by Julie Hadden, author and contestant on NBC's The Biggest Loser
If part of the life experience is acknowledging the weight we were never intended to carry, then the other part is learning that it's possible to lay it down.
Hebrews 12:1 says, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." I had read that verse a dozen times before, but I'd never noticed how relevant it is to the process of losing weight.
What finally enabled me to start visualizing the "me I would be" was the practice of thinking about contestants from The Biggest Loser seasons previous to mine. I'd think about the players who had gone before me and who had endeared themselves to me by their hard work and their determination to honor their goals. And I'd think about the dramatic transformation they'd known as a result of refusing to quit. It was yet one more example of my being accidentally biblical in my approach to life. Without intending to, I'd crafted my own "cloud of witnesses" that could inspire me and push me and see me through to the end.
For once, I could see the Julie that God intended me to be, the less-burdened woman who had been hiding within. For once, I felt my body changing and those extra weights melting away. For once, I was doing it—I was actually finishing what I had started.
My newfound appreciation for that verse in Hebrews has caused me now to believe that everyone can throw off the extraneous things weighing her down. The writer of that verse didn't approach the idea timidly. It's not like he said, "You know, give it a little thought, and if it seems like a good idea to you, then maybe get rid of your weight."
Far from it. It's more like, "Get the weight gone, girl. Get it gone!" Remember the great cloud of witnesses. And throw off what hinders and entangles you. Think about who's gone before you, and choose now to lay down your weight.
I originally wanted to be on The Biggest Loser because I thought it was going to be fun. I wanted to be the cute, peppy, happy-go-lucky girl who made everything cheery and everyone laugh. But I got there and realized that the joke was on me. You see yourself differently when you are forced to acknowledge your weight, and ultimately to lay it all down. I felt crippled in every way while I was on campus: At various points along the journey, it seemed I'd been stripped of every form of support—emotional, physical, spiritual and more. But it would take being broken in every possible way before I'd agree to get my weight gone.
And so it is with that verse in Hebrews 12. The instructions found there only work when you stumble upon a crossroads and dare to take the riskier path. For me, that crossroads was the intersection of streets named Big Change and Big Forever. Would I embark on "big change" or would I settle for being "big forever"? Which path would I choose?
My self-talk went something like this: "Decide today that you want this change badly enough to pursue the person you deserve to be, or say to yourself right now that you're going to be content with being fat every day for the rest of your life."
I was thirty-five years old and facing a do-or-die situation. Which path should I choose?
There is a third aspect to the verse in Hebrews 12 that inspires me every time I read it. "Let us run with perseverance," it says, "the race marked out for us." Now, you tell me: Is it even possible to run—let alone to run with perseverance—when you're fat and unhappy and an emotional wreck? I dare you to say yes.
At the end of our season on the show, the remaining contestants and I had to complete a challenge that involved dragging a giant forty-pound scale behind us as well as the equivalent of whatever weight we had lost to that point in the game. The weight was added to our scales a little at a time, and as the challenge went on it became increasingly difficult to race back and forth. It was such a clear picture to me of how tough it is to soar when you're dragging dead weight.
Back then I had no idea what race God had marked out for me. Still don't, as a matter of fact. But this much I do know: However the road winds and wherever it leads, it will be vastly easier to run in a sloughed-off-weight state. And I've got the proof to support it.
When my teammate Isabeau auditioned for The Biggest Loser, part of her driving motivation was that she wanted to fit in with her family—her brother, her mom and her dad—all of whom were "normal" size. Sure, she wanted other things, too, like pursuing a songwriting career, becoming a bona fide rock star and wearing off-the-rack jackets from Urban Outfitters. But underneath all of that were those "deeper waters"—the emotional weight of feeling ostracized from her own family.
Every year Isabeau's family ran a 5K race together, which she had never been able to run. It would bring her to tears to talk about how every summer she'd sit on the curb, waiting the half-hour for them to return. "It was inconceivable to them that I'd ever participate in that run," she told me one day. "We all had just accepted the fact that this was 'their thing' that I didn't do."
Between Isabeau's time on campus and our season finale, she ran that race with her family, all 3.1 miles of it. She wasn't rail-thin when she ran, but she was definitely carrying less weight—physically, emotionally, in every regard—and on that day Isabeau soared.
I think about her achievement now and remember every drop of sweat that got her to that race. I remember every hour in the gym. Every wind sprint we were forced to run. Every doughnut we refused to eat. Every everything that brought the new "us" into being. And still today I know she'd agree that it was worth every ounce of that work. To feel light on your feet on a God-ordained path—is there a better reward than that?
People ask me whether I kept that goal-shirt, and my answer's always the same: Of course I kept that shirt! It's the motto that I changed and now can leave behind. I already "finished what I started, for once." And now I'm determined "to continue what I started, forever."
This excerpt from Fat Chance: Losing the Weight, Gaining My Worth by Julie Hadden is reproduced with permission from Guideposts Books, www.guideposts.com. Copyright © 2009 by Julie Hadden. All rights reserved.