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Shift for Good
How I Figured It Out and Feel Better Than Ever
By Tory Johnson
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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around September 15, 2015. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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Tory’s practical and intimate new book–filled with specific tips and encouragement–will inspire readers to Shift every day, in every way!
Table of Contents
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I had battled obesity since childhood, a secret shame that haunted me.
As a regular on Good Morning America, my biggest fear was being called out about my weight. So three years ago, when my ABC News boss said she didn't think I looked my best and wanted me to see a stylist, what I heard was lose weight—or lose your job. Those words never crossed her lips, but that's the message I got loud and clear. Although it was brief, I couldn't wait for our little chat to end. When it was up, I managed to dash from the ABC cafeteria before bursting into tears.
After a good cry at home, I had an honest conversation with myself about my forty-year battle of the bulge. Enough is enough, I thought. It's time to lose weight once and for all. No more gimmicks. No more lies. No more excuses. You're a smart girl. Figure it out.
But my initial bravado aside, I didn't have a clue how to do it. What I did know was that failure was no longer an option, like it had been so many times before. My job was on the line and I was not going to risk a high-profile TV gig simply because of my size. I knew I could fix this, despite having failed at every weight-loss plan ever invented. I told myself: You cannot sentence yourself to a lifetime of whispers: "Tory was good on Good Morning America, but they got rid of her because she's fat."
Besides, I needed to keep my job. Because I was the breadwinner in my family, the salary mattered. But I was also tired of the withering looks that all fat people get—the stares that say you're lazy, weak, and undisciplined. I would prove to everyone that I was none of those things and that what they saw on the outside hardly mirrored the strength I had on the inside.
That's exactly what I did.
Over the course of just one year, armed with a game plan, plenty of support from my family, and grit that I never knew I had, I did the unthinkable: I lost sixty-two pounds—the equivalent, as my son Jake puts it, of two Marlys, our thirty-pound beagle. How did I do it? For the first time, I shifted the way I viewed food—and myself. My story recounting that journey became The Shift, a book that resonated with thousands of women who had struggled forever with their weight. The best part? I haven't gained any of it back. In fact, I've shed a few more pounds. For me, there is no going back, just like a smoker or drinker who decides, finally, that enough is enough.
The response from readers has been my greatest gift: Women email me, stop me on the street, and corner me in shopping malls, supermarkets, and department stores to tell me that my story is their story and we must be sisters from another mother. Why is it, they ask, that so many diet books offer false hope and gimmicks instead of straight talk? They thank me for sharing a struggle that had always humiliated me—an uncomfortable topic that I never expected to share publicly. They say that reading about my challenges gave them the courage to make shifts in their lives, too.
After my Shift, I felt better about myself than I ever had before. I went to my doctor after avoiding having a physical for more than ten years because I hadn't wanted to be lectured about my size. Dressing rooms were no longer frustration destinations but places to explore the new me with clothes I had never thought would fit. I was a better role model for my kids, especially my teenage daughter, Emma. I embraced exercise, had more energy and enjoyed better sex, and became confident about my appearance for the first time ever. I genuinely valued all of the empowering things that came from losing weight.
But I also expected something more to happen.
I couldn't quite articulate what that was, but let me ask you this: Have you ever accomplished a goal only to discover, after all is said and done, that you feel empty? I had always thought if only I could lose weight, everything in my life would be perfect. I pretty quickly discovered that life doesn't work that way. Tackle one area and other stuff pops up. That's just the way life is, one big game of Whac-A-Mole. I didn't expect it, but that's what happened. I began to realize that I had attributed all the challenges in my life to being overweight and had convinced myself that once my weight was under control everything would be perfect. In some ways, everything did feel perfect—for a while. But before long my life began to unravel, or at least that's how it seemed. I had Shifted on the outside—and yes, on the inside too—but looking back, I wasn't really any different on the inside. I think I expected the whole world to stand up and take notice. I wanted some huge prize for losing the weight. Not a Mirror Ball Trophy from Dancing with the Stars or a rose from The Bachelor. But something big. I figured I'd know it when it hit me. Then I waited and waited, but no prize arrived. No chariot pulled up with my reward. Rainbows and unicorns did not appear in the sky and neither did shooting stars and fireworks. Hope and expectation turned to disappointment and restlessness, which puzzled me because I had expected nothing but blue skies from now on. I was no longer obese, so why wasn't everything perfect? Why wasn't I so much happier?
