By David Oliver
Tory Johnson had the perfect life. A husband, children, two successful businesses and a regular segment called “Deals & Steals” on “Good Morning America.” There was just one problem: her weight.
In the first chapter of her new book, “The Shift: How I Finally Lost Weight and Discovered a Happier Life” (Hyperion, $22.99), Johnson describes the conversation she had with her boss at ABC, Barbara Fedida, where it was suggested she lose a few pounds — though not outright. Specifically, Fedida said, “You don’t look as good as you could…I don’t think your clothing does you any favors.”
Instead of wallowing, Johnson made it her mission to make a “shift” in her life, one that would help her eventually lose 60 pounds. But what exactly was this “shift,” and how can readers make “shifts” of their own?
“I think that it’s a very personal process. People have to figure out why they are fed up with the way things are,” Johnson said. “Rather than simply complaining about something or expressing unhappiness you want to dig deep and find out…why you want to change this time and you weren’t willing before.”
Johnson, in addition to her weekly stints on Good Morning America, has two successful businesses: Women For Hire and Spark & Hustle, and she feels this personal journey has only helped her role at her current jobs.
“The biggest lesson I learned is patience and perseverance definitely pay off, and that’s definitely universal,” she said. “Change happens in small increments, and we are very impatient as a nation. If you want to get rich, just buy a lottery ticket. You want to get famous, try out for ‘American Idol.’ We’re very focused on the quickest way to get what we want…What happens is we give up too quickly.”
Potential readers should know that this is not the average self-help book, and that while Johnson’s story worked for her, readers will ultimately have to make the tough choices themselves.
“I think that we learn through example. We learn so many things through other people’s stories,” she said. “With this, it’s very revealing, very personal to allow readers to identify themselves in my story. The book’s been out for three days, and hundreds of people contacted me the first day, ‘I finished it in a few hours…I see myself in your story,’ ‘This makes sense to me, I get it, I’m ready to make a big change.’ That’s a very different experience than reading a how-to manual on something or taking a course.”
This book is unlike previous ones Johnson has written, in terms of “The Shift’s” personal nature and candid tone. Her earlier works are strictly career-focused.
Her inspiration to write and publish her story came from a large variety of people. “My boss turned out to be an amazing inspiration…My husband and my kids play a really big role. My staff — I spend more time with my staff probably than anybody. When you’re going through any kind of change…you surround yourself with people who embrace and support that change…and tune out the nay-sayers,” she said.
While “The Shift” — which has reached No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list in the “advice” category — is naturally targeted at women, since Johnson’s experiences relate to problems women specifically have, men can still glean some insight from the story as well. “I’ve heard from a lot of men who read it and said so much of it resonates with them, too,” Johnson added.
The country’s struggle with obesity, in Johnson’s opinion, ultimately comes down to “individual responsibility.” “I think a lot has been done,” she said. “The government does its part, health food companies do their part, but at the end of the day…making self-care a priority and forcing your mind to changing is essential. There’s no replacement for that, it’s up to us.”
As for her relationship with her boss — the two are now great friends.
“(‘The Shift’ is) dedicated to her. I speak to her every day. She’s become one of my biggest champions. We talk about everything. We talk about our careers, our kids, the weather, you name it,” Johnson said.
The most important take away from the book?
“The past doesn’t have to define the future. You don’t have to be resigned to the way things are because they’ve always been that way,” she said. “When you change yourself, that’s a very powerful thing and that allows you to believe anything is possible. I think something even more specifically like our weight is very much in our control. It’s very easy to blame your parents, McDonald’s… and people do, and yet it’s very much within your control and if you want to change it you can.”
“The Shift” by Tory Johnson; Hyperion, $22.99.