For Tory Johnson, being overweight was the “private demon” she lived with for most of her life.
The Good Morning America personality and Miami Beach native forged a note exempting her from P.E. class at Miami Beach High, wore navy – instead of white – on her wedding day to avoid looking like a “marshmallow,” and avoided the doctor for more than 10 years because she didn’t want a lecture about her weight.
Now – almost a year after a life-changing conversation with her boss at the morning show – the 42-year-old has lost more than 70 pounds and shares the year-long journey in her new book, The Shift: How I Finally Lost Weight and Discovered a Happier Life (Hyperion, $22.99).
“I spent many years assessing blame and being angry so I blamed my childhood, my genes, McDonald’s, everything and everyone else as opposed to me,” she said. “If it weren’t for the conversation with my boss, I wouldn’t have shed a pound.”
Her boss Barbara Fedida – the person she dedicated the book to – told Johnson she didn’t look “as good as she could.” Fedida offered to connect with her a stylist that would give her a makeover, but Johnson knew that wouldn’t fix the problem. That day, Dec. 20, 2011, she decided that 2012 would be “the year everything changed.”
The book, to be released Tuesday, details how Johnson shed the pounds — and kept them off — after changing her eating habits, and her mindset.
“It wasn’t a meal plan that saved me, it was a mental plan,” she said. “I really believe that making a change is 75 percent mental and 25 percent meal. My success was built hour by hour, day by day, week by week, over a year.”
Johnson’s earliest memory of being overweight was in second grade. She remembers eating at McDonald’s on Collins Avenue and 71st Street and the old Flora’s Pizza on the 79th Street Causeway (since closed). While in high school, Carvel and Burger King on Arthur Godfrey Road were two of her go-to spots.
Her poor eating habits followed her into adulthood where she lived on a diet of chips, cake, candy, soda, pizza, Chinese food – at home, and at work.
“In my office I receive food packages almost daily, like a thank you basket of cookies, for example,” she said. “We would routinely have sugar binges every afternoon in my office.”
The five-foot, four-inch television personality, who tried “every diet under the sun” – Atkins, the Cookie Diet, and David Kirsch’s New York Diet – went from a size 16 to a size 2 after a year of “ the shift.” Although she says she always had a happy life – a great career, her husband Peter, to whom she has been married for 19 years, and three “phenomenal” kids:16-year-old twins Jake and Emma, and 27-year-old stepson Nick – she says losing weight has led her to a happier life.
“When you’ve been fat forever, and you desperately don’t want to be, it’s like living in shackles totally trapped in a prison with no way out,” she said. “That chat with my boss finally freed me. In an instant, I realized the pain of being fat far exceeded the likely pain of changing.”
Johnson didn’t expect to write a book until she started receiving countless emails and messages on Twitter and Facebook after a segment on Good Morning America last September when Sam Champion, the weather anchor, said on live television, “Do I see a slimmer Tory Johnson?”
“Viewers wanted to know how I did it and what my secret was,” Johnson said. “I thought, ‘Wow, instead of keeping all of this to myself, I have a chance to potentially help other people. I have a chance to share my story.’ ”
She hopes the book will inspire others to make “the shift” in their lives. Although the one factor she needed to change was her weight, Johnson says the mental plan she created can be used to change your health, relationships or career.
“I have been able to help a lot of people break bad habits, and I hope this book is a spark to help a lot of people do that for themselves,” she said. “I am an ordinary person, just like millions of others who has struggled my whole life with weight. I finally figured out, after 40 years, how to freaking fix it.”