The Shift: How I Finally Lost Weight and Discovered a Happier Life

Being fat dominates so many areas of your life – far beyond the obvious of how you look. I know because until recently I was always fat. Okay, obese. I’m 42.

I began to suffer little indignities starting as a child in Miami Beach. I was always last to be picked for a team in Phys Ed because no one wanted the fat girl on their team. They still don’t.

As a teenager, my concern about the way I looked took over my social schedule. I turned down invitations to pool parties because there was no way I’d wear a bathing suit in front of other kids.

As an adult, my negative body image meant I routinely steered clear of dinner parties and professional events—traditional ways people meet and develop friendships. No way I’d be the only woman in pants while others strutted in tight dresses. I can’t help but think of all the potential connections I missed. All because of my weight.

I got married in a blue suit because I would have looked absurd in a white gown. No one asked why I wasn’t wearing a wedding dress. They knew.

But it wasn’t always about petty vanity. I stayed away from doctors and didn’t have a single medical checkup for more than a decade after I gave birth to twins. I cringed at the thought of getting the inevitable lecture about my weight. Had something been wrong with me physically, I wouldn’t have known.  For years, I never had a regular period. This all stemmed from my inability – my refusal – to do anything about my weight.

The Chat changed everything.

It happened 18 months ago when a woman named Barbara Fedida told me my clothes didn’t do me justice and that she wanted to send me to a stylist. Barbara is the highest-ranking woman executive at ABC News and I am an on-air contributor for Good Morning America.

She never used the words “fat, diet or obesity” but her message was clear: I needed to lose weight. Let’s face it: on TV looks matter.

In my own way, I took her words to mean “lose weight or lose your job,” even though she didn’t come close to making that threat and has assured me to this day that my role was never in jeopardy.

Barbara changed my life. I think she may have actually saved my life. I know she rescued me from continuing on an unhealthy path both mentally and physically and for that I will be forever grateful to her.

That’s why I dedicated The Shift, my new book about how I lost 62 pounds in one year, to Barbara. She told me what I needed to hear and I was ready to listen. In a nutshell, what I came to learn was that what I put in my head is much more powerful than what I put in my mouth.

I’m on a mission to share that message and more with others who have battled weight for years and are finally ready to make The Shift and do something about it once and for all. If I can do it, anyone can.

I’m not a doctor, nutritionist or trainer. I’m an ordinary woman who lost a lot of weight after trying and failing at every diet under the sun.  I’d fail because I always gave up too quickly.  So as I set out on this new journey—one I viewed as mandatory—I realized that what I put in my head would be more powerful than what I put in my mouth. I needed a mental plan to go with my meal plan.

Anyone who wants to lose weight knows she should eat less, move more and cut out foods that have made her fat. For me, I chose to strictly limit carbs because it’s cut-and-dried with no ambiguity.  I now eat a fraction of the food that I used to. When I started out, I felt like I was eating like a mouse, but with time I found that it’s more than enough. I don’t walk around starving.

My mind shift took more creativity—and still does.  I was up for the challenge, which sometimes is an hourly struggle, but in the end, the results are worth it.

Here are seven Shift tips that work for me:

  • Weigh yourself daily.  If I’m up, I’m more determined. If I’m down, I’m more motivated.
  • Pause before giving into temptation.  I learned that a walk around the block beats an Oren Bender.
  • Read nutritional labels or check an app. Paying attention to these details has enabled me to make smarter 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 teaspoon 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 that horse instantly.  Day One can always be right now.

In order to make the Shift, dig deep for the answers to these five questions as they apply to you.

1) How Fed Up Are You, Really?

When the pain and possible penalty of being fat outweighed the pain and likely pleasure 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, as 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 still keep me on track.

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 beautiful candle, a quick manicure, smaller size clothing.

I appreciate that Barbara cared enough about me, my appearance and my health to engage me with dignity and respect, not shame and embarrassment.

All of us can be that person to someone else—and hopefully the recipient of that message will be as open to shifting as I was.

About the Author

author image

"Good Morning America" contributor Tory Johnson helps women make great things happen. Tory made the shift from employee to entrepreneur and built two multi-million dollar career-focused businesses (Women For Hire and Spark & Hustle) after a painful firing. Now, after a second major shift—losing more than 60 pounds in a year—Tory is on a mission to help others change their mind for a better life. A New York Times bestselling author and contributing editor to SUCCESS, Tory lives in New York with her husband and their teenage twins. Connect with her at

Read more from Tory Johnson

Sign Up for's Weekly Must-Read

More Posts from Architects of Change