February 5, 2013

interview with the creator of 'skinnytinis'

Blogger's Note: Let's give a big Change the Word welcome to Teresa Marie Howes, creator of SkinnyTinis. After reviewing her book (read it here), and factoring in that I am a girl who likes to get her drink on, I was excited to have the opportunity to ask her a few questions. Enjoy!

Change the Word: How did you come up with the idea for this book?
Teresa Marie Howes: Every since I graduated from high school, I found myself naturally fascinated by health and wellness. I also grew up to be a goof ball of an adult who truly loves a night on the town with friends, a fine martini before dinner and a smorgasbord of cocktails when I’m on vacation. I’ve often touted, “I’m not drunk, I’m just awesome!” This was always balanced with a modestly healthy diet plan and a good deal of physical activity, as I am an avid runner. However, when I hit my thirties and I found myself on the beach in Antigua in December, I was so dissatisfied in my own skin, yet struggling with the burning vacation desire to always have a drink in my hand. For this trip, I opted to cut out ALL sugar from my drinks. This left me with few options as we were on a remote portion of the island. Then I discovered in my toiletry case a bottle of airborne. Mixed with 8 oz of water only had 5 calories and a delicious, tangy orange flavor – and VIOLA – the concept of SkinnyTinis was born!

Leveraging creative low calorie mixers and combining with high quality alcohol satisfied my vacation needs and kept me from growing in my bathing suit at the same time. When I got home, I found my ingenuity so impressive, I developed a slew of interesting drinks using zero calorie sweeteners, low calorie juices, sports drinks , spices, coffees, creamers, skim milk, rice milk, extracts – essentially anything low calorie I mixed up with booze and tested to see if it was tasty. These all commonly became known as SkinnyTinis amongst me and my friends.

At the time, nobody was talking about calories and alcohol – it was one or the other – all or nothing. The concept was so original I was prompted by friends, family, co-workers, strangers (essentially anybody who had a drink in their hand and a cared about their weight) to “write a book.” And so that’s exactly what I did. And to this day, SkinnyTinis will continue to exist as the first of its kind. The first tool that taught social drinkers how to enjoy all the fun of a delicious cocktail, but with 50 percent fewer calories!

CTW: What was the research process like?
TMH: It was a ton of fun, but also a lot of work. The most ironic thing about it really is that after a few hilariously entertaining, but essentially non-productive tasting parties, I learned that finalizing SkinnyTinis recipes wasn’t 100% party. There is some serious math and patience involved in perfecting a recipe. Not two things that come easy after a drinky or two. I’d find an ingredient or original recipe that was inspiring. Then I take a shot at subbing in my favorite Skinny ingredients. RARELY does it work out on the first shot so there is a lot of trial and error involved. But too much trial and error means all your tasters get toasted and everything tastes delicious! So often, I’d have to run the same recipe through various parties and move it up earlier in the order. People know now for the most part that this is some seriousness in the initial tasting, but if we make it through 2 cocktails and end up with great recipes, then we let the fun begin. But I’ve never been able to get more than 3 in a night. Because of the in-depth review and consideration that went into each SkinnyTini, I feel very confident all the recipes that were selected as finals!

CTW: What was the planning or outlining process like?
TMH: I had originally drafted my copy as “Skinny Cocktails, a Social Drinker’s Guide to Weight Management” and it was initially much longer and included a lot of information about weight loss in general along with some alcohol metabolism information. After an initial round of agent rejection letters, I got one from a gal who said she would reconsider it if I could double my content to make it a sufficient weight loss book. That’s when I realized I didn’t want to write a weight loss book, I just wanted to get my SkinnyTini recipes out there. So I chopped out the techy stuff and redirected the packets to culinary agents. I did leave a lot of the copy in on how to balance a party with a diet, because I think so many people struggle with the concept and because a good recipe book always has some good “bonus material” included. It was snapped up by a lovely gal Katie at Don Cogdon’s agency in New York who took over from there.

CTW: What was the biggest challenge?
TMH: Ummm…explaining to people that I’m not Bethany Frankle? Ha ha, but honestly, it was realizing that “tasting parties” aren’t real parties. There is a lot of insight and patience involved in perfecting a cocktail. If you invite too many tasters and serve up full cocktails, the evening is wasted from a recipe perfection standpoint. People know now for the most part that this is some seriousness in the initial tasting, but if we make it through 2 cocktails and end up with great recipes, then we let the fun begin. But I’ve never been able to get more than 3 in a night. But every step has proven to be harder than the prior. With the paperback release, my largest challenge is to continue to spread the word.

