Book Review: Tory Johnson The Shift

Tory Johnson The Shift Tory Johnson is one of us. A "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" kind of person. She definitely takes life's lemons and makes lemonade. Her success has been nothing short of a fairy tale and she did it with hard work and grace. Now she is tackling her last demon ... her weight ... and while I applaud her efforts and want to give her a hug, I don't want you to follow any of her advice. Except for the nail polish.

Tory Johnson The Shift:  The Good

Here's what I liked about the book. Tory's writing style is very engaging. I immediately felt pulled into her story and I was rooting for her to succeed. I was smiling when she had a dressing room moment and realized she was a size 6. It's gotta be so hard to drastically change your body size in full public view and she did it with as much grace as anyone I've ever seen. She does have a story to tell and, if you're a Tory Johnson fan, you'll enjoy reading the book. The nail polish, by the way, is a neat trick (can't remember the last time I came across a diet tip I'd never heard before). If you're having a munchy attack, put on a coat of clear nail polish, so if you indulge, you'll ruin your nails. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes for the polish to set and by that time you'll likely be over your craving.

The Shift Diet

Tory Johnson makes it clear she wrote "The Shift" about her journey, not about how she lost weight. However what the reader gets is a month-by-month, occasionally bite-by-bite account of how she did it. And she was all over TV and the web yesterday giving out diet tips. So, denying that this is a diet book is a bit silly to me. Here's how Tory lost the weight ...
  1. Only 25 grams of carbohydrates per day.
  2. Daily weigh ins to keep on track.
  3. Peeing on a ketosis stick daily to make sure that she is, in fact, in ketosis.
  4. Frequently skipping meals, particularly breakfast, which even she admits is against common medical advice.
  5. Very little exercise for the most part, but gradually adding in walking, tennis, and hiking.
  6. Zero medical supervision! She admits that she hasn't gone to a doctor in years and does not get checked at any point during her year of weight loss, even though I'm guessing she was clinically obese.
Low-carb diets are all the rage these days and they do work, BUT at a price. Don't take my word for it ... I had the chance to interview David Grotto, one of the leading nutritionists in the country about eating low-carb, and we talked about what is ketosis and the effects it has on your body. (For the record, I am definitely more conservative than he is.) One issue that Grotto discusses is that ketosis long-term can lead to "inflammatory markers in the system," which can lead to things like diabetes and heart disease. Grotto also says that not one single culture around the world follows a ketogenic diet. It's not natural for humans because it's just not sustainable. If you go into severe enough ketosis, you die. I've been in severe ketosis (when I was pregnant due to a medical issue) and I can tell you, it's not pretty. Also 25 grams of carbs per day is really, really low!  The USDA recommends 180 to 260 grams of carbs per day for women to maintain their weight. In the book, Tory mentions that an apple has more grams of carbs than her daily intake. How can eating an apple be evil? Yet Tory shuns them along with lots of other "starchy" vegetables such as carrots (which she also mentioned as verboten). Many people disagree with the USDA carb recommendations and think they should be lower ... BUT what Tory was ingesting was 10% to 15% of the USDA guidelines. Way, way too low. I hope she sees the doctor soon! I would also say skipping meals is potentially dangerous and certainly won't make your day more productive. Not exercising means it's likely she lost quite a bit of muscle during her weight loss, which means her daily caloric needs have plummeted. This sets her up for a big struggle if she ever does come off this diet. The four days she spent off-diet while on vacation netted a six-pound weight gain, even though she wasn't hugely over-eating. If she ever transitions away from this type of eating, she's going to have the same problems. I feel for her.

The Psychology of The Shift

I was a bit squeamish at the start of her journey as she goes through what I think is sugar withdrawal and writes about her mental struggle to stay on track. Not only is she going through withdrawal, but she's slamming into ketosis, and that can cause some pretty bad mood swings. (David Grotto refers to carbs as "happy food" because they help keep serotonin levels at an even keel.) Tory shares a lot of internal dialogue in the book and it's mostly centered on negative thinking as she tries not to eat this or that. It made me uncomfortable to read and I wondered if she crossed the line into disordered eating. I'm not an expert here so I can't say, but I have recovered from an eating disorder myself, and her struggles definitely resonated with my own past experiences. One line particularly stood out to me ... the satisfaction of peeing on her daily ketosis stick and seeing the "eggplant color" bloom before her. Eggplant is the level of ketosis just before really bad things start to happen and it makes me uncomfortable that she's glorifying it. Tory Johnson, Tory Johnson the Shift  

