John Toner Shares His Viva Fresh Clean Eating Challenge Journey
WASHINGTON, DC - Let 2021 be the year of transformation. For John Toner, Vice President of Convention and Industry Collaboration, United Fresh Produce Association, transformation has long been an ideal he has strived for and executed. And when the Viva Fresh Clean Eating Challenge came into his sights, his drive and ambition were ignited.
With transformation as the name of the game in the lead up to Viva Fresh, March 26–27, at the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine (Dallas), Texas, John took a beat with me to talk about his Clean Eating Challenge journey, produce’s changing role, and what stepping outside of your comfort zone can achieve.
“What really inspired me with this challenge was seeing Tommy Wilkins and Craig Slate, among others, clean up their diets and readjust their lives to focus on their health,” John shares with me, adding a little context for the timing. “Given the current travel climate of 2020, I figured this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to really focus on improving my quality of life and establishing a routine of making healthier decisions.”
When I ask him what his original goals were, he gives me that honest type of answer that I love to hear from John: To see what would happen.
“I have never been on a diet. I have been to weight loss programs, talked to nutritionists, but I’ve never actually taken the plunge of focusing on doing the right thing, and the healthy thing, which is living with a clean mindset. My priorities and definition surrounding the ‘good life’ were misaligned,” he reflects.
Drumroll, please! Currently, John is down six inches in belt size, two inches around the neck, and close to 70 pounds lost since October 1, 2020. Over the entire past year, John is down 100 pounds and is 40 pounds away from his 18-year-old self.
“I now understand why Lorelei Disogra was the Energizer Bunny of the fresh produce industry for so many years. Clean energy is the best energy!” John says of the Vice President of Nutrition and Health at United Fresh Produce Association.
So, what did it take John to achieve a current weight loss stat of 100 lbs? As the industry vet tells me, it all came down to routine, routine, routine.
“And making the healthy decision,” John smiles before he says, “and when you want to reward yourself, eat the good stuff—like, splurge on that steak you are craving, but only once a week! I have been committed since June to actively trying to exercise 30 minutes a day and to try for 60 minutes, which was the length of my traditional commute. I exercise first thing in the morning at 6 a.m. and have had a great role model in my wife, Amy Toner, who has been on the 5 a.m. bandwagon of exercise for quite some time.”
Not only has John’s routine evolved, but so has his love for fresh produce. The Clean Eating Challenge not only demanded more of it on a regular basis, but reinvigorated an already strong love for fruits and vegetables.
“My eyes have been opened to new combinations and varieties of fresh produce as well as the U.S. supply chain commitment to distribute some of the best fruits and vegetables to the world,” John expresses. “The commitments farmers enter into with their land and their customers should never be under-valued.”
For John, the takeaways have not just been scale-changing, but life-changing—reinforcing that the work he has done has been more than worth it. Completely overhauling your life to create a healthier environment to thrive in is not easy, but it is folks like John that learn by doing—and in return, show us how action can be the first step toward unexpected results and even greater change.
Congrats, John, on a journey that is just beginning! We are with you all the way!