Tory Johnson knows how to launch a successful business. She’s founded the career services firm Women for Hire and launched Spark & Hustle, which hosts events for entrepreneurs, all while working as a contributor to Good Morning America. Now, she’s sharing her success on another front: weight loss.
In her new book, “The Shift: How I Finally Lost Weight and Discovered a Happier Life,” Johnson explains how she lost 62 pounds over the course of a year. She did it with a rigorous routine of discipline and hard work, skills that also serve her well in her career. While her new health regime might seem like it has little to do with money, there is actually a powerful connection to finances. “The Shift,” as she dubs her strategy, can be applied just as well to money goals as it can to health-related ones. U.S. News asked Johnson to explain how to “shift” your finances with the lessons contained in the book. Her responses have been edited.
How can someone apply “The Shift” to finances?
The overall theme of shifting applies to losing weight just as it does to building a business: Patience and persistence trump the quick fix. Too often my small business clients say, “I’m on Facebook; it’s not working.” When I probe a bit, what I discover is they’ve launched a business page and they’re stunned that in one week they only have six followers. There are no overnight miracles or instant results. Everything worthwhile takes time and effort to get where you want to go. You can’t build a robust client base overnight, nor can you lose 30 pounds in three days, or even three weeks. Set your goals, but be very realistic about the timetable.
Your approach centers around making a big commitment to yourself and your goal. How can someone maintain his or her self-discipline and commitment, even on hard days?
Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos has talked about mustering the Day One enthusiasm every day to get where you want to go. I’m in awe of that philosophy, and I’ve channeled it regularly to stay on track. On Day One, we’re eager, determined, pumped. But that fizzles as reality sets in. The reality that says, “Oh, no, this is hard.” When you know from the beginning that you’re in it for the long haul and that the goal and mission are so critical to you, it’s a lot easier to keep focused even though every hour or every day will not be a winner.
You have such incredible discipline. Where does that comes from? How can someone get it?
This is new! In the past I threw in the towel very quickly because I rejected anything that didn’t offer insta-results, and big ones at that. I finally, finally realized – it’s only taken me 40 years! – that there is no such thing. I realized that this would be an hourly, daily, weekly, monthly mission. I also rejected the typical notion of “dieting,” which is a temporary pause on bad behavior. Instead, I focused on a major shift in thinking, which would be a lifestyle change, not merely a short-term effort. The clarity of my goal – living healthier – gave and continues to give me huge strength, so I’m not relying solely on willpower.
You write about how one meeting inspired you to make the change and start losing weight. When it comes to other goals, like spending less money, do you think a similar kind of epiphany can help?
It seemed to crystallize your own motivation. Yes. One moment can serve as the ah-ha motivation to finally change. When I was fired from a job I thought I’d have forever – and I hid in my apartment for months, unwilling and unable to snap out of it – I had a similar ah-ha experience. I found myself standing in front of an ATM machine stunned that I had run out of money.
[Read: Mastering the New Freelance Economy.]
Not sure why that came as a shock. I'm a pretty smart girl, after all, and I know when nothing’s coming in, and it’s all going out, that’s bound to happen. But seeing the low balance was a massive and immediate wake-up call that I needed to get off the couch and find a job fast.
You must ask yourself why the present is no longer acceptable. Why is it so critical that you change your behavior – whether it’s your spending or your eating – to finally once and for all get what you want?
You write that you are a recovering food addict so you cannot reward yourself with food “treats” – do you think the same rule applies to recovering shopping addicts? Do they have to find some other way to reward themselves, other than purchases?
Yes! I have learned to truly savior inedible treats. Turning up the volume on a Katy Perry song and dancing like crazy with my daughter in her bedroom. Taking a family walk in Central Park. Polishing my nails. Lighting a beautiful candle – nest grapefruit is my favorite scent. Playing Scrabble. Simple things bring so much more joy than a bag of chips ever did, but I never paused to recognize that. The same can be said for replacing shopping with other simple pleasures that can ultimately bring even more happiness.
How do you think health and wealth are related. Do you think your success with your health impacts your financial life, too?
Yes, there’s a direct connection. At one of my Spark & Hustle conferences for women business owners, Stella & Dot founder Jessica Herrin said she’s not at her mental best when she’s not at her physical best. That resonated so strongly with me. There were times I skipped out on key networking events because I worried I didn’t have anything to wear. I didn’t always use my voice because I lacked the confidence to speak out. Confidence that was missing because I didn’t feel my best.
Focusing on self-care has given me a boost in confidence unlike anything ever before. When I hit the one-year mark of this shift – and I marked the loss of more than 60 pounds – I went to the doctor for the first time in more than a decade. I had previously avoided it because I didn’t want a lecture about my weight.
It’s hard to beat the freeing feeling of having my first mammogram and a thorough physical and hearing the words, “You’re perfectly healthy … keep it up.” That kind of happiness and confidence energized me in a way that I know for sure has helped my career and business.