Now, don't get me wrong. I lost all this weight and I continue to be thrilled with the results. I'm happy that I did it my way, that my willpower and determination paid off and that I didn't revert to old habits. But looking back, I put too much emphasis on the fictitious notion that a lower number on a scale would fix everything. If only I could lose forty, fifty pounds, I would get the recognition I deserved, phenomenal job opportunities would open up, motivational speaking engagements would pour in, and I'd be a kinder, gentler, less stressed-out version of Tory Johnson. Instead, I discovered that weight loss alone is not the be-all and end-all; size does not determine inner happiness. That was a massive letdown. I was clearly in a funk and I needed to figure out how to feel as good on the inside as I did on the outside. I wanted to experience the kind of inner satisfaction and contentment that couldn't be measured in numbers. I wanted to Shift the way I viewed and lived other parts of my life with the same determination I had used to lose weight.
I wanted to Shift for Good.
But that's easier said than done because Shifting the way you approach your life—and the way you feel about yourself, way down deep inside—is far different from Shifting the way you eat. I wasn't sure how I'd tackle it. I didn't have the luxury of taking a year off to travel—I can't even remember my last two-week vacation—and I certainly couldn't skip off to a Zen monastery to find myself. And while my curiosity is piqued when people ditch corporate careers to head to Caribbean islands to bartend on a beach, I have no interest in abandoning my life or the people in it.
I wasn't about to pack my bags, but I did want to explore this whole mind-body connection with the goal of becoming more content and even more familiar with who I am. My experiments in search of contentment had to be realistic for a working mom, a busy girl on the go, and they needed to be cost-effective. Low-or no-cost would be even better: I'm not known as the "Deals & Steals" lady on Good Morning America for nothing.
I wanted to build what I think is best described as a portable sense of self-esteem, one that would stay with me wherever I went, so that no matter what issues I faced, I wouldn't get rattled. My goal was to find ways to make me feel good about myself, the right tools and tactics to face challenges like job loss, financial hits, aging spouse, empty nest, or death, to name a few. I was desperate to calm the incessant chaos inside me. I yearned to be happy and healthy, inside and out.
So for the second time in my life, I had an honest conversation with myself. Enough is enough, I thought. No more gimmicks. No more lies. No more excuses. You're a smart girl. Figure it out.
And I did. I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried a bunch of new things with the same grit and determination that had served me well during my initial Shift. This time, I focused on what was happening on the inside, with an eye toward rethinking and re-imagining myself and how I wanted to lead my life going forward. Shift for Good is the story of how I learned to ride more waves instead of crashing onto the rocks—and how you can, too.
The Shift was a pretty straightforward journey for me: I went from fat to (fairly) fit. Initially I wrote that I had gone from "fat to fit," but changed it to include "fairly" because, truth by told, I am a work in progress. My friend Linda chastised me because we're all works in progress and that doesn't mean we can't celebrate who we are and our accomplishments, at this very moment, without apology or caveats. I will try to keep that reminder front and center.
Shift for Good takes a more circuitous path, and I experienced some hiccups along the way. Being more present, finding peace and joy and sharing them with people I love, continue to evolve. Appearing on Good Morning America each week makes me a familiar face to viewers. But I'm not a self-help guru, psychologist, or shrink. I'm just a woman with a happy family and a good career who found herself in a jam and needed to find a way out. As I did in The Shift, I embarked on a mission to figure it out for myself. In the following pages, I share candidly what I did. It's up to you to decide which parts might work for you. All I ask is that you keep an open mind, which is the one promise I made to myself going into this.
A NEW ME
Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.
On Cloud Nine in the Land of Oz
It's October 22, 2013, a month after The Shift has hit bookstores, making its debut at No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list—the Big Daddy of book charts and the dream of every author. What I'm about to do feels so good: I'm standing in the studios of Dr. Oz, ready to be introduced for a live segment. I'm wearing a size 6 cornflower blue J.Crew dress, a dramatic change from the size 16 pants that once dominated my bedroom closet without a single dress on any hanger. As a regular on Good Morning America, I know TV really well, but I'm blown away that I'm about to talk to Dr. Mehmet Oz, America's doctor. I'm very nervous.