The Shift Diet Business

Tory Johnson will do quite well financially from "The Shift." She's got book sales and a big promotional media push. She's got a book tour with tickets ranging from $40 up to a VIP-level $940. Back-of-the-napkin math shows she could net upwards of $200,000 during her six-city tour. Then there's the local and national sponsorship opportunities surrounding her tour and the "Shift Clubs" she's looking to start up where Tory will be your virtual guide. I was talking to a very savvy online marketer and we both agreed Tory has an impressive formula. September could be a million dollar month for her. And if the book and tour do well, there will likely be more products available in January. If only I believed in the product. At the end of the day I hope Tory Johnson has truly found her happiness. If you'd like to buy "The Shift" to get to know her better by all means enjoy it. But please don't take her diet advice, and please, if you'd like to lose weight, make sure you see a doctor before you try anything. I can tell you tales of clients over the years who were strongly urged by their trainers to see a doctor and it saved their lives. What do you think? Cheers, Lisa  

About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.


26 Responses to Book Review: Tory Johnson The Shift

  1. glenneth September 11, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    fantastic review lisa. i am becoming much more selective about the diet/health/lifestyle books i read these days. even if she is just talking about “her journey” she is obviously aware millions of people will try to follow it and that is dangerous.

  2. Lisa Johnson September 11, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    Thank you Glenneth … much appreciated.

  3. Miriam September 11, 2013 at 10:52 am #

    What a great review Lisa! I’m a huge fan of your blog because pull things apart and analyze them in every detail. It’s not just about: don’t buy this book. It’s about: have the right expectations when you buy it. Love, love, love it – you are one of the finest examples in the blogging world on how to look at a topic and review it holistically. Well done!

  4. Jason September 11, 2013 at 10:52 am #

    I agree with one thing in your review – do not follow her diet advice. At some point it is going to end and she will go back to her normal way of eating and all that weight loss will be gone. It needs to be a change in eating that you can stick with for the long haul.

    It has to hard for ones in the health and fitness industry to persuade ones from taking a ‘shortcut’ to a lower weight. Great review.

  5. Lisa Johnson September 11, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    Miriam and Jason … thank you so much. Wow … I just had to write this post, this is WHY I started being a blogger.

  6. Annabel September 11, 2013 at 11:51 am #

    Thanks for keeping us in the know, Lisa! I, like you, had a lot of respect for Tory before this book. I was so disappointed when I found out that someone who has a platform built on empowering women would jump on the weight-loss bandwagon to be yet another voice telling us that to be good, powerful and happy women, we must also be thin. at all costs. You and I both know that this “not a diet book” is a diet book and while Tory may still be too high on the endorphins of weight-loss praise to see it now – eventually, when the praise has lessened, and the body’s physiological needs fight back, it will be a battle that can only be won by focusing on healthful habits, not weight loss or maintenance.

  7. Lisa Johnson September 11, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    Thank you Annabel … yes, I truly do hope she sees a doctor soon.

  8. Suzanne @WorkoutNirvana September 11, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

    It’s tough when you want to be happy for someone who’s found their way, yet their way is an awful example. This is the last example women need, but it’s all about the bottom line.

  9. Lisa Johnson September 11, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    Yes, I felt I needed to include the monetary aspects for it so people can see the motivation … it’s not all just altruistic …

  10. Lisa Johnson September 11, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

    I wanted to carry this over from my Facebook discussion. David Grotto, the nutritionist mentioned above chimed in and I asked his permission to copy his words here. Here’s David’s take.

    Thanks for asking me Lisa. You are spot on. I have seen thousands of patients over my nearly 30 year tenure as a nutrition professional. And what I can tell you is this. Low carb diets can be very effective for reducing risk factors of cholesterol and elevated blood sugar, rapidly. Need to get weight off fast, I certainly feel low carb is the answer. Need to get weight off long term with a diet that you can live with and one that won’t put you at higher risk of certain cancers? I certainly feel low carb is NOT the answer. Look at those cultures around the world who historically have enjoyed good health and longevity (before we corrupted them with the SAD (standard American diet). Carbohydrates take a front seat, not a back seat, in their diets. The solution? You need to tailor to YOUR needs with a healthy balance of carbs, protein and fat. Last thought – if I had to swear off pasta, potatoes and even sugar forever and had to pee on a stick constantly, to me, THAT’s not “living”. Stop dieting and start living, people. Translated? Simple ask yourself “WWLD?”

  11. Becky September 11, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

    Great review Lisa!! I hope a lot of people see this or a similar review about the “not so sage” dieting advice going on here in this book. I was sincerely hoping we were moving away from the unhealthy fads that have caused the continual rebounding and weight cycling.

