It's all about trusting the process, she says. It's about listening to your body and not letting it be controlled by your emotions.
"I try to tell people, 'You have two options: You can say, this isn't working and chuck it and go try to diet again ... or you can say, OK, what am I doing that I need to be doing better? What do I need to change? Because something is going on here.' ... And a lot of people don't want to hear that. I never wanted to hear it. But once you figure out what that is, the weight will come off. It worked for me."
Wondrously. Between 2010 and 2012, Johnson lost a little more than half of her body weight, landing right around 130 pounds. (Though just a coincidence, it's worth noting here that she also lost her father during this period.)
But even more impressive is that she's kept it off since then, even while eating, she says, whatever she wants, whenever she wants.
THE KEY TO AVOIDING A BINGE Which brings us back to that doughnut, and her ability to limit her consumption of it to just a bite or two.
How does she do that, exactly?
"I mean, that's all I need to get what I wanted," she explains. "I'm sated. (Before intuitive eating) it'd be like, 'I want a doughnut, but I'm gonna have a salad because salad is healthy.' Right? So you eat the salad, and then you end up grazing the rest of the day, because you didn't actually eat what you wanted. If you eat the doughnut, you got what you wanted, and then you'll stop eating."
Pressed on the subject, confronted with the argument that it almost sounds too easy, and that eating a single bite would seem like a significant challenge for most doughnut-lovers, she counters:
"You can do it once you deal with all of the other stuff. If you don't deal with the other stuff, it's gonna be really, really hard for you ... because you're gonna be looking at that doughnut not as fuel, but as, 'This is gonna fix my problem.' ... It's gonna have a connotation it shouldn't have. That's why, if I want a doughnut, I have a doughnut. Then I'm full after two bites. Because I've dealt with the other stuff.
"Do I still struggle? Every once in awhile, yeah. If I'm an emotional wreck over something, sometimes I do."
In another fairly recent, more-specific example, Johnson shares about a time when she found herself thoughtlessly scarfing down four cookies before stopping herself and literally asking herself out loud, "What's the matter? What do you need?"
As she took stock of the situation, she says, she realized it was because she'd been coping with a rejection, and that she was using the cookies to numb the pain of the rejection. In her 20s or 30s, she would have kept right on binging. But after taking a step back, she found another, healthier way to deal with her emotions.
Since 2012, Johnson says, the heaviest she's gotten is 140 pounds. At times, she's been as light as 128.
'I'VE LET GO. I'M GOOD NOW.' It's been a game-changer, of course.
She's so much more mobile, so much more flexible, so much more able in general to dabble in physical fitness. She's back to horseback riding after years of being too overweight to do it, and is at Anne Springs Close Greenway saddled to a horse named Cinch once a week. She practices the martial art of krav maga at a studio not far from the home she and her husband of coming up on 25 years and their two boys share in Lake Wylie. She does yoga, she hikes, she swims, but she does it in moderation. She is not, she says, a workout fiend.
But more than anything, she feels as comfortable in her body as ever.
She doesn't feel the urge to try to hide her body in crowded rooms. Doesn't constantly worry about strangers muttering under their breaths about her size. Doesn't have to shop in stores for large women, or settle for shapeless, formless clothing.
And Johnson wants others who struggle with their weight, and body-image issues, and their relationship with food to find the same sense of self-confidence and contentment.
In the interest of doing just that, in fact, she recently published a book, "Start Where You Are Weight Loss" (through a company she established, Alpha Doll Media), that doubles as both a memoir that chronicles her journey in greater detail and a self-help guide that explains strategies for losing weight without depriving you of eating food that you actually enjoy. (There's also a companion book that urges readers to fill in blanks by answering questions designed to inspire introspection.)
Johnson says she spent four years writing the book, and that she had planned to have it out this month even before People told her she would be on its cover; so the fact that it was released just days before the magazine hit newsstands is, apparently, an extremely happy accident that has gotten 2020 off to a remarkable start for her.
No, she says, being thin hasn't made her life perfect. She still has problems just like everybody else, and deep, down, there's still some residual pain.
"I wish somebody had told me a lot earlier that it wasn't about food. ... I spent years using it in a way it was never intended to be used. I used to look at it as an emotional release and a comfort, as a friend, and I gave it all kinds of emotional connotations that it shouldn't have had. It took me way too long to start looking at food as fuel so I can go do the things that I want to do and reach my goals and be healthy and strong."
She pauses, then a soft, confident smile forms on her face.
"But there's nothing I can do about that, and it doesn't do me any good to hang onto that. It doesn't. You have to let go. ... I've let go. I'm good now." And there's one thing she doesn't worry about anymore: "I honestly don't see myself being overweight again, ever." ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.