I dreamed about this moment on the pages of The Shift, but now it's really happening. Because I've been The Fat Girl my entire life, my personal accomplishment coupled with the book's strong launch is a much-needed blast of sunshine. I feel like Sally Field when she accepted the Oscar for the 1984 movie Places in the Heart: "You like me! Right now, you like me!"
Barbara Fedida is here to cheer me on. She's the ABC News executive who started all this in the ABC cafeteria by suggesting that I see a stylist, which I instantly interpreted as lose weight or else. At a book party that she and the Good Morning America anchors threw for me at her East Side apartment days earlier, I described Barbara as The Velvet Dagger. She stuck it to me smoothly about my weight, just enough to start me on my healthy living path. "She told me what I needed to hear," I said with tears in my eyes to a room full of ABC News colleagues who had come to congratulate me. "Without Barbara I would never have made my Shift." I meant it. Had it not been for her, I would have continued to ignore my weight and find more excuses for not making the effort.
Judging from the emails I get from women all over the world who read my story, I struck a common chord in The Shift. Nakia, an overweight Pennsylvania mom with a special-needs daughter and son, read the book the day it came out and writes to me weekly to share her progress. "I hope you don't mind the intrusion," her first email said, "but I'm praying that continuing to talk to you will make me more accountable."
"It was a rough week at home, but a great one on the scale," Nakia said in her latest report. "I'm down two more pounds and I'm so proud that I am doing this for me." This is a big breakthrough for my pen pal; prior to reading The Shift, she says, she devoted so much time to caring for her kids that she left no time for herself.
I'm flattered that Nakia and many other women are Shifting with me, because I never intended to write this book. My weight has always been my hidden shame, my secret demon, something that I reserved for private conversations with my mom but nobody else—not even my closest friends. I hid my body under loose-fitting black clothes, always embarrassed by my size. I felt very uncomfortable being naked at any time, even in the dark with Peter, my husband. If anyone outside my tight circle wanted to engage me in any sort of healthy living stuff, I quickly changed the subject.
Six months into my Shift, Good Morning America weatherman Sam Champion turned to me during a segment and out of the blue asked, "Do I see a slimmer Tory Johnson?" I was stunned at his impromptu remark because this was my confidential challenge—I had shared no details of what I was doing to lose weight except with my immediate family. I couldn't wait for a commercial break. But over the next few days I got hundreds of comments from women who wanted to know, "How did you lose all the weight?" Initially I wrote back with general guidelines, but when the queries didn't stop, I decided that perhaps my story might also help others.
That's when I decided to share my journey.
I know that women are perpetually looking for ways to lose weight because I had been one of them. For my whole life, I was a textbook example of why diet secrets grace the covers of supermarket tabloids in the checkout lines: I was so desperate to reduce my size that any fad diet headline, no matter how far-fetched, lured me. It's no wonder the diet industry pulls in $60 billion a year and why network morning shows and daytime talk shows feature every weight-loss story imaginable. Women crave the tips and true-life tales. I know this from experience because I tried so many of the diets without success.
I'd already written six books, but they dealt with finding jobs, working from home, and starting a business. This was a marked departure for me. I had no idea whether the story of how I finally shed weight by dramatically changing the way I viewed and consumed food would sell. I just knew I wanted to help other women facing the same demon. But I never imagined my story would resonate as much as it did, garnering extensive media coverage and candid feedback from scores of readers. I was stunned when Good Housekeeping excerpted The Shift in a multi-page spread and when editors at People magazine found my story inspiring. In a nod to Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, whose exploits are regular fodder in People, I quipped on Facebook, "Move over, Kimye!"
My lifelong battle with weight became a touching segment on Good Morning America, and after a very supportive Robin Roberts interviewed me, thousands of viewers reached out. I was flooded with long, detailed, and poignant emails from women across the country. When they said that my story was their story, it was something that no one had ever said to me. I began to feel a bond with women that I'd never experienced before—one that I found deeply gratifying and rewarding.
