At a difficult time in her life, Tory Johnson had an epiphany: she needed to lose weight and start living the life she really wanted. Her book, The Shift, chronicles her journey into this new life with practical advice for anyone looking to make a change. In this inspiring 30-minute talk, Tory tells her story and makes it clear that whatever your shift, no matter how many times you’ve tried and failed, you can still do it.
Close your office door for the next half hour and listen to Tory describe in detail the five essential steps to positive life change:
Step One: Ask yourself: Why will this time be different than all the other times I’ve tried to make a change?
Step Two: Be honest with yourself: What are you willing to give up to get what you truly want?
Step Three: Write down a specific action plan — one sheet of paper is enough.
Step Four: Build in a daily habit that will keep you accountable to yourself.
Step Five: Embrace patience and celebrate victories. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but we tend to underestimate how much we can accomplish over a long period of time. Make peace with the process.
Tory Johnson is a weekly contributor on ABC’s Good Morning America. She has built two multi-million dollar career-focused businesses—Women For Hire and Spark & Hustle. Her other books include Spark & Hustle: Launch and Grow Your Small Business Now and Will Work From Home: Earn the Cash—Without the Commute.
Conferences for Women
“Shift into Fall”
Guest: Tory Johnson
Interviewed by Karen Breslau
Karen Breslau: Welcome to the Conference for Women teleclass, “Shift into Fall.” Our guest today is Tory Johnson—a contributor to “Good Morning America,” who is all about helping women make great things happen. Johnson made the shift from employee to entrepreneur and built a multimillion dollar business after a painful firing. Now after a second major shift, losing more than 60 pounds in a year, Johnson is on a mission to help other women change their minds for a better life. A New York Times bestselling author and contributing editor to Success Magazine, Tory’s newest book, which candidly chronicles her journey, is The Shift: How I Finally Lost Weight and Discovered a Happier Life. We’ll be sharing highlights from the call on Twitter, you can follow along and join the conversation @PennWomen, @TexasWomen, and @MassWomen. And you can find Tory on Twitter @ToryJohnson. Tory Johnson, welcome to the Conference for Women teleclass.
Tory Johnson: Thank you so much for having me, I think you know that the Women’s Conferences are among my favorite, favorite events of the year, so any chance that I have to connect, whether it’s through teleclasses like this or certainly in person at the upcoming events, it is my pleasure. So I’m thrilled to be here and listening to you give me that wonderful introduction, it reminds me of how many hats I wear. The author of The Shift, or some people call me on the street, “Hey you that deals lady on ABC’s Good Morning America,” so no matter how you know me, I’m glad that you are here listening to us and I’m excited to dive in with a whole bunch of stuff. For those of you who aren’t familiar with, The Shift, it is my book that very candidly chronicles my year-long journey to lose weight after fearing that I would lose my job if I didn’t. One conversation with my boss changed everything for me. She told me that I didn’t look my best and she wanted to send me to a stylist. And it was the best thing that could’ve ever happened to me. Because in that moment, I realized that it really wasn’t my clothing, and no matter what clothing I wore, the reality is I still needed to lose weight, a lot of weight.
And I finally reversed course on a lifetime of bad eating habits, on a lifetime of a poor relationship with food. And I was scared to write about this because it was always my private demon, my hidden shame, but I did it and the book became a number one New York Times bestseller in hardcover a year ago. And I’m very excited that it’s out today in paperback with lots of new additional content that was all requested by readers. And in the last year, I’ve learned a bunch of things about myself and others that I want to share with you on this call. And I think the timing is so phenomenal, you know we talk about back to school, and September, and fall as a time when we can really sort of focus on what matters to us, what matters to us personally and or professionally, sometimes a bit of both. And so I think the timing couldn’t be better for sharing all of this with you and hoping that by the end of this call you are ready to take some of the things that I’ve shared and put them into action for yourself. First you should know that I have not gained back any of the 62 pounds that I lost last year, that I wrote about in the book, in fact as of now I’ve lost well over 70 pounds. So I always say take that naysayers, there were all of those anonymous haters who posted online, “Yeah, yeah we’ll see what happens to her in six months, we’ll see what happens to her in a year, she’ll gain it all back, because they all do.” And maybe they all do, but this girl didn’t, so I’m really, really proud of that.
