I was moved the other night by a reality TV show about transformation. Nyla – a 435 pound woman, wanted to lose weight and the show’s personal trainer, Chris Powell, gave her a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to follow his plan and change her life.
I have watched several episodes of this show – “Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition”. I also watch “The Biggest Loser” but I grew to hate it last season. I got sick of the entitlement attitudes and the selfishness of several people. Ok, so I know both of these shows are reality television, and things can be made to appear more dramatic and entertaining than they really are. But the episode with Nyla on “Extreme Makeover” was unlike any episode I have ever seen and it has been on my mind a lot (hence the post you are reading!).
What do I enjoy about weight loss shows? I enjoy seeing someone reach a difficult goal; I love the symbol of freedom that their transformation represents; I love seeing people work through pain in their lives and conquer it; I love to be challenged and inspired to overcome the obstacles in my life. But my favorite part about the Biggest Loser is sitting and eating chocolate while I watch these people work out. Then I love the last episode when they are so skinny – I get disappointed if they are not really skinny. Otherwise they didn’t reach the goal! I believe my skewed thinking has come partly from my definition of transformation, but also from the premise of the Biggest Loser. The purpose is competition. Yes, there is weight loss, but there is so much entertainment through twists and turns along the way that the goals seem to get confused.
What I noticed about “Extreme Makover” with Nyla was something that truly represented transformation. After one year (the timeframe Chris allocated as her weight loss challenge) she lost 157 pounds but still weighed 278. So she did not reach her personal goal – but there is no doubt she was transformed. She said something to the effect of how during that year she learned to embrace the process and now she is ready to continue the process. She could have cared less that she had a lot more weight to lose. What she gained through Chris’ intentional method was a different perspective, which involved facing her fears. Her father left when she was a small child and the pain of abandonment was so huge in her life. She tried to manipulate Chris to give up on her over and over again. He endured multiple incidents of her yelling in his face, ignoring his advice, and leaving when he challenged her. But he kept coming back, inviting her to experience something better. He knew that her attempts to make him leave were really an excuse for her to give up.
One of Chris’ goals was to force her to face her fears. He mentioned that the kind of transformation she wanted would only come if she could overcome her fear. He pushed her in her workouts, which she gave up on. He challenged her to give up her security in food. Then he asked her to face the fear attached to her father. He hired a private investigator and gave her a packet of information related to her dad. She wasn’t ready to open it at the time, but later she did. She found that he had passed away two years prior due to suicide. She wept, and wept. It brought her to her knees. Chris held her and walked that part of the journey with her as well.
She decided to get to know the family on her dad’s side and also visited his grave. She learned that he was afraid to meet her and thought she would hate him. Nyla observed that the fear both of them felt is what had kept them from one another. At this point I had to remind myself that this was a show about weight loss. I continued to watch the angry girl become happy, with a genuine smile. I noticed she started taking her trainer’s advice. And I noticed that she was losing weight. At the end of the show her weigh-in was not dramatic – she was still far from her personal goal. But I swear her countenance and energy had changed. I thought to myself, “I want that”.
My relationship with God has taken on similar patterns. He answers my call for something in my life to change and He asks me to do hard things to change it…most of which involve facing fears I don’t want to face. He pushes me to experience the freedom I’ve just asked for, but I resist. And I have to face the real question – do I really want the transformation?
But my favorite part about all of this is I can’t define what transformed her. I know it involved a series of events placed before her, followed by good and bad choices, in conjunction with a loyal trainer who helped her face her fears. But what really changed her? I think that is where I get stuck. I want a defined system. But what she was finally able to embrace was an unknown process that involved one decision at a time, for an unknown amount of time.
Am I willing to sign up for that? Even as I write this, I struggle with making good choices consistently related to the areas in which I seek transformation. One minute there is the satisfaction of a good decision, and the very next minute the regret of a bad choice. But I start again and choose Him as my trainer and I choose His process….I CHOOSE it.
Romans 12:2 (The Message) Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
What inspires you to transform?
© Kristin Gordley and Moments In The Story, July 2012.