Being fat forever often felt like living in prison. I desperately wanted to free myself, but couldn’t ever seem to find a permanent way out.
I tried – and failed at – every fad diet under the sun. I’d lose some weight, but I’d soon tire of the regimen, revert to old habits and gain it all back again. I figured I was destined to be plus-sized forever.
Then 21 months ago one of my bosses at Good Morning America told me that I didn’t look my best, my clothes didn’t do me justice and she wanted to send me to a stylist. Television is, after all, a visual medium. She never threatened me and never used the words "fat" or "lose weight."
In an instant, something clicked: focusing on my clothing would be another gimmick to avoid the real issue. I was fed up with being fat and I became determined to lose weight – a lot of it – for good.
There were several reasons why this time would be different: I didn’t want to risk my job. I was ashamed of refusing to go to the doctor for more than 10 years just to avoid being lectured about my weight. I hated wearing navy on my wedding day, fearing I’d look like a gigantic marshmallow in white. I never wanted to leave another dressing room frustrated because nothing fit. I wanted to be a better, healthier role model for my teenage twins.
I didn’t want yet another diet. Diets are quite simply a temporary pause on bad behavior. I longed for permanent change, so I laid out a simple plan:
Eat Less and Choose Smarter
That meant cutting carbs and saying goodbye to a lot of white foods: sugar, flour, pasta, rice and potatoes. I began to look at nutritional charts on packages for the first time ever.
No Cheat Days
Many diets prescribe a weekly day off for good behavior, which always did me in. I’d count the minutes until my cheat day, eat every offender I could find and be back eating with abandon in no time. I realized that rewarding anyone trying to lose weight with a cheat day is like telling an alcoholic he can celebrate a month of sobriety with a beer. It doesn’t work. If I could handle moderation, I wouldn’t have been fat in the first place.
Pause Before Eating
At home and work, I’m surrounded by sweets and snacks of all kinds. Typically, I’d nibble (and nibble some more) without thinking. To break that habit, I pause for a second or two and ask, "Preference or priority?" My preference, of course, would be cookies and chips. My priority, however, is to lose weight and be healthy. Reflecting on that gives me the strength to avoid indulging.
When tempted to snack late night, I grab a bottle of top coat to polish my nails. Maintaining a nice manicure means more to me than food, so I’d never risk messing up wet nails!
Taking the stairs, walking to and from work and strolling around the block a few times a day evolved – slowly, I admit it – into a daily walk on the treadmill and a weekly visit to the gym for strength training. I started with just five minutes a day – and now it’s 30 to 45.
I weigh myself every morning to always be aware of where I am. No more burying my head in denial.
Over the course of a year, I lost 62 pounds, which I candidly write about in my new book, The Shift. I came to learn that what I put in my head is far more powerful than what I put in my mouth – and I'm forever grateful to my boss who set me on this journey. I finally went to the doctor (nothing feels better than a perfect check-up!) and I no longer dread dressing rooms.
When it comes to losing weight, no pill, potion or plan trumps patience and perseverance. That was the missing piece for me, the steel bar that kept me from feeling the freedom to finally figure it out.
The past doesn't have to dictate the future. Day One can be any time you choose. Each of us has the power to change our mind for a happier, healthier, better life.
The Shift: How I Finally Lost Weight and Discovered a Happier Life is available everywhere books are sold. Connect with Tory Johnson directly at ShiftWithTory.com or @ToryJohnson or Facebook.com/Tory.