And I thought a lot about, not only how I did it, but what keeps me going and it’s a variety of things that I’ve come to realize are applicable well beyond weight loss. And they boil down to five specific steps, and we’re going to go through those steps now. The first step, step one, is to think about if you’ve tried and failed time and again to make something happen, you must ask yourself why this time, why this next attempt must be different from all the ones before? Why? And it’s something that you don’t post on Facebook and ask that kind of question, it’s something that you sit with yourself on your bed with your journal in your hand, or you curl up in your favorite chair in a corner of your couch, and with your favorite coffee next to you and you really dig deep. I was brutally honest with myself, that I had avoided going to the doctor for 10 years because I was afraid of a lecture about my weight. I didn’t want my kids to know that about me. I didn’t like the fact that my daughter had never seen her mother wear a dress. I was fed up with skipping events because I didn’t like how I looked.
And I created this long list, probably a little bit too long, quite frankly, of exactly why I was fed up with being fed up. Totally fed up with being fed up. I could see very clearly that I was so ready to finally change. And I think that step, that first step of really understanding why things have to be different, because it’s no longer acceptable to keep things the same, that list is critical in starting. And so maybe you’re miserable at work, your boss is difficult, you’re not satisfied with your assignments, you aren’t learning and growing and well, your monthly rent increases have far outweighed your meager annual raise. When you lay it out like that in brutal black and white honesty, in very specific detail, you come to realize that the hassle and the pain of job searching pales in comparison to the pain of the status quo. So instead of the same old mediocre effort of hoping that a headhunter calls you and rescues you or you’re hoping that the job fairy just delivers a new offer on your desk. You’re now fired up, you’re ready to take control and become a hardcore job seeker. You are a girl on a mission to find that dream job, because you’ve spelled out, in such clear terms, why this time has to be different, why this new effort to job search has to be different from all the failed attempts in the past.
You’re not going to accept what your current situation is anymore. You know you deserve better, you know you deserve different and you’re going to do it. So that takes us to step two and that is, what are you willing to give up? Change is hard, I don’t know that you need me to tell you that. Change is hard and it usually means giving up what’s comfortable in favor of getting what you truly want. And I’ve had to say that to myself so many times, over and over, that to change you typically have to give up what’s comfortable in favor of getting what you truly want, what you absolutely want for yourself. And so for my shift, that meant giving up a whole lot of excuses. For example, I travel a lot, and I used to say, “Oh, you know it’s impossible to eat healthy on the road. Who has time and patience for that? And it’ just not doable, plus you know hey whatever, what happens on the road, stays on the road.” And I was totally fooling myself because my truth was that what happened on the road, stayed on my ass, my thighs, my stomach sorry for the language, but that was my reality. And I had to own that, I also had to own the reality that I had to give up the concept of moderation.
A bedrock of diet advice said that enjoying anything you want in moderation is essential, that you can really have whatever you want, just do it in moderation. And it’s a really good theory, but it’s not a good reality for me, because one bite would lead to the whole bag, one slice could mean the whole cake. Cheat meals and cheat days, always did me in. And then I had this huge uh-huh moment, where I realized that rewarding my healthy eating with cupcakes, and chips and all the stuff I loved, was akin to an alcoholic celebrating a month of sobriety with a beer, it doesn’t work, it’s flawed. And so you want to ask yourself what excuses, what behaviors are standing in the way of getting what you want? What will you have to give up? What will you have to change in order to get an outcome that’s different from where you are right now? And obviously the excuses, the behaviors, the things that you have to give up are going to be different for everybody and they’re also going to be different depending on what kind of shift do you want to make. This is a personal shift, a professional shift. Is it something that’s connected to your health, to your job, to your relationships? But something has to get uncomfortable, something you have to be willing to give up some level of comfort in order to ultimately get to the place where you want to go.