I felt an obligation to women like Nakia: while I had their backs by reading their emails and responding to them personally, I also sensed that they had mine, too. Putting my story out there was my insurance against ever gaining back the weight: with so many women watching me every week on TV, there was no way I could let them down after I showed them a path to healthy living. I took none of their attention or emails for granted because I felt their pain and knew exactly what they're going through. We were in it together.
That I actually lost the weight, had the courage to write about it, and ended up with a bestseller was as good a trifecta as I could imagine. That I'm now about to talk about it on national television with Dr. Oz is an over-the-top bonus that has me almost pinching myself to see if it's real, just like Dorothy when she finally meets the Wizard.
Before I walk out on the stage, a two-minute taped piece tells my background story. Then Dr. Oz greets me in front of the applauding audience of women as though I'm Cinderella, the belle of the ball. "You look fabulous," he whispers, twirling me around, but loud enough so that the microphone picks it up. I mean, come on, way to make a girl swoon. It gets better when the two of us sit down to talk.
"You look absolutely marvelous!" he says as we sit down. He recalls reading the book on a plane. "It is so honest—painfully honest."
His vote of support means so much to me. When I respond that he's in it, he asks me to read the passage out loud. I explain to the audience that in the early pages of The Shift, I described my anxiety over the coming journey and making it to the finish line. Opening the book to the passage, I begin to read: I envision myself on Dr. Oz's couch talking about my dramatic weight loss as women in the audience hang on my every word.
I'm not sure if someone hit the APPLAUSE sign, but boy do they cheer. I talk about how happy I am to finally see my physician and learn that I am healthy. Oz nods in agreement when I admit that I avoided a physical for more than a decade: "I was ashamed of my weight and desperately wanted to avoid a lecture about it." Oz says white coat fear is especially high among overweight women and that physicians are partially to blame.
"I know how much we (doctors) embarrass women by asking them to get on scales," Oz says. "I learned that since I began doing the show because I did not appreciate that beforehand. The reason women don't go to the doctor is they don't want to see the numbers."
For a man who has seen it all when it comes to diets and knows every gimmick out there, he is impressed by tricks he's never heard of, ones that I use when the urge to eat hits me. "Painting my nails with top coat is the perfect way to avoid mindless snacking: it's impossible to eat anything with wet nails and the time the polish takes to dry is just enough to let my hunger pangs pass," I tell him. "A garlic pickle or two has zero carbs and zero calories and curbs my craving to eat bad things. There's something about those salty suckers that does the trick."
I also talk about the power of a photo. "Some women hang up cutouts of Sports Illustrated supermodels in bathing suits to inspire them to lose weight, but I knew I'd never look like Kate Moss or have a model's figure, so I did the opposite. I hung unflattering photos of my face with multiple chins on the refrigerator and put one on the wall near my desk to remind myself that those images were far from my best self."
Before I know it the audience is applauding again. It's over. Oz gives me a peck on the cheek. Backstage, producers tell me it was a home run. My phone is lighting up with texts congratulating me on the appearance. I'm on Cloud Nine.
Few things feel as fabulous as finding your focus and knowing that you're on fire.
Losing My Shift
Liking those cupcakes, are you, Mommy?" my sixteen-year-old daughter, Emma, asks good-naturedly. She's about to lie on my bed and chat with me into the night, as she does so often. When I don't respond, she returns to her bedroom. I hear bits and pieces of her whispering to her twin brother, Jake: Mom… bad… mood. That doesn't begin to describe the darkness that envelops me right now, six months after my Dr. Oz lovefest.
I've wolfed down not one but two sugar-laden cupcakes, a treat from friends who spent the weekend with us. This is nervous eating-without-thinking-about-the-consequences behavior that has plagued me throughout my life. It is what made me fat. It always starts innocently enough: I take a dab of frosting and lick it off the tip of my finger. But then I take another dab and then another. Before I know it, I'm pulling back the paper and digging into the cake part. And then I do it all over again. It is something I haven't done, or even been tempted to do, since my Shift, when I swore off sweets.