  12. JoAnn September 11, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    Great review and good information. I do think we need to clarify terms a bit. Low carb gets tossed around a lot. For some of us it’s really more low starch–unprocessed foods, limit on grains etc. No apples? No carrots? Peeing on a stick? No thanks. I’ll take all the vegetables I can, enjoy fruit and have a potato or similar starch when I want it.

    Losing that amount of weight on what seems to be a pretty extreme program without seeing a doctor is not wise.

  13. Lisa Johnson September 11, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    JoAnn, I wanted to put that in my review but I didn’t have the room! One of my pet peeves is calling carbs bad. They are a macronutrient! If we don’t eat them we DIE … starchy, processed carbs are one thing … but fruits and vegetables? Whoever got fat from eating too many carrots? I mean really …

  14. Jackie September 12, 2013 at 12:35 am #

    Lisa Lisa Lisa,

    What can I say?

    I lost weight in a weirdo diet way like this and gained every inch back. A few times.
    Its not healthy and never recommended except by people who want to make your money.

    We all should know by now there is nothing to substitute for nutrition and exercise.

    No two people are alike so writing a diet book for a blanket cure is kinda stupid anyhow.

    But it was the eggplant pee color addiction thing finished me off.

  15. Lisa Johnson September 12, 2013 at 6:09 am #

    Yeah, the “eggplant color bloom” was a little scary to me.

  16. Samantha @ 10,000 Squats September 12, 2013 at 11:16 am #

    Wow thank you so much for this review. I’ve heard good things from other sources about her book and it’s refreshing to see someone tell it like it really is. Her diet seems like a pretty awful way to lose weight, and not very safe either. I’m on my own personal weight loss journey right now and as hard as it’s been, I’d never go to such extremes. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Lisa Johnson September 12, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

    Thanks Samantha! :)

  18. Trina September 23, 2013 at 9:45 pm #

    Thank you for your review! I have read Ms. Johnson’s book and have really enjoyed experiencing her journey. I was also really concerned. I am in the health care field and would love to lose weight as Tory did…but, unfortunately, she will either have a chronic food disorder or she will regain her weight and have to conclude that there really is only one tried and true way to lose weight. It comes down to diet and exercise. I am well on my way to follow that healthy journey and realize that it did not come on in six months and it won’t come off in six months. “Pushing food around on a plate” does not sound like sound weight loss advice to me.

  19. Anita September 30, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

    Thank you so much for your review. I have over 25 yrs sobriety so thought her use of the strategy might work in my battle with food. But the first time I looked up the number if carbs in a small yogurt and found it had more carbs than she ate all day I knew there was a problem. I have lived a full life without alcohol but I’m unable to find balance with food.

  20. Terre October 2, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

    Thank you for your review. Decided I do not need to buy The Shift since your review was filled with good information that is easily understood. Also for the information on ketosis. Thank you again for a great review as I start on my sensible weight loss journey.

  21. Terre October 2, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

    In regard to my above comment about The Shift. My instinct on not buying the book was not based only on this review but also on the interview with Tory Johnson I saw this am on Home and Family or The Better Show which made me courious about how she lost this weight in a healthy manner. After reading this review and reading Glenneth and Joann comments is when I decided I did not need The Shift.

  22. Lisa Johnson October 2, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

    Terre, I’m glad you researched and discovered this path isn’t right for you and I’m glad I was able to help you with it. Much success on your weight loss journey, I’m sure you’ll get there. :-)

  23. Patricia December 25, 2013 at 8:43 am #

    I’ll admit I’m a lazy bumpkin and need a lot of self-poking and prodding to get going and get some exercise, so maybe her tips on mental focus would work for some….but there are hundreds of books on that topic. I am also a diabetic but simply refuse to go “low carb” again because it made me feel deprived and HUNGRY. I enjoy pasta and bread too much to give it up. Moderation is the key. As a rule I don’t buy diet books because I can’t stick to a diet, but after seeing all the hype for this one, I almost caved. Then I decided to check out some reviews. I hope readers of this book will use their heads and not their emotions when deciding what to embrace and what to discard as nonsense. Thanks for reminding me about the dangers of low carb dieting. Also, I don’t like the marketing tactics for this book – it’s just a cash grabber, and she won’t be getting mine!

  24. Lisa Johnson January 27, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

    Thanks for your comment Patricia. :-) Glad I saved you a few bucks.

  25. Anthea September 8, 2014 at 9:11 pm #

    Thanks Lisa! Was just about to buy the book and looked for some reviews first. I want to lose weight slowly and healthily. Not like this!

  26. heather October 6, 2014 at 1:22 am #

    Wish I would have read your review before I bought her book! I am only half way through the book but absolutely agree with what you have to say here. she hardly mentions exercise and her diet is no way sustainable nor healthy.

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