Audrey Johns’ first cookbook, “Lose Weight by Eating,” was released in mid-April and is already into its second print run after selling out with numerous retailers both online and in-store.
Her cookbook, which was published with William Morrow, a subsidiary of HarperCollins Publishers, was a labor of love after she lost 150 pounds by tweaking the ingredients of her favorite foods, which allowed her to eat more, while not taking in more calories.
“I want to have all the food I want and not feel guilty,” Johns said.
After moving to Atascadero from Southern California, she found that in order to get a lot of the ethnic food she loved, and craved, she had to make it herself.
“Basically, I lost 150 pounds just by eating,” Johns said. “I was not able to go to the gym [because I was having surgeries].”
While she said she did want to lose weight, she didn’t think the weight would come off by only changing the way she ate.
She started her blog, www.loseweightbyeating.com, to share her journey, and recipes, with others.
“I was taking [my daughter] to dance class every week at Motions Academy [in Atascadero] and the moms noticed I was losing weight and asked how I did it,” Johns said. “I struggled with weight my whole life so I just wanted to give it away for free.”
And she did. Until now.
It didn’t take long for Johns to get noticed. Her blog went from 10 visitors a day to 10,000 visitors per day overnight. As of early April, she said, the website had between 25,000 and 30,000 visitors on a slow day. In early 2014, she got an email from a casting company that was scouting out potential contestants for reality shows. She got an audition for the reality show, “The Taste,” an ABC show that puts 16 competitors, who range from home cooks to professional chefs and everything in between, in the kitchen.
“I stayed at a friend’s house [the night before the audition] and cooked lamb meatballs and prayed that they stayed hot long enough,” Johns said, adding that once it was her group’s turn in front of the casting crew, she had five minutes to plate meal she had already prepared.
She was cast in Season 2 of “The Taste.” Though she was one of the first ones eliminated from the show, she still stays in contact with her team and contestants from other teams.
“Out of all the teams, I think my team bonded the most,” Johns said.
When it was time for someone from her team to be chosen to go home, she said she volunteered to go home and was actually happy to go home because she was in a lot of pain from the nerve disease she got a few years ago after a car accident. Right after she was eliminated, she went in for a nerve block that alleviates a lot of the pain she suffers.
“When I got kicked off, I was glad to go home, I was in so much pain,” Johns said. “I didn’t tell anyone about it. They just thought I had a bad back.”
Her appearance on “The Taste” led to her getting a literary agent.
“The night of the airing of ‘The Taste’ – that I got kicked off – I got calls from five different literary agents,”
Johns said. Four of the five agents were in Manhattan. She ended up signing with Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc., out of New York City. One of the reasons Sterling Lord wanted to represent her, she said, was the way she represented her brand, Lose Weight by Eating. Promoting her brand was the reason she went on The Taste in the first place.
“We started working on a book proposal … [my agent] shopped it around at all of the publishing houses. I had two days to talk to 35 publishing houses,” Johns said.
In the end, she chose to go with William Morrow.
Two years has passed and she has a finished book and has been promoting her book through interviews, book reviews, a sweepstakes and going on TV. Her first television appearance for the book was on the “700 Club” on April 19.
Although it was filmed earlier than the “700 Club,” she appeared on the “Rachael Ray Show” with Bob Harper on April 26. She was on “Hollywood Live” on May 13. She has also appeared on other local and national television and radio shows since her book was released.
Her appearances on the “700 Club” and the “Rachael Ray Show” really boasted the sales of the cookbook, Johns said.
“Rachael Ray was huge for sales, that was the reason we sold out,” Johns said. “The day I was on the show I was the No. 1 book on all of Amazon and the No. 5 book on all of Barnes and Noble. … [The] website was flying when I was on those shows, at one point we had 1,300 people on the page all at once, we were lucky the servers held steady.”
Johns has lived in Atascadero with her husband of 10 years, Chris, and their daughter, Sophie, 7, since 2012 when they moved from Orange County. They found themselves at a crossroads after they both lost their jobs due to the recession. Audrey had been working as a property manager and Chris in the mortgage industry.
“They laid everyone off [at Chris’ work] two months before we had Sophie,” Johns said. “I was the sole bread winner. Then three months after I had Sophie, I went back to work and was laid off. It was a job, not a career.”
Because Johns’ job included free housing, they found themselves needing to move, so they decided to look at San Luis Obispo County after taking weekend trips to the area. They looked for homes in the Paso Robles area and found a place in Atascadero.
“We just love it here, this is our home,” Johns said.
Here is one recipe from Johns’ cookbook:
Protein-Packed Blue Cheese Buffalo Burgers
Makes 4 burgers
Serving size: 1 burger
Per serving: calories 262; fat 5 g; fiber 2 g; protein 31 g; carbohydrates 20 g
Before you skip over this recipe because it contains buffalo meat, give me one minute of your day to convince you to try this delicious, lean form of protein.
Let’s start with the flavor. If buffalo were gross at all, I would just tell you to get lean ground beef. But it tastes exactly like delicious beef, but with more protein, iron, and B12 and less fat and calories. Plus it’s usually available at your local grocery store. Try this lean and delicious meat yourself. You won’t be able to tell the difference, and you’ll be doing your body a favor.
1 teaspoon olive oil, for the grill
1 pound all-natural ground buffalo
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Chunky Blue Cheese Dip (page 108)
4 whole wheat buns
1 cup baby spinach
1/2 red onion, sliced into thin rings
Spicy brown mustard (optional)
1. Heat a grill to high heat and brush the grill grates with olive oil. (Alternatively, heat a grill pan over high heat and spray it with olive oil.)
2. Make four patties from the meat. Push your thumb into the center and create a little dimple on both sides. This will help the burger cook more evenly and keep a flat patty shape. Gently sprinkle the patties with salt and pepper.
3. Grill the burgers for 7 to 10 minutes, flipping once. Transfer the burgers to a large plate and let them rest for 5 minutes.
4. To assemble the burgers, spread some Chunky Blue Cheese Dip on the bottom of each bun, lay on some spinach and onions, and top with a burger patty. Spread some mustard, if using, on the top buns and place them on the burgers.
This story was originally published in Journal Plus in June 2016.