Originally published on TulsaWorld.com.
Georgeanna Johnson had a goal.
A former gymnast, the Tulsa pastor’s wife wanted to feel athletic and strong again. But, at 315 pounds, she couldn’t imagine ever being able to do a back handspring.
On Tuesday, family, friends and TV viewers will see what the 44-year-old Kentucky native has accomplished through ABC’s “Extreme Weight Loss.”
In spring 2013, she said she’d had enough. She heard about an open casting call in Edmond for the TV show, which aims to help people safely lose half of their body weight.
“I just went and thought, what the heck, I can at least try,” said Johnson, the mother of two daughters, 20 and 23. “I was kind of at that desperate point where I didn’t know what to do and I was completely overwhelmed.
“I really did not expect to be chosen,” said Johnson, who moved to Tulsa in 2004 with her husband, Scott, assistant pastor at Church on the Move. Her first interview for the show was on April 20 and, on July 8, after more interviews and home videos, she was surprised by trainer Chris Powell with the news she had been chosen for the reality show.
She spent the first 90 days of the 365-day journey in boot camp at the University of Denver’s Anschutz Health and Wellness Center and training with the show’s trainers/transformation specialists Chris and Heidi Powell.
After completing boot camp, Johnson returned home to Owasso and spent the next nine months working out — primarily doing CrossFit exercises, gymnastics with additional cardio three to four hours a day six days a week. She also completely changed her diet.
“It kind of takes both (exercise and diet) to get that kind of success,” said Johnson, who was a fan of weight loss TV shows like “The Biggest Loser” and ABC’s “Extreme Weight Loss.”
She said her husband made the journey easier by asking what he could do at home to “be ready for you to come home to succeed.”
“He started working out and lost 50 pounds this year, too. He was a big part of my success. It enabled us to work out together and eat the same things, which made my life a whole lot easier.”
The goal at home was to lose the weight while keeping muscle and strength. She said she had weekly weigh-ins with a local trainer, the show’s staff visited sporadically to check on her status, and she spoke to the Powells on a regular basis.
She said 99.5 percent of her weight loss was fat, but she isn’t allowed to reveal how much weight she lost until the two-hour episode airs at 7 p.m. Tuesday on channel 8. She also underwent skin removal surgery and wasn’t able to work out for the last eight weeks of her time on the show.
In Tuesday’s episode, Heidi Powell, a former gymnast herself, steps in to help Georgeanna revive her gymnastic dreams. The trainers also enlisted former Olympic gold medalists Nadia Comaneci and Mary Lou Retton to train Johnson for a huge challenge — performing a balance beam and floor routine in front of dozens of people at Elite Gymnastics in Owasso.
The judges? Olympic greats Dominique Dawes; Comanceci’s husband, Olympic gold medalist and Oklahoman Bart Conner; and Oklahoma Olympic gold medalist Shannon Miller. Celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito also appears in the episode to teach Johnson about healthy ice cream.
Since her finale was taped, she said she has been transitioning to normal life.
She eats 1,800 calories a day in five meals, up from 1,500 while on the show. She has cut her workouts back to one to two hours a day, typically five days a week, and is maintaining her weight. She is still trying to find her normal balance, she explained.
She said she does give herself reward meals once a week, which are usually pasta, pizza or something sweet, adding 800 calories to her diet on that day.
“Chris said to reward yourself on a daily basis so you don’t feel deprived, so I eat a bowl of cereal every morning.
“My treat is nothing special — it’s just Special K with strawberries — but it’s special to me.”
Finishing the TV show also meant self-accountability — no one to check in on her or know if she gained a few pounds or more, she said.
So she is launching the blog fitiswell.com after the show airs Tuesday night. It will contain her story, encouragement, recipes and a free e-book about the three biggest changes in diet that helped her.
And she can use the blog to be “accountable to other people.”
“It’s still a journey to me,” said Johnson, who plans to join family and friends for a watch party Tuesday at Church on the Move. “I want to have people join me in being healthy. I feel responsible a little bit. I want them to know it’s not easy for me still but I’m going to work at it.
“I can say you don’t have to be stuck at whatever weight. You can move out of that phase of your life and find a way to get healthy again …
“Health and peace of mind have changed everything for me.”