Tory Johnson enjoyed a highly successful career and happy family life. But there was one area of her life that caused anxiety, frustration, even shame. It was also the one thing that made Johnson, a motivational speaker and contributor to ABC’s “Good Morning America,” feel like a complete failure: her weight.
When a network executive told her, “I don’t think your clothing does you any favors,” Johnson heard something else: “Lose weight, or lose your job.”
Something clicked. Battling a lifetime of obesity, the 41-year-old who rotated through fad diets decided to finally lose the weight once and for all. It wasn’t so much about the diet, but what she put in her head (steely determination) that made the difference.
Losing weight isn’t about being good; it’s about being good to myself. Most diets work but it’s the mentality (lose the weight easily and quickly!) that fails us time and time again.
She calls her new mentality “the Shift.” And it worked. Johnson, who was obese but doesn’t reveal the number on the scale, lost 62 pounds in one year. She’s since lost 10 more.
It’s also the name of her book, “The Shift: How I Finally Lost Weight and Discovered a Happier Life” (Hyperion, $22.99). Released only a few weeks ago, the book is already on the New York Times Best Sellers List, and women across the country are joining shift clubs (www.shiftwithtory.com/clubs).
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution caught up with Johnson — who will do a book signing on Saturday at the C. Wonder store at Lenox Square.
Q: This is not a typical diet book. And you talk about what you put in your head matters more than what you put in your mouth. Will you talk more about that?
A: Initially, when I thought about writing the book, I was asked: “What’s the gimmick?” Every diet book has a gimmick. I said there is no gimmick. This is not a diet book, it’s not a temporary pause on bad behavior. This is very much a lifestyle change. When I looked back at how I did it, I realized I made a mental shift and truly committed myself to changing my mindset for a better life.
For the first time in my life (and I am a smart woman), I realized there is no pill or potion or plan that offers a quick fix. Nothing trumps patience and perseverance, and no one wants to hear it because we are desperate for a quick fix. The good news is over the long haul, patience and perseverance can lead to dramatic results.
To help me stay on track, one, was the clarity of my goal. It was the first time ever I was so fed up with being fat and so clearly determined to change that, I felt like nothing was going to get in my way. I was going to steamroll my way through this no matter what. The other one of the elements was having accountability. For me, that was weighing myself every day. I also kept old photographs of me, which at the time were current photographs. I didn’t want to have to see that double, triple chin.
Q: You talk about a simple, three-rule plan — and that you keep it with you in your purse. Please talk about the plan and do you still keep it?
A: I still have the card with three points, but it’s a little different than it was in the book.
It is now: 1. Eat a whole lot less. 2. Choose smarter. 3. Move more.
In the book, I talk about restricting carbs. I am not a doctor or a nutritionist. I am an ordinary person and this is what worked for me. But really, it’s about choosing smarter foods. I stopped drinking soda, not even diet soda. I look at the nutritional labels before I eat something. I really want to be able to pronounce the ingredients.
The third one — move more — was pretty easy because I was not moving at all. … I hated exercise, but instead of having to start exercising 30 minutes a day, I started with five minutes a day. If someone says ‘exercise for 45 minutes,’ you can say you are busy. But it’s really hard to argue you don’t have five minutes. And then it was well, if I can do five minutes, I can do 10. I now meet with a gym trainer once a week and do the treadmill. I exercise daily anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes.
Q: For so long, your diet was quite restrictive. You carefully avoided eating all junk food and sweets like cakes and pies, even on birthdays and holidays. Now that you’ve lost more than 70 pounds, do you eat more treats in moderation?
A: My birthday was last month and I didn’t eat cake. It doesn’t hold the same excitement for me it once did. Maybe Easter will be a different story when I see those Cadbury eggs. But now, I could eat two little eggs and stop. But in general, I really don’t. My interest has waned. And why even tempt myself? I truly believe in no cheat days. Every diet says on the seventh day you can reward yourself with eating whatever you want. Rewarding a food addict with food is akin to celebrating a month without alcohol by giving the person a beer. People say you have to enjoy yourself in moderation. But, for food addicts, if we could handle food in moderation, we wouldn’t be fat and have to diet.
Q: You talk about how being overweight stopped you from going to the doctor for many years. You said you didn’t want to step on the scale and be lectured by a doctor about your weight. You are now slimmer, more confident and healthier. At the end of the book, you talk about your decision to have your first checkup in many years. How did it go?
A: Earlier this year, for the first time in 10 years, I got a physical and first mammogram. I had a great marriage, great kids, a career and business which has brought me tons of happiness. But avoiding the doctor for so long also brought shame.
Not going was in the back of my mind. You worry: Is everything OK? … I must tell you to hear the doctor say you are totally healthy, keep it up was one of the happiest moments ever.
Tory Johnson’s book “The Shift: How I Finally Lost Weight and Discovered a Happier Life” is clicking with women across the nation. Here’s some advice from Johnson and her book:
- Weigh yourself daily. If I’m up, I’m more determined. If I’m down, I’m more motivated.
- Pause before giving in to temptation. Ask yourself, “Preference or priority?” Sure I’d prefer a cupcake, but my preference is to lose weight. By pausing for a few seconds to reflect on that choice, I usually make the right decision.
- Read nutritional labels or check an app. Paying attention to these details enables me to make smart food choices.
- If tempted to binge, grab nail polish. Yup, applying clear top coat has saved me from countless calories. You can’t stick wet nails into a bag of chips.
- Keep safe snacks on hand. Sour pickles. Smoked salmon and cream cheese pinwheels. Celery and a tablespoon of peanut butter. Hail Merry two-pack choco macaroons.
- Put old photos on display. Some people are motivated by looking at supermodels in bikinis. For me, there’s nothing like dozens of pictures of my (former) triple chin to stay the course.
- No “cheat” days. Rewarding a week of healthy eating with cake and cookies is akin to an alcoholic celebrating a month of sobriety with a few beers. It doesn’t work. But if you slip, get back on track instantly. Day One can always be right now.
Are you ready to make the “Shift”?
1. How fed up are you, really?
When the pain and possible penalty of being fat outweighed the likely pain of changing, I knew I was ready to “Shift.”
2. What are you willing to give up?
For the “Shift” to work, nothing can be more important than tackling your goal. It’s an all-or-nothing deal, hard as it sounds. And it is hard, but it becomes easier with time. I gave up various foods, I finally started to exercise and I made lifestyle changes. For example, I regrettably didn’t go to a movie for a year because the thought of being around that buttered popcorn, but not eating it, seemed more torturous than simply staying home.
3. What’s your plan?
There’s no winging it when it comes to making any significant life change. Spell out clear, concise rules to eliminate any ambiguity. For me, cutting carbs was a big one. No cheat days was another.
4. What’s your daily accountability?
It’s easy to slip when no one is looking. Daily weigh-ins and a Nike Fuel Band to monitor my movement still keep me on track. Photos help, too.
5. How will you embrace patience and celebrate victories?
Whenever I tried to lose weight, I’d always give up, because I was too impatient. I wanted instant results. I view the “Shift” not as a diet but as a journey that’s going to take time. My rewards are inedible — lighting a candle, an iTunes song, smaller-size clothing.
Tory Johnson. “The Shift: How I Finally Lost Weight and Discovered a Happier Life.” 2-4 p.m. Saturday. C. Wonder, Lenox Square, 3393 Peachtree Road N.E., Atlanta. 404-816-3847.