Fearing Job Loss, ABC-TV Personality Drops 70 Pounds

It took a talk with her boss for Tory Johnson to see the way to weight loss

Tory Johnson Tory Johnson before and after The Talk
"Good Morning America" contributor Tory Johnson can recall the exact date when she had The Talk with her boss in the ABC cafeteria that would change (and possibly save) her life. It was December 20, 2011.

Barbara Fedida, highest ranking woman at ABC News, referred Johnson to a stylist and said she did not look as good as she could. Never was the word "fat" used, but Johnson clearly "heard" her saying: Lose weight or lose your job.

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"I loved my job. She spoke to me in the most gracious polite and respectful manner," Johnson said in an interview with AOL Jobs. "She didn't make a threat and there was no timetable. When you're asking someone to change, change takes time."

Since that conversation, Johnson has dropped more than 70 pounds and wrote a book about it: "The Shift, How I Finally Lost Weight and Discovered A Happier Life." She dedicates the book to Fedida.

How has being thinner changed the way you work?

"You know, it's definitely made me happier. More visible. More energetic. I give more of myself. I sort of hid behind my weight in a lot of ways. I'd turn down invitations to events. Instantly I'd think I don't have anything to wear to that."

What the story reveals is that difficult workplace conversations can have more impact than those with a friend, a spouse, a child, even a doctor. "It opened up an opportunity for me to be honest with myself," Johnson says.

"I had been the person who tried and failed for years and years and years to lose weight. It was the classic weight battle. Classic yoyo dieting. This conversation finally freed me to just realize I was fed up with being fed up and I was going to do something about it for once and for all."

Workplace conversations can have more impact than any others. But for this to work, Johnson maintains, you have to really love your job and value your job enough to hear what someone has to say. It requires some mutual respect for the person who delivers any kind of news about your appearance.

What made Fedida's message so receivable, Johnson says, was that "She never threatened my job. She never said, 'You're fat. Lose weight.' I do very much believe her that my job wasn't in jeopardy.

"Someone who hates their job would hear that and say, 'What, are you on crack?' "

What is relevant to anyone who has to have a difficult workplace conversation -– whether it's a nurse, a salesperson, a teacher, is that Fedida offered a solution.

"Instead of saying, 'You don't look your best, what are you going to do about it? she offered a solution. Send me to a stylist."

Johnson's book was an instant New York Times bestseller since its release in September.

"Why did this conversation work so well for me? There was never a part of me that was upset. I couldn't be upset. The way she did this was so perfect. So unbelievably gracious there was no opportunity for me to be upset. Only a chance to better my life. That's essential in a difficult workplace conversation."

Johnson, who is 43, has worked at "Good Morning America" for seven years and says the experience taught her the value of not just dumping a problem on someone to solve, but instead to suggest a solution and an offer to help.

What else has changed?

"I jog in Central Park. I'm the girl who was always picked last on teams in elementary school and middle school. Now I jog with my kids and husband. I do 30 to 45 minutes on a treadmill. I go to a gym every week. Exercise is a big thing. It's an overall feeling of happiness.

"When this conversation happened and opened the floodgates, I had to admit I didn't go to the doctor for more than 10 years because I didn't want a lecture about my weight. When I hit the one-year mark, I went to the doctor and got my first mammogram. After avoiding it for more than 10 years, that's a great moment to have a doctor say, 'You're doing great.' That is a really happy freeing moment I wouldn't have gotten to if not for Barbara's conversation."

Rather than try another diet, Johnson says she lost the weight by choosing behaviors that can last a lifetime: Eat less. Choose better. No cheat days. Move more. Hold herself accountable daily. Pause before binging. Keeping the priority on losing weight always allowed her to make the right choice.

Looking better on TV was the lesser benefit, Johnson says. So many GMA viewers started writing to her that it motivated her to write the book. "Talking about these things shouldn't be embarrassing," she said. "I'm not a doctor/trainer/nutritionist. I'm an ordinary person."

