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3 Things You Have to Give Up to Lose eight Forever

To be healthier and happier, Tory Johnson, author of The Shift, discovered that she had to let go of three particular things.
lose weight
Photo: Hero Images/Getty Images

1. The Cheat Day

For years, I was lulled into the moderation trap, a bedrock of nutrition advice that works flawlessly for some women but is a disaster for others. Supposedly, as long as I limited myself to a few bites here or there, I could eat onion rings, rice and chocolate cake—anything, really—and not gain weight. Trouble is, I never ate just a few bites. A couple chips led to the whole bag, and, before long, I was out of control again. Ditto for the oft-advised “cheat day.” For me, rewarding healthy eating with unhealthy foods was akin to an alcoholic celebrating a month of sobriety with a beer. It didn’t work. When it comes to eating, I was not blessed with the moderation gene. Once I stopped struggling with moderation, my life got a whole lot easier.

2. The 7-Day Fix

I don’t have enough fingers or toes to count the number of quick fix and fad diets I’ve tried, but they all failed me. Overweight people need hope—I get that—and you can’t walk past any newsstand without seeing a magazine promote one gimmick or another. TV shows promote miracles, too. The truth is, that many of them do work; you will lose some weight—but only if you follow them to the letter (which, from my experience, is often hugely difficult) and accept that you may not lose that much weight (the timeframes could be ludicrously short). Not to mention, the diets are often unsustainable or unhealthy over longer periods. I realized that I could no longer try to lose 10 lbs. in time for that wedding, which, oh-by-the-way is this Saturday. By giving myself the luxury of time—and not putting an end date on my efforts—I was able to make big progress.

3. The Blame Game

As a child, the food was a comfort, and my obesity just was. But as I got older, I played the blame game: My mother filled the house with cookies and junk food. Fast-food restaurants had fatty cheeseburgers. I had fat genes that had been passed down to me. The idea that someone (not me) was to blame for my mess was front and center in my mind. But I came to understand that assigning blame serves no purpose. No one decides what I eat except me. I now own my choices. So, if you’ve struggled and failed to eat healthier, ask yourself: Where did you go wrong, how can you be fully accountable and what specifics steps can you take to solve your dilemma? That’s far more empowering and leads to pretty powerful results.

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When these women witnessed horrific crimes or the disregard for basic human rights they spoke up, risking everything they had to see that justice was done.  When they saw their communities or their countries were ignoring issues like sexual violence or women’s rights, they gave those issues a face and a voice.  And with every act of strength and defiance, with every blog post, with every community meeting, these women have inspired millions to stand with them, and find their own voices, and work together to achieve real and lasting change.

And that is truly the power of the International Women of Courage Award — that this is not simply an honor bestowed upon a few, but a call for all of us to open our eyes to the injustices around us, and to ask ourselves just what kind of courage we’ve got inside our own hearts.

And that is the lesson we can learn from the journalist who speaks out against torture and racism; from the poet who takes to Twitter to make a stand against oppression; from the mother whose son was murdered, but channeled her grief into a nationwide movement for change.  That is the spirit that we celebrate today.  And that is the potential that lies within every woman and every girl — the potential to stand up, to demand action, and to build a better world for our next generation.

And that is why we have once again invited young women from our White House Leadership and Mentoring Initiative to join us here today.  I’m going to ask them to stand, because I do like to embarrass you, yes.  (Applause.)  They are high school students from right here in the D.C. area.  And to my mentees, I just — the one message to you is to truly listen and to let these women be your guide.  Because in them, you can see that no matter who you are — and we always say this — or where you come from, if you’re willing to dig deep enough, and fight hard enough, and believe strongly enough in yourself, then you can truly change the world.  That’s why we want you to be here every year.  And the potential — absolutely.  (Applause.)

And the potential that I see in not just all of you, but all of our young women all across this world, that reminds me that the rest of us must work to lift up the women and girls in our own communities — because we know that when women and girls rise, their communities and their countries rise with them.

That is as true in Nigeria and Vietnam as it is in Honduras and Syria and right here in the United States.  We saw that just yesterday, when my husband signed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.  (Applause.)

So I want to thank everyone who worked so hard to ensure that victims of domestic abuse will always know that they have somewhere to turn and someone on their side.  And in the months ahead and the years ahead, we must all do our part to build upon efforts like that one and learn from the example of the women we honor today.  Because if we tackle the injustices and challenges in our own lives with even a fraction of their strength and dedication, then I know that we can meet any challenge that comes our way.

If we encourage the young people around us to fight every single day for what they know is right, if we break down any barrier that stands in the way of a young woman getting her education or believing she can achieve her dreams, then I am confident that we will finally unlock the promise of our next generation.  And then, no matter what part of the world we call home, we will all be better off.  We will all be stronger and freer.  And we will all be more prepared not only to solve the problems we face today, but to overcome any obstacle we can imagine in the years and decades ahead.

All I ask is that you want more than you did yesterday, love yourself enough to give you a brighter presence in the world, you deserve and have a right to it.


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