CTW: Which drink is your fave?
TMH: Nooo way to pick just one. I love so many and I’m such an occasion based drinker that it simply depends on what’s going on around me. But I’d say the Vanilla ChaiTini is remarkable and you’d never think it only has 150 calories. The Skinny Margarita is pretty impressive and I’d walk the plank on the promise that the Skinny Pina Colada and Strawberry Daiquiri are far better than their full sugar counterparts.

CTW: Any skinny hangover cures that keep me from eating pizza or bricks of cheese?
TMH: Yes – SKINNYTINIS. And I’m not kidding. It’s something about the low sugar content in the booze that lets you get a pretty good buzz on but wake up essentially hangover free. It’s weird and I don’t try to explain the science or prove it. But after about my 5th party where we clearly had lost count, I woke up feeling fine. To this day, if I need to be productive the next day I skip the beer and wine and make a SkinnyTini.

CTW: If Elizabeth Bennet was a cocktail, what would she be and why?
TMH: Well, call me crazy but I’m going with the Strawberry Cheesecake SkinnyTini. Only because if you think of Lizzy as an “intelligent young woman, with a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in anything ridiculous” well then it’s simply the best SkinnyTini to fit the description. It’s the oddest combination of ingredients I ever put together and to be honest, I thought I was ridiculous to even try. But with its soft shade of pink, sweet, but tart, fruity flavor – it works! Making it intelligent, lively and playful.

CTW: How about Mr. Darcy?
TMH: I just can’t imagine Mr. Darcy drinking a SkinnyTini. But I get a lovely image in my head when I do picture him standing in the background at a ball holding a fuchsia pink martini glass! I’d say he’d be like straight scotch or whisky – and that, by calories alone, not volume, is technically a SkinnyTini ;)

CTW: I dream of opening a bar/fitness facility that is part booze part exercise (I.e. beer + pilates = Beerlates). What boozercise would you add to the schedule?
TMH: Um, well as an avid runner I’d suggest some Rum-ing on the Tread-mule as those are combinations of some of my favs for sure ;) Or maybe a Martoga class and that could be yoga with a martini or margarita, yogi picks. Hilarious concept really, but in reality, I say work hard and play hard after. I think mixing booze with strenuous activity is a recipe to ruin your favorite shoes for sure.

CTW: Anything else you'd like to share?
TMH: Thank you for the fun questions! I do hope that you enjoyed the book and I do appreciate your help in getting the word out there. I spent time defining a target segment of the population that SkinnyTinis is right for. After a never ending list, I realized…SkinnyTinis is written for EVERYBODY weight and health conscious, yet enjoys a social cocktail on a regular basis. Male-female, gay-straight, married-single, educated-still figuring it out, kids-no kids, rich-budget conscious, busy-bored, skinny and trying to stay that way-not skinny and trying to get that way, 21-60++. Really ANYBODY that is smart, fancy, and enjoys a cocktail and is trying to make proactive decisions to positively impact their health. These may be crazy kids who live a fabulous lifestyle, filled with social calls and cocktails or stay at home moms who seek refuge from the chaos of their daily lives with the fellow mommy groups. Either way, cocktails are fun and fattening. Either way, we all consider whether or not to indulge in the cocktail that will put the perfect twist on the night ahead. Either way – we all win when we learn how to make and enjoy amazing cocktails for 50 percent fewer calories!

Author the Creator
Teresa Marie Howes is a health enthusiast, expert skinny mixologist, avid runner and published author. Backed with a formal education with degrees in both nutrition and business and over a decade of professional experience consulting in the weight loss industry, she certainly knows the “right” things to do when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. She is also well versed in the challenges that an active social and travel calendar can infringe on ones best efforts to do these “right” things. As it turns out, what’s “right” isn’t always “realistic” and that’s where her personal experience plays a key role. She has battled out the conflict of “right” and “realistic” in the bars, on the road and on vacation for 15+ years – and now in her mid-thirties and at a weight less than she weighed in high school, she’s feeling pretty confident in her strategies and is eager to share them!

Connect with Teresa

Take a look at the other stops on Teresa's tour here.

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