Have you earned more money since losing weight?

"Yes because I say Yes more often to things. I say Yes to speaking engagements that I might have said no to ordinarily. I network more. I'm more visible, so I've had a lot more opportunity come my way."

Laurie Petersen

Laurie Petersen

Editor-in-Chief, AOL Jobs

Laurie Petersen is an award-winning editor, writer, executive producer, investment banking researcher, balloon handler, virtual world creator, general manager, teacher, coach and entrepreneur. She's helped launch startups at CBS, The New York Times Co., iVillage, TheDeal.com, ADWEEK and MediaPost. She is a frequent speaker at conferences, colleges and high schools. Her greatest passion is helping people understand their potential and connecting those who should know each other. She lives in New Jersey with her teenage daughter. Follow her @lauriepete

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tru0821

I think her boss's comvversation was right on!
More bosses should follow this example that employees are people too.
Hmmmm, even motivates me to tighten up my food choices especially with the holidays right around the corner.
GREAT! REAL GREAT JOB TO BOTH!!!!!!

November 09 2013 at 11:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
l

I have to say when she was fatter no wrinkles at all now alot skinnier she looks older.

October 12 2013 at 3:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tensharp

I think this is awful! I think she looked fine before. Any thoughts as to what would've happened if she HADN'T los the weight?

October 11 2013 at 10:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
amandarob09

As a full figured woman I'm not offended by this at all. The way I see it is this... If you want a job where you are in the public eye such as this you need to look the part. Like Sports Illustrated does the swimsuit issue every year. if a fat person was turned down would that be discrimination? I'm sure some would say yes but I don't think so. Having a thin body is the qualification for the job. Just like having a certain level of education or training.

October 11 2013 at 11:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jweiner

The title of the article is both misleading and inflamatory. "Fearing Losing Job......" Johnson says in her own words that: "She never threatened my job. She never said, 'You're fat. Lose weight.' I do very much believe her that my job wasn't in jeopardy." All networks want those in front of the camera to look their best. I wonder if this happened to be the right words at the right time to put Johnson in the mental frame that it was time she got serious about a problem she knew she had. Johnson even admits that she feels better, has more energy, and is happier with her life. I am surprised that there wasn't a stylist assigned before. I have noticed that the lighting seems to be brighter on all appearing on the show. Also much brighter colors on the females, and sharper suits on the men. I applaud the diplomacy both Fedida and Johnson exhibit. Human Resources (or whatever position Fedida has) is a delicate balance of communication. Get the point across, but don't offend. To he who wondered what Fedida looks like, it has no bearing. She isn't in front of the camera.

October 11 2013 at 11:07 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
whatgrindsmygears

Sorry, but no. This person got the message, even if it was said "politely". Bottom line is, you are in a business where you ae visible, you are the "face" of a Network, you are on a national show. You best believe that you better drop the weight. And for the person to justify the "decision" to "lose" the weight they had no business to gain in the first place as a t.v. personality, by saying that someone must hate their job in order to respond with "what are you, on crack?" tells me that she's simply defensive. She was approached as an adult, and she had a decision to make - lose the weight or lose the job. If you love your job, your life, whatever, you will do what you need to do in order to KEEP it. A no brainer.

October 11 2013 at 10:16 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
dubldee54

I think all overweight people should stop watching Good Morning America....this fat discrimination is getting out of control....

October 11 2013 at 10:05 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
kgc073

So I guess the fat is not caused by genes like I have been told so many times.

October 11 2013 at 10:01 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
dubldee54

This is discrimination pure and simple...losing a job because of your appearance...same thing as being fired because you are black or jewish or muslim or anything else they decide they don't like....

October 11 2013 at 9:57 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dubldee54's comment
dan

dumb

October 12 2013 at 12:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rhodesa

So we are now at the place in our country where we rebuke you for your bodyfat while we applaud your perversions...yay

October 11 2013 at 9:10 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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