And knowing that change is hard, and accepting that change is hard, helps you to do that. And so articulating in step two specifically what you’re willing to give up is going to help you to cross that bridge. So the next step, step three is what is your specific plan? In business, when I work with small business owners, or startups or emerging entrepreneurs I favor really short business plans, a single page. Because I think that when you create a 90-page document that’s based entirely on theory, and forecasts and other fancy stuff, you get lost, you sort of don’t even remember what you started out doing. And so when you have a clear concise document you understand the mission and how exactly you are going to tackle and accomplish it. And my plan to make my shift, was and still is, to this day, three very simple steps. First was eat less, which is sort of like duh, right, if you wanted to lose weight, you probably eat too much and so eating less is essential. The second step, choose smarter. I know for me that I had to eat differently than I was eating before. And for me the easiest thing was cutting carbs. So that meant, bye, bye bagels, you know recognizing that I loved bagels, but they didn’t love me back. Recognizing that I had to just choose smarter, make better choices and I’ve been able to do that. And the third was move more, which was probably the easiest, because I was moving not at all, so a walk around the block was a big victory.
So those three things, very clear, no ambiguity, I can remember it, I can recite it, it is not possible for me to forget those three things and when you are working on your step three of what’s your plan, you need a plan that’s going to get you what you want, but I think if it’s more than three steps, it becomes a to-do list, full of tiresome chores, each of which become easy to just totally ignore and totally avoid. And so instead of creating a to-do list of tiresome chores, you want a plan, a three-step plan, maybe it’s a two-step plan, depending on what your specific shift will involve. For me those three steps were super clear, I remind myself of them every day, sometimes multiple times a day. So ask yourself, what are the three key things that you must do? What are the three steps that you have to take to get the outcome that you desire? And I have every confidence, whenever I work with people, who are looking to make a change, either as an employee or as an entrepreneur, some area in their careers or even some issue with parenting or relationships at home, I often say to people when they tell me that they’re stuck, they’re frustrated, they don’t like what things are. I say, “What do you think you need to do? And almost always they have the answers, they know what they need to do, but knowing it and actually doing it, are two very different things.
And that’s why steps one and step two are so valuable, because those steps really help to build a deep reservoir of desire for change, they help you to muster the resolve, to put action to the plan that you’re going to create in step three. Because you are so fed up with the status quo, you are so tired of being complacent, and letting things slide and not being perfectly happy or as happy as you possibly can be with this element of your personal or professional life. And because you’ve really gone through the soul searching of steps one and two, creating this plan of step three is a lot easier. And then ultimately sticking to that plan is a lot easier because it’s clear, concise and because you’ve got this incredible resolve that you’re going to put forth into action to go make it happen. So step four, what is your daily accountability? There has to be something to keep you on track or quite frankly, it’s too easy to slide. For me, it’s the scale, it’s so super simple, it’s the scale, I always want to know where I am, so there are no unwanted surprises. I also wear a Nike fuel band that tracks the number of steps I take every day, so that I know that I’m walking enough it can’t just be like, uh, it feels like I walked a lot today and I look down and it’s like, hmm only 2,000 steps, well you have a thousand more to go. I know exactly where I am, there’s no line, that fuel band keeps me on track.
There’s also a new app that I love that I started using, called, “Rise,” and it allows me to snap photos of all the food that I eat in real time and then I get personalized confidential feedback from a nutritionist. And I have a coach that’s assigned directly to me, based on my goals, my preferences, and what I love is that she’s brutally honest with me. Like, watch out for that portion of this or look out for that hidden ingredient in that salad that looks so fabulous. And so using whatever tools, whatever resources, there are so many apps available to help you, so that right from your phone, there’s…no matter where you are, whether you’re on the road, you’re at home, you’re at work, it doesn’t matter, your phones with you everywhere. There has to be an app to hold you accountable to the area that you want to change in your life. And I’ve become so fascinated by them, I never was an app girl and now I realize the power of this. So figure out the measures and resources that you can rely on for daily accountability. For me it’s just too easy to slip, if you’re only monitoring monthly progress. I know in my office we look at daily goals and weekly goals, so that at the end of the month, we know we can’t sit there and say, “Oh my gosh this was such a horrible month, how did this happen? Why didn’t we pay attention sooner?”
We have to pay attention every single day, if we want to meet our monthly goals. And obviously each day, in business, we might not meet our sales goals, but when we’re aware of it, and when we’re monitoring it daily and weekly, it’s very, very, very rare to get to an end of a month and have us say, “Yikes, how did this happen?” We’re aware, there’s no surprises. And I think to achieve any kind of monthly goal, means that you have to take consistent action every single day and those steps add up and ultimately each of those daily steps, each of those daily victories, get you to where you want to go. And that kind of progress is really the best motivator to keep you on your path. So the next one is closely related, step five is closely related to step four, about your daily accountability. And step five is how will you embrace patience and celebrate victories? So for me and my shift, if you would’ve told me, on day one, way back on day one of my shift, that I was going to give up every sinful thing that I loved to eat and in return, I would lose just slightly over a pound a week in the course of a year, I would’ve said to you, no way, not happening, wrong girl. I would’ve said, what on earth are you smoking? I probably would’ve also said, and is what you’re smoking something that can help me lose weight?
