The Office on Women's Health is leading National Women's Health Week May 10 through 16, 2015. The goal is to empower women to make their health a priority. Getting active and eating healthy are key to women's health. Helping us spread this important message is National Women’s Health Week ambassador Tory Johnson.
In 2012, Tory was unhappy with her weight and decided she needed to make some changes for a healthier life. She shares her story about getting to and keeping a healthy weight, along with tips for feeling like your best self!
Q: Why do you think National Women’s Health Week is important?
A: As women, we are often so focused on caring for everyone else that we neglect ourselves. Instead of making our self-care a secondary concern, National Women’s Health Week reminds us that our physical and mental health must be our primary focus every day. When we’re at our best, we can do so much more for the people closest to us — all the people we love.
Q: You lost over 60 pounds! What motivated you to change your lifestyle?
A: In 2012, I freaked out when my boss at ABC News suggested I see a stylist. I thought she meant “lose weight or lose your job.” She wasn’t saying that, but it forced me to face a demon that had plagued me forever. I was fed up with being overweight, and I realized it was time to shift for good. I hadn’t been to the doctor in more than 10 years, I was an unhealthy role model for my kids — especially my teenage daughter — and I didn’t look or feel my best. I decided to make a shift in how I viewed myself and my relationship to food.
Q: What did you do to make sure that your approach to weight loss was safe and healthy?
A: I was determined to lose weight for good and not go on yet another diet. No quick gimmicks or quick fad diet fixes. I knew from my past that while those tricks produced temporary results, they never lasted. I needed a forever plan. My mantra became “eat less, choose smarter options, and move more.” I knew that if I could stick with that for the long haul, I would get lasting results. I also had to learn to be satisfied with slow but steady results. I aimed for about a pound a week. At the time, that felt like an eternity, but looking back, the time flew by.
Q: How do you feel now that you’ve made the shift to a healthier lifestyle?
A: I feel happier and healthier. I went to the doctor for the first time in a decade and got a clean bill of health, along with my first mammogram. I began to wear dresses for the first time. I look better, have a lot more energy, and sleep more comfortably. I no longer have to hide, make excuses, or settle for a body that I hate.
Q: What’s the key to maintaining it?
A: I abandoned the “diet” mentality, which is by nature just a temporary pause on bad behavior. I’m very much a work in progress. There’s no end date, there’s no magic number. I’m still losing weight and I’m confident I’ll get and stay where I want to be. I’m in this forever.
Q: Before your lifestyle change, you avoided going to the doctor. Why do you think an annual well-woman visit or checkup is important?
A: It’s insane to wait until there’s a problem with your health before getting checked out. Preventive care can do wonders if we access all that’s available to us. Knowledge is power. I’m ashamed that I buried my head for so long, instead of being smart about my physical and mental well-being.
Q: For women who may not love exercising, what’s your advice to help them get moving?
A: We must be sisters from another mother, because that was me too! Just start moving more than you move now. You don’t have to go from the couch to a marathon. How about a walk around the block? Add some distance each day. Monitor your steps and aim to hit 10,000 a day.
Q: Food used to be a source of comfort for you. Has your relationship with food changed?
A: Good day? Let’s celebrate with food! Bad day? Nothing that some cookies and chips can’t fix! I had to stop seeing food as a celebration or a way to feel better. Food is fuel, and I know that overdoing it did me in.
Q: You’re a woman on the go. Will you share some of your favorite healthy snacks?
A: Sour garlic pickles, celery and salsa, a few cheese cubes, pistachios, and pumpkin seeds are all good options. In airports or grocery stores, I read labels and will only buy something if I can pronounce the ingredients. At coffee shops, I look for nuts, an easy alternative to all the cakes and muffins.
Q: How do you juggle all of the different roles — author, wife, mother, friend, and entrepreneur — you play?
A: I’m lucky to have a strong family and great friends. For me, it’s all about being present wherever I am. Sometimes that means missing activities with my kids in favor of a work commitment and doing so without useless guilt.
Q: What’s your favorite way to take time for yourself, and why is that time important to your overall health?
A: I recently learned transcendental meditation, which I now practice twice a day for 20 minutes each time. It helps me to feel more focused, less stressed, and more balanced throughout the day. This is part of my commitment to make my mental health as important as my physical health.
Q: How would you support a friend who is trying — or struggling — to lead a healthier life?
A: Come clean with yourself about why this time must be different from all of the previous attempts to change. Commit to one day at a time. When you slip, start over immediately, not a week later or a month later. Monitor your progress. Accept that change is hard, but it’s doable and it takes time.
Visit the National Women's Health Week website to learn what steps you can take for better health, as well as to find out how you can support women's health.
The statements and opinions in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health.