Feeling sorry for myself after my cupcake gobble, I begin reviewing a laundry list of personal and professional woes that have cropped up in the few months since the glow of The Shift has dissipated. My Dr. Oz appearance is long gone. So are the book signings, media interviews, and Shift-related speeches that buoyed me through the end of 2013. The festivities are distant memories and the incredible high I got from all the hoopla has given way to the ho-hum of ordinary days, which now seem chock-full of challenge.
The run-up to The Shift's publication was an all-consuming process that left little time to focus on much else, including the core businesses I had started when my kids were babies. Then the rollout of the book sucked me in even more, right through to the extended victory lap. Nothing that lies ahead seems nearly as thrilling. I'm in a funk, which has triggered my little cupcake fest. It's the same mindless eating that I engaged in my whole life for comfort or escape, simply because it was an easy, pleasurable option.
It's natural to believe that when we do A and accomplish B, then we'll get C and be done. But more often than not, when we do A and accomplish B, unexpected things arise to delay C because, well, that's life and life is always an unpredictable journey. You think you'll (A) meet the right partner, (B) get married, and (C) live happily ever after. But after A and B, you're not really happy, because you want a baby. After years of trying, you give birth, but you're still not happy because you're forty pounds heavier and you can't seem to lose the weight. It's a whole lot harder than you thought it'd be. And you want more money. Your full-time job isn't nearly as exciting as it once was and you're desperate to find a better work-life balance with the baby and your spouse, too—the one you've been ignoring.
When I first Shifted, (A) I changed the way I viewed food and myself, and as a result (B) I lost a lot of weight, so (C) I expected to be happy forever. Game over. Yet here I am, a few months after the glow of The Shift has died down, by now a good seventy-plus pounds lighter but not a whole lot happier. In fact, I'm about to grab another cupcake.
My physical appearance has changed, but in many ways my life has stayed the same.
Emma's innocent teasing about the cupcakes jolts me back to reality. I cannot allow myself to ever return to the on-again/off-again eating treadmill because it's bound to end in disaster. I refuse to ever subject myself to stares from people who could see I had gained all the weight back. So, no more cupcakes for me.
Some of the zingers I got from women after I lost weight are still very fresh in my mind. No doubt they meant to be kind, but their comments came with an undercurrent of cruelty. One professional acquaintance, a small-business coach in central Florida who is obsessed with running and cycling, held me by both arms as she told me how happy she was for me: "I worried for so long because you had really let yourself go." A mommy blogger from Philadelphia congratulated me in an email by saying, "Since you're on TV, I'm sure you were ashamed of how you looked and now you don't have to be." I'm still not sure what these women meant to convey, but what came across, what I heard, was "Now that you're 'normal,' we can finally tell you the truth about how disgusted we were with the way you looked." I've let most of those insults slide off my back since I've won a great personal victory, but I do not forget them.
Now that the weight is gone, it occurs to me that there are more layers in my life that I need to peel off and address—and that makes me uneasy. The truth is, I've lost the weight but I haven't lost my Fat Girl mentality, with all the insecurities and poor mes that accompany it. My feelings haven't shifted in any real meaningful way. It's not that my life isn't good. I have great kids, a loving husband and a rewarding career. But after the high of my accomplishment, I feel let down and I'm not sure why. I guess I imagined that once I lost the weight, life would be perfect—and it's not. It's yet another wake-up call.
Like many women who struggle with weight, I am well aware of what it feels like to use food as comfort to dull the pain, to temporarily ease every problem. I cannot start bingeing on food again if I want to have any chance of creating lasting change in my life and facing whatever problems arise in a more sustainable manner. In other words, I want to Shift for Good—not slide backwards.
"Liking those cupcakes, are you, Mommy?" is all I needed to hear to know that I can't allow food to soothe my woes ever again.
Just because your body changes doesn't necessarily mean your life will, too.
Woe Is Me
After the Cupcake Incident, I should be pleased
- "What a joy to read! Shift for Good celebrates life, love, family and the simple successes that really make us happy. By sharing her journey, Tory Johnson reminds us not to let what's urgent drive out what's important. My dear friend also reminds us to laugh...a lot!"—Robin Roberts, Co-Anchor, Good Morning America
- On Sale
- Sep 15, 2015
- Page Count
- 240 pages
- Hachette Books