I always wanted the quick fix, the instant results, I am the most impatient person that you’ve ever met. I want everything right now, it’s why I love being a small business owner, because there’s no beaurocracy, there’s no red tape, we don’t have to schedule 12 meetings to have another meeting to decide if we should do something. We can make things happen instantly and so I want that same kind of insta-fix for weight loss, too I want it in every area of my life. And I have come to learn, through the course of this shift, that there really is not pill, potion or plan that trumps plane old patience and perseverance. And there’s something that’s actually kind of powerful about that, because patience and perseverance are the things that we can control, we have total control over that. And I love that, I love being able to harness the strength of the things that I can control, as opposed to looking at other outward solutions and fixes that don’t even apply to me. There’s a woman I love, one of my good friends, Gretchen Rubin, she wrote, “The Happiness Project,” and she, I think, says it best, she says, “That we overestimate what we can do in a short period of time.” And I’m like, oh my gosh, that is me, I am the one who always says, “Yikes, I need to lose 20 pounds by the wedding, and oh by the way the wedding is this Saturday.” Who was I kidding, we’ve all done that, we’ve all said those things, like, “Oh my gosh, I need to do this and awe, I’ve got to do it in 24 hours or I’ve got to do it in a week,” and it’s almost impossible.
That could never, ever, ever happen, no matter how hard I try, no matter how much I thought I could will it to happen, those kind of things are impossible. And yet on the flip side, Gretchen says that we underestimate what we can do over the long haul. So while a pound a week seems really slow and super boring, in the course of a year, which is a decent chunk of time, in the course of a year, it amounted to a whopping 62 pounds, which is very significant. And when we look ahead, a year seems like an eternity. If I said, “If you start your shift now, this fall, imagine where you could be this time next year?” You’d say, “Who has until next year? Like, are you kidding, this needs to happen by October, I don’t have until next year.” And yet, if we look back and we think over the last year, we think to ourselves, oh my gosh, where’s the time fly, it went by so fast, I can’t believe how quickly time flies. And so that’s the logic that we have to apply in any kind of big change that we want to make personally or professionally. We rarely give ourselves the luxury of time. We are in such a rush for instant results, we want it now or frankly yesterday and if we can’t have it, then we dump the goal and we move on to something else.
We say, all right, you know what fine, I was just meant to be this way, my situation was just meant to be miserable, I can’t change it, because this is just the way it is. But imagine if today you committed to some kind of shift and you started taking action right away, and if not today, this week you started taking that action. Imagine within the next month, then the next six months, then the next year, you could truly make dramatic progress towards the things that matter most to you. So to get yourself going you have to find the teeny victories to celebrate, you know for me it meant every single day figuring out something that was just making me happy, something that I could celebrate, that I knew that I was on the right track. That’s why I love the fuel band, to be able to show me how much I’ve walked, and sometimes that’s my only victory. You know sometimes a victory is a walk around the block instead of indulging in Oreos that are passed around my office. Or maybe it’s that my pants are looser and my thighs are changing, like because it’s all those little tiny things that ultimately lead to big results. And so if you aren’t satisfied with something in your life right now, it could be connected to your health, your relationships, your work, I really, really recommend that you pause. That you pause and that you turn the mirror on yourself, it’s so easy and this was me, and in some areas of my life, quite frankly, it still is me, to just blame other people or to blame external forces for the boat that you’re in. But if you take responsibility for how you will make a change, if you take ownership and you really and truly believe that you have the power to make a change, I believe that you can do it. I really think that if you plot the steps necessary about how you’ll get there and then you put action into that, you can make such incredible things happen.
