Alumna appears on Joy Fit Club for extraordinary weight loss

Jan. 1, 2012 By Jenna Bartlo

Sharing her inspiring weight-loss story with viewers across the country, alumna Liana Sims was featured on the Joy Fit Club nutrition segment of the NBC Today show. From an early age, Sims suffered from a food addiction and struggled to gain control of her physical well-being.

Watch the NBC Today segment, “Hallelujah! Youth Pastor loses 180 pounds.

By age 21, Sims’ hectic college schedule and poor lifestyle habits had resulted in an unhealthy body weight of more than 350 pounds. Often her obesity limited her ability to participate in normal activities she enjoyed with friends. Subsequently, Sims endured bouts of depression due to her feelings of hopelessness in the battle with her weight.

Despite various setbacks and challenges throughout her weight-loss journey, Sims was able to lose an impressive 180 pounds of excess body fat through diet changes and fitness conditioning motivated by a desire for freedom and her faith in Jesus.

Sims explains what she learned during this process and how God had influenced her determination to change.

Read the first portion of the interview here.

4. Why did you document the process? What part of this was important to you? Did it motivate you?

During the first year, from 2007 to 2008, I lost 100 pounds. 2009 was a rough year. I had plateaued, experienced great discouragement because I had come so far and yet I knew I had a ways to go and the thought of working that hard again was discouraging. My body lost inches but the scale was up and down. By the end of 2009, the scale had no significant changes.

After applying for the Biggest Loser in April of 2010, and not making it, I was devastated. I really thought I was going to get on the show. I had exposed my body in ways I never thought I would, just to get an opportunity to get on the ranch. But when I did not make the show, I decided that I had to finish strong. God had brought me this far, there was no point in giving up.

That June, I began my blogs. Initially they served as an accountability source for me. I knew that if I had to check in, online, every Tuesday that I had to be diligent throughout the week. What began as a source of accountability quickly turned into ministry as I saw the responses that I was getting from other people, those who struggled with obesity and those who had other struggles. It became an outlet to encourage others through my vulnerability. But what at first was a ministry to others also became a ministry for me. There would be days that I would just sit down and go back and scroll through pictures. They motivated me and still motivate me not to give up.

5. How did the Lord give you strength throughout the process? What was he teaching you?

He has taught me how to redefine strength in my own life. The signs of strength are not the lack of emotion, vulnerability or transparency but rather the ability to exhibit all of those. He has taught me that it is okay to be fragile. Stepping into these areas of my life were the catalyst for change. I was so broken that I was desperate.

I had lived so many years trying to navigate through pain and avoid exposure, that I did not know how to just escape into God and allow Him to affirm and transform me. So the first way that God has been my strength is that He provided safety for me, emotionally and psychologically.

He showed me that I could come to him with all of my burdens, fears, insecurities and doubts and that there would be no judgment. I wanted to be safe but did not realize that I could turn it all over to God. I feared acknowledging my struggle because I did not think I had the tools to fight it. To me, it was illogical to face something I couldn’t conquer. But what I didn’t realize was that I was slowly losing my identity in the hustle and bustle of life, simply trying to survive.

God became a resting place for my soul. I just let it all out and He surrounded me with people that I could be safe with. I didn’t have to hide my true identity from them and He gave me the confidence to tell people what I needed. God gave me some amazing communities: at my church, in my family, and at Biola. These allowed me space and gave me the assurance that it was okay and safe for me to travel through this process.
 

6. What does this journey look like today?

Throughout the process I adopted the verse 2 Corinthians 12:9 to speak to my struggle. I have acknowledged and accepted that I have an addiction to food. The hard part about this journey for me is not so much losing the weight as much as it is the daily battle with my addiction.

I am a to-do-list type of person. As hard as it is to lose the weight, I can check that off of my to-do-list and move on. But the daily battle with my temptation to overeat cannot and has not been checked off the list. It is something I have to face everyday. That is why my life motto is, “Victory over obesity…one decision at a time.”  I echo Paul when he writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he [Jesus] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

God has been my strength in weakness and this process has taught me to rely on Him daily.

7. In the video segment, you said your heavier self was your hero, tell me a little bit more about that?

When I think of a hero, I think of a person who is faced with great adversity and chooses to overcome, regardless of how hard they have to fight. When I think of a hero, I think of a person with great strength. Not strength defined by the world’s standards, or for me by what the hood teaches you — a lack of vulnerability and an unwillingness to be fragile — but rather strength found in brokenness, humility, transparency, relentlessness, authenticity, meekness and a complete reliance on God.

People look at me and tell me how strong I am, but I am me because at 350 plus pounds I decided to look fear in the face and say, “Let’s go!” It’s not that I don’t have fear — it’s just that I decided to no longer allow it to hinder me. One of my mentors once said to me, “Liana put fear on your back like a backpack and go. And the more and more you go, you will look up and see that fear has gotten smaller and smaller.”

However, fear is on the job training; The only way you get rid of it is by facing it and doing life in lieu of it and that is what I did when I was obese and that is why obese me is my hero. When I could not see the promise land, I still took steps toward it. When I did not know if I would ever conquer, I took a leap of faith and trusted God. When I was unsure of the outcome, I decided that anywhere was better than where I was.

So, yeah, I am my own hero because I was my greatest hindrance. I am my own hero because I am the only one who didn’t believe in me and now I do. I am my own hero because I was trapped, dying with no sight of a tomorrow with blue skies and I determined that I would trust God to restore me. All of that, I did while I was still obese. Heroes don’t wait for the victory to come in order to trust God. They make a choice and they walk their victory out daily.

8. Practically, how did you healthily achieve this success - eating less, workout routine?

This has been a 4-year journey for me so diet and exercise have been modified along the way. Weight loss and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, it is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise. When it comes to nutrition, you have to, first, eat proper foods and, second, proper portion sizes. And when it comes to exercise, it is essential in order to keep a healthy heart and to maintain a well-rounded health assessment. It’s not either or.

Interview conducted by Jenna Bartlo. For more information, contact Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Coordinator, at 562.777.4061 or at jenna.l.bartlo@biola.edu.

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