimes include creating tasty, gluten-free meals for her daughter and working on her personal blog, http://lisatsakos.blogspot.com.

A few of Lisa’s Articles:

Lose Weight, Look Great. Weight Loss Tips for Summer: http://www.fox8.com/news/wjw-sns-health-look-great-this-summer,0,2540242.story

Passover and Easter Meals Made Healthy: http://www.torontosun.com/life/eat/2011/04/13/17977856.html

Fiber Supplements & Sugar Alternatives: http://menshealth.uniquegreatproducts.com/?tag=savvy

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