And I say this as somebody who never, ever, ever imagined that I could do it, for 40 years I didn’t think that I could do it and I’ll tell you that it is incredibly freeing and so satisfying to know that you have the power to do that. That you and only you, hold the ultimate power to change your mind for a better life. We think that our bosses control us, we think that our partner controls us, we think that our bank account controls us, we think that so many other things control us, and yet the reality is, we have more power than we give ourselves credit for. We have more power to make changes, to change the way we think, to change the way we act, to ultimately get what we want. And when you recognize that and you accept that, you can make great things happen. And I think that I’ve been able to stay the course because of people like you, because of all of us, together. I’ve gotten thousands of emails from women who have read, “The Shift,” who’ve said, “Oh my gosh, we are sisters from another mother, like you are me, I am you, our stories are identical, this is crazy.” And they say that they were finally ready to make their shift because they read in my very candid story what they needed to hear, that there were no tricks, that there were not gimmicks, that there was no promise of overnight results. I think some people were a little bit disappointed, you know in that, there’s a bunch of comments online that say, “All she said was to do is eat less and eat smarter and wow, I was expecting a magic solution.”
So it’s like yes, that’s how you do it, by going back to the basics, but sticking to that, believing that, and sticking to that and abandoning a search for a job faerie to hand you a new offer, or a weight loss faerie to swoop in while you’re sleeping and melt away the pounds, so often that’s kind of what we’re looking for. And when you realize that there’s no tricks and gimmicks and it’s really you and harnessing your power, that’s the magic, that’s where things happen. And so I’m so humbled by the motivation that I’ve seen and the results that I’ve seen by people who have read the book in the last year and have recognized that the past and the present do not have to control our future. That we can totally change. And so if you need a partner in crime to help you make that change, or if you need a big dose of inspiration to believe that you can indeed actually do it, I encourage you to read, “The Shift,” it’s out today in paperback with lots of new content, fresh content that our readers asked for. And today, just as a thank you, really, for joining us on this call, if you do buy the book and you email me your receipt along with your mailing address, not just your email address, but specifically your mailing address, and you mention this teleclass, I will send you a free shift kit, it’s something that has to come in the mail because it’s a journal and it’s also a pack with some of my favorite shift-worthy snacks.
So send me your email and I’ll be happy to make sure that the publisher mails one to you, my direct email address is Tory, T-O-R-Y at shiftwithtory.com. And also feel free to use that email address for anything that you think that I can help you with. If you enjoy the book and you want to keep me posted on your journey, I would love to be able to cheer for you and celebrate for you. I hope to meet a lot of you at one of the upcoming Conferences For Women, they’re my favorite events of the year. And if there’s something that you think that I could help you with, your career, whether it’s a change in your job, a change with your small business, whatever it is, if you think that there’s something that I might be able to assist you with, you are more than welcome to email me directly any time, because I truly, truly believe that we are all in this together. And there are strength in numbers and even though it’s up to each of us to take ownership and to take action for ourselves, I think in all honesty, that when we lean on one another for support. And when we inspire one another to go after the goals that we want, not enable ourselves to stick with what we don’t want or to enable our…and sort of be enablers in a negative kind of way, but when we really tell each other honestly that you can do it and here’s how you have to change, and here’s how I’m going to help you change, and I promise I’m going to hold you accountable, and I’m going to tell it to you like it is, I think together we can make really great things happen.
And that’s one of the amazing things about the Conferences for Women, just seeing all those women in one space, under one roof, and recognizing that everybody has their story, everybody has their struggles. Nobody has it perfectly easy, we all have our own thing, whatever it is, but together and individually, when we really set our minds to it, we can make amazing, amazing, amazing things happen. So I’m very grateful that you joined us on this call, I’m grateful to you, Karen and the whole team at the conferences for inviting me to share some shift wisdom here. The five steps have totally worked for me, they continue to work for me, each and every day. And they really come to me just based on achieving success professionally and realizing that the same sensibilities could apply personally. And when I put that into action and when I committed my mind to it, I was amazed at being able to make great things happen, so I can’t wait to meet lots of you or to connect with you online and I’m happy to have shared all of this with you. And I hope if you read the book that you enjoy it and you let me know, so thank you. Thank you all for your time.
Karen Breslau: Thank you so much, Tory, and again the email address for Tory is Tory, T-O-R-Y at Shift With Tory dot com. You can hear more from Tory Johnson at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women on October 16th in Philadelphia. To register, visit PAConferenceforWomen.org. Tory Johnson thank you again